by Patrick Hatton in Stories

Never Say Never: The story of a marathon veteran

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There it is. My official Marathon resume:  Patrick “PDaddy” Hatton, 3 time Marathoner, Chicago ’08, ’09, ‘10, Retired: 10.10.10, 12:55:50pm

Finishing times are not relevant as I never ran the marathon to win an award or impress people with my performance (ie….I’m slow).  I ran my first marathon because I wasn’t sure that I could. I ran my second because I knew that I could, but knew I could do it better. I ran my third, well, because they’re addicting. Besides, Chicago ’10 was on 10.10.10… How could I not run it?

Admittedly, training for the three-peat was more tedious and less disciplined than ever before.
It was a job this time, not an adventure. After blowing off most of the summer, I compressed my training into 8 hard weeks and while I was running better than I ever have, I struggled to answer the one burning question that plagued me on long runs and morning debates with the alarm clock…

Why am I doing this?

As a matter of fact, in a dark moment half way through a tough 14 miler on August 29th, I simply stopped running in my tracks when I couldn’t answer that question.
Not a great idea since I run an out and back route; Imagine the conversation happening in my head that long 7 mile walk home… not pretty, not pretty at all…

Additionally, I found myself secretly hoping at times for an injury to give me a “legitimate” excuse to get me out of the race. Yes, this distance can make you that crazy. After my busted run, I put the notion of quitting the Marathon out to my running “support” group, I got split reactions: either “It’s OK if you do. You’ve already run it twice” or “Seriously, don’t be ridiculous. It was one bad run”.
While I knew it was only one bad run, I knew it was much deeper than that. I had a mental hurdle that I genuinely didn’t know if I could clear and I feared the possibility of not finding the drive required to train for this distance. Using a little tough love, the “don’t be ridiculous” contingent convinced me to stick with it, even using some of my very own “lines” on me.

A few days and a strong 8 miler later, my head was back in the game, this time, committed not only to training hard and running well, but also to retiring from this distance, a tough distance for someone of my experience level and body type. I committed to giving it my best and walking away without regret, regardless of my result on 10.10.10.

Walking away

In the past few weeks, I’ve had to awesome opportunity to give race day advise, words of inspiration and answer countless questions for a group of Marathon virgins. The seasoned Veteran helping the rookies maximize their Marathon experience. Ha! Who would have ever thought that this would be me? What would/could I have said to them if I had quit on 8/29? I can’t imagine. It’s funny how everything in this crazy sport always comes full circle. The quote “Running never takes more than it gives back” is 100% true and I am grateful to have been able to give a little back this time around (By the way: All 7 of the virgins became official Marathon Finishers on 10.10.10!)

Chicago ’10 has now come and gone and I am “retired”. Extreme temperatures pushed the Event Alert System to Code Red by mile 18 and took its’ toll on me and the other runners. I don’t remember seeing so many in need of medical assistance during my previous Marathons. My heart broke for the runner I saw collapse just past the 800m to go sign. 17 weeks and over 500 miles of training to get so close.

While I finished the race, I failed to achieve my goal and feel defeated once again by 26.2, aka “The Beast”. It’s a cruel distance that messes with you mentally and physically without regard for the sacrifice and pain you put yourself through in your attempt to conquer it. I am extremely proud of my accomplishment, but know that this distance owns me and struggle with the idea of giving up the pursuit of my 26.2 goal. I found myself overcome by emotion in the starting corral as I took in the sights and sounds of the day for the last time and wonder if deep down I’m capable of walking away. I was 100% committed to never ever facing The Beast again before the race, but now, despite the tired legs, blistered feet, sore knees and fragile spirit, I’m on the fence about retiring.

26.2 is an addiction, a cruel yet liberating force that can make you crazy. One taste of the kool-aid and you’re hooked. As a matter of fact, despite passionately vowing to be “one and done” after their training season, the “virgins”, still high from the run that changed their lives, can’t stop talking about their race experience and which one they running next. So far, according to them, we’re running Indy in 2 weeks, Buenos Aires in October ’11 and Chicago ’11. They sound just like I did in 2008 Welcome to the club guys.

It’s too early to tell which side of the fence I will eventually land on. As of this moment, I am retired and plan to focus on setting new personal bests in the 5k, 10k and Soldier Field 10 miler. Perhaps a ½ or a maybe even a triathlon will find their way onto my schedule in 2011. And then… who knows? MJ unretired and completed another three-peat, right? Ryno, Clemens, Magic, Ali and Lance all came back. Heck, how many times has Favre unretired?

Standing at this crossroad in my running life, I can’t stop thinking to myself… Never say never Hatton…

Never say never.

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