Plagued by cramping quads and calf muscles over the final miles, Bernard Lagat struggled to the finish of his debut marathon today in New York City, finishing 18th in 2:17:20. The time was five minutes off his goal of breaking Meb Keflezighi’s U.S. master’s marathon record.
Lagat was a picture of pain afterward, but there was also much pride that he had pushed through to reach the finish.
“Oh, man, it was something out there,” he said. “I have more respect than ever for people who do this.”
The moment he stopped running, Lagat was barely able to walk. The former world champion at 1500 and 5,000 meters limped to the medical tent for treatment on his calf, which began to tighten after 21 miles.
Minutes later, Lagat had to be helped around by his son, Miika, and stairs were out of the question–Lagat instead took a freight elevator to reach the one-flight-up media center, where he reflected on an exhausting, educational experience.
“Shalane Flanagan told me to not think about anything the first half, so that’s what I did,” Lagat said. “Before I knew it, I was at the half and I was like, awesome.”
Lagat reached halfway in 1:06:06, on track to break Keflezighi’s record, but soon his pace slowed as the rolling hills took their toll. After averaging 5:03 per mile for the first half, he struggled to run under 5:30 pace beyond 20 miles, at which point the temptation arose to step off the course.
“But it’s not in my DNA to do that,” Lagat said. “I wanted to finish it.”
He had help along the way, first from the crowds lining the roads. “The fans were amazing,” Lagat said. “I didn’t know I would experience something like that.”
Then there was one of his rivals, Harbert Okuti, a 33-year-old Ugandan who finished just ahead in 2:16:51. “He was encouraging me and running with me the entire time,” Lagat said. “I can’t thank him enough.”
When he reached Central Park, Lagat, the second fastest ever at 1500 meters, felt the full effect of the distance. His last four miles were his slowest at 5:50, 5:41, 5:42, and 5:45.
“My body felt hot and tired, but mostly it was my quads that were killing me,” he said. “At that point, time is irrelevant. You just want to finish, and you start to think about all you did to get here.”
While his finishing time was not what he had hoped for, Lagat remained upbeat when he considered how much the experience would stand to him.
“Those hills killed me, but now that I got through my first one, I know how to train really well for New York: more hills,” he said. “They say once you run one you can come back many times. It’s addictive.”
Though he was a full five minutes off Keflezighi’s record, Lagat is hopeful of attacking it again in the future.
“Meb’s time was amazing, but it’s good to try,” he said. “I like to have a target that enables me to train.”
As a two-time Olympic medalist at 1500 meters, Lagat admitted he had a new respect for marathoners after taking on a distance 28 times longer.
“I’ve always thought you have to be crazy to train for and run this,” he said. “It can challenge you, it can beat you up, but I wanted to get into it myself and feel how the marathon is.”
Lagat said he planned to celebrate his effort by taking an ice bath and getting “some good lunch,” but now that he’s felt a different world of pain to what he was used to, will he be back for more?
“Absolutely,” Lagat said. “I’ll go away, train well and come back. For sure.”
Article Credit – Runners World (https://www.runnersworld.com/news/a24271133/bernard-lagat-nyc-marathon-2018/)