The start of the 2019 Wineglass Marathon in Bath, New York, on Oct. 6. The marathon has been staged annually for 38 years in the Southern Finger Lakes Region and finishes in Corning’s historic Gaffer District. (Courtesy photo) Courtesy photo

I’ve done 11 of these marathon things now. And there are always many, many, tiny little moments that are remembered for all reasons, odd, poignant or otherwise.

Wineglass Marathon in Corning, New York, was no different.

Standing in the port-o-potty line at about 7:23 a.m. on Oct. 6, the gentleman behind me took note of my Ogunquit sweatshirt (it was 35 degrees when the shuttle buses dropped runners off in the predawn darkness) and started a conversation.

Turns out, he worked six summers at Ogunquit Playhouse when he was younger. I surmised he must have worked under the legendary John Lane and was correct. He was pleased with my knowledge of Ogunquit and the fact Doria, my daughter, worked in local shops for many summers.

We exchanged some customary “runner talk” items. I’ve forgotten his name since then, but it was a nice little porto potty line chat in the cold of a fall Finger Lakes morning. Conversations like these have a way of calming jangled nerves.

The large field at The Wineglass Marathon. (Courtesy photo)

 

I trained harder and smarter for Wineglass Marathon than any of the previous 10 adventures.

My goal was to slice my marathon time to 4 hours or less. That’s a 9:09 per mile pace. In the week or so leading up to marathon day, I emailed Rob Gomez of Eastern Shore Training, who designed two workout plans for me this year. I’d never really entered a marathon with a strategy, other than to run at a consistent pace the entire 26.2 miles.

I’d never run with a pacer or pace group either, but after consultation with Rob, I decided to start out with the 4:10 group and then, after 6 or 7 miles, slowly inch my way forward to the 4-hour pacer.

Pacers are hired by many marathons to, well, help participants run at a pace of their choosing.

As nearly 1,600 of us lined up for the Bath, New York, start, I made a last-minute, race-day switch and decided to move forward. I positioned myself with the 4-hour pacer – and would try to move up to the 3:55 group after a couple hours of running.

Good decision.

I kept the pace between 9 minutes and 9:10 per mile for a long time. Confidence was soaring. One hitch. The pacer wasn’t slowing for the Gatorade/water stations. After my first couple marathons (aka, trial and error, mostly error), I learned to walk through the aid stations (amounts to 10 or 12 seconds) so as to actually swallow the needed nourishment and not splash it all over the pavement while running and drinking at the same time.

Somewhere about 18, 19 miles, I gradually lost touch with the 4-hour pacer. Not by much, but the math suddenly — as suddenly as anything happens for a 59-year-old running 26.2 miles — didn’t add up and it wasn’t pretty. With only 7 or 8 miles to go, it would take an incredible bump in pace to rejoin the 4-hour group.

This was a bit demoralizing (there are many demoralizing moments in a marathon). My focus quickly shifted to finishing as strong as possible and not letting the 4:10 pace group catch me.

Do not let go of the rope, do not let go of the rope, became the mantra.

With a couple miles to go, I heard somebody behind me cracking jokes, yelling to spectators along the road. It was the 4:10 pacer. He passed me and it became clear why there all the ruckus. He was wearing a Speedo swimsuit. That did it. Nope, a guy in a Speedo was not going to finish in front of me.

He said something about how close the finish was. I acknowledged and then put every ounce into turning the legs over for the final mile-plus. I got back in front and left him and a few others behind as we neared the Bridge Street Bridge.

The iconic bridge is the official “horse can smell the barn” moment at Wineglass. Once across the aging truss structure, all that’s left is a left-hand turn onto Market Street for a tree- and spectator-lined Gaffer District finish in Corning. The very definition of Rockwellian.

The finishing time of 4:08:45 may have been a bit shy of the goal, but it was 22 minutes and 31 seconds faster than any previous marathon.

The big picture is that a Boston Qualifying (BQ for runner nerds) time is no longer a hazy, delusional dream.

The bigger picture is that eight years ago, running four steps was the pipe dream.

Dan King is an editor/page designer and Kennebunk resident. He discovered eight years ago, at 51, that running could help keep the inflammation and fatigue associated with auto-immune disease in check.

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