Unlike last year the view from the front had an added twist. Josh Cox, a 2:13 marathoner was aiming to break the 50k world record. the WR stood at 2:43 and the AR at 2:51 officially. In the press conference Josh was confident he could eclipse both.
I was fortunate to be in the press truck at the front with other press people and Josh’s wife. She had all his splits nicely jotted down so she could follow his progress. She shared his secret pace chart (which she scribed on his arm before the race). His real goal was a 2:39:45; more than three minutes faster than the WR. Early on he was off pace. By 13 miles he was almost a minute off record pace. Little did we know he was having a tough day. He started to make back some time and then once again lost a chunk. We were with the lead pack of marathoners – 11 through half way. The splits for Josh were being called in to our truck every two miles by the cyclist assigned to accompany him.
As the marathon pack was whittled down to 7 and then to 4 then 3 with one surge it was a two man race. And race they did, right to the finish in a dead sprint both running in the 2:10:30s just shy of the course record. They were well ahead of record pace but the headwinds over the last 5 miles took their toll.
In the mean time Josh toiled away. He cruised under the marathon finish line in 2:20:32 where all others before him had pulled off. He finished in 9th amongst the full marathoners. He surged on with a quick right turn heading for the ASU track and then… a quick exit from the course to the port-a-pottie! We later found out this was his second sojourn in the potties along the course. He entered the track for his last 18 3/4 laps. The AR was still in sight. But by now, the WR had slipped away.
He churned out the last miles and finished in 2:47:17, a new American record. With between one and two miles to go he had the dry heaves on the track. His last two laps on the track were raced in 75s. That’s a five minute mile pace at the end of 31 miles of running.
Most age group runners look at these elite athletes and see them cruise along at five-plus minute miles and think it’s easy for them. Josh in the post-race interview commented that he felt poorly the whole race. Other than one mile around mile six and during the last couple laps when he could “smell the barn” he simply did not feel good. It was a bad day. A bad day setting the AR by over four minutes even after two pottie breaks and dry heaves.
Here is the learning point for us all however. I have mentioned this previouly on here. Through his training – both physical and mental training – he has learned how to persevere even on a bad day. He did not give in. He had the best bad day possible. And that netted him an American Record. Well done Josh!