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The 1993 Pikes Peak Marathon was my first marathon. I was 19 when I ran it. When I finished, I vowed never to run a marathon again. What was the point? I crossed the finish line of the hardest marathon in America. What could be more difficult? How about finishing it a second time at age 41?
I’m a week away from the 60th running of the Pikes Peak Marathon and I’ve been thinking a lot about the first time I ran it. Up until that point, it was the hardest thing I’d ever done. It was made even harder because a couple weeks before the race I got hit by a car on my bike. Here’s an excerpt of the experience from my book:
August arrived and the marathon was only two weeks out. I took one last jab at Barr Trail and ran up a little past Barr Camp, which was about six and a half miles up the trail. Thirteen miles round trip. This was the longest training run I’d done. Just half the distance of the full marathon. I was exhausted when I got back to the bottom. I knew I was in trouble. I started thinking that I might be grossly undertrained for this race. I unlocked my bike at the trailhead, hopped on, and sped past the Cog Railway Station down into Manitou Springs. I was running late for work and had to high-tail it home. This was high tourist season, so the streets were packed with cars. I weaved in and out of traffic trying to get past the thickest part when a car pulled out of its parking spot on the side of the street without seeing me. I rode right into the trunk, slammed my handlebars into the taillight shattering it into pieces. I rolled over the top of the car, sliding down the driver’s side window and onto the street. I popped up off the ground to find a small crowd of people on the sidewalk staring at me. The driver got out of his car and he was white as a sheet. He thought he had killed me. I had some road rash on my knee and hip. My handlebars were bent. But, other than that I was fine.
He asked me over and over if I was all right. I said I was. I was reminded of the time I was hit by a car in California. This time, though, I was stronger, had better reflexes, and was filled with a greater sense of purpose to deal with minor obstacles. The driver asked if he should call an ambulance. I said not to worry about it. Nothing was broken. I told him I was late for work and had to get going. A woman passing by on the sidewalk approached me looking me over and then looked me straight in the eyes and asked if I was sure I was OK. I said yes, thank you. I picked up my bike and dusted myself off. Gaining confidence that I really was OK, I told the driver he needed to pay more attention to cyclists and learn how to parallel park. He said he was sorry, but he had his mother-in-law in the car who was driving him crazy and now she was really going to get after him.
He wasn’t really looking for sympathy here, was he? I shook my head, shrugged my shoulders, and told him good luck. As I took off on my bike I saw people on the sidewalk whispering and pointing at me. I got home, cleaned up and went to work.
The accident forced me to rest for the next week. So, when race day came I felt underprepared and totally nervous. Until this moment the longest race I’d done was a 5K. My training was spotty. My left knee was stiff from the bike accident and I still had road rash that oozed and made it difficult to bend my leg at the knee and hip. And I was about to attempt the hardest marathon in America. Great. This was not how I expected to arrive at the starting line.