I don’t know how this happened.

This has to be a theme with the relationship between me and this distance.

Boston changed a lot for me. I ran pretty well despite spending the majority of my buildup sidelined. I felt that I could get myself under 2:30 on my own; I would continue to work on base and try to stay injury free. But Boston made me wonder, what else can I possibly do? I was still so new to this distance and had no experience creating training plans for the marathon. What could I do under a structured plan?

Thankfully I didn’t have to go too far with my search. My buddy Zach Ornelas had been providing me tips for my first two marathons and after inquiring about who coached him, he offered to coach me. I didn’t hesitate to accept. An Olympic Trials Marathon Qualifier, an absolute monster on the trail scene, and success coaching his own athletes? Easy choice. I had complete confidence he would take my training to the next level.


The road to Columbus began in July. For the first time in years I had a consistent month of training in July. I was stacking up the mileage, but unlike my buildup to Boston, I was consistently running workouts and tapping into some faster stuff. I followed every single day to a tee. 5:00 AM, sometimes an hour with some pickups, other times 3 to 4 mile tempo with hill sprints. I’d have anywhere between 10 to almost 15 miles in before I started work. I ended July with one of the highest months of my running career with 335 miles logged in the bank. I won my local 5k for the third year in a row more than 30 seconds faster than I’ve ever run it during an 80+ mile week. I was fit and things were going well!

Easy win with a 4:56 last mile.

Then it stopped going well. I had my first half marathon scheduled for the 3rd week of August with the plan of running a negative split and making marathon pace feel pretty easy. Two weeks leading up to the race I started developing shin issues. What started with the usual aches and pains after a workout turned unbearable pretty quickly. I found myself having trouble just walking without my shins pulsating. Something was wrong and I feared I may have developed a stress reaction. Zach and I decided to shut it down, pull out of the half marathon and focus on easy running and getting healthy. It was a tough choice but he helped keep it in perspective; shut it down now and save myself from a stress fracture and being out completely. It’s exactly what I needed.

August consisted of rehab and easy mileage in an effort to salvage this buildup. Thankfully I didn’t have a stress reaction or stress fracture. Regardless, I was getting nervous. Time was ticking and before I knew it I would be on the start line. By the end of August I had logged 164 miles, a long way from the 335 I ran in July. But I was healthy and we still had time.

September saw some consistency back in my running. I was pretty hesitant but Zach kept my head on straight. We didn’t lose that much time. We would adjust our training program and focus on trying to get to Columbus healthy. Nothing crazy, no hardcore workouts, just focusing on getting the miles in and we’d add some pace work once we felt we were ready.

I got back to business quicker than I expected. Within two weeks back I found myself clicking off sub 6 pace pretty easy at the end of a 14 miler. 14  miles was a long way from 26.2 and I had to keep reminding myself to keep myself in control. Our goal was to get to Columbus healthy. The stretch to Columbus went by without any issues. Two weeks out from Columbus I ran my last major workout, a long run with odds and evens, jumping from marathon pace to one minute slower than marathon pace. I crushed it. I ran the first 10K easy and proceeded to click off the miles. 5:31, 6:31, 5:29, 6:28, 5:29, 6:26, 5:26, 6:18. I was ready to PR. But by how much?


Race day had finally arrived. I cleared through an easy tune-up Thursday and kept things easy for the days prior. I had no idea what to expect. I did have a couple workouts in the bank that had my confidence high but nothing to gauge what pace I should be going for. We decided that the goal was to negative split this one. We’d take a controlled approach for about 10, start making some moves for the next 10 and try to run people into the ground over the final 10K. 2:30 was on my mind and I was a bit nervous to take this strategy. I’d be leaving a lot of time on the table for that first half and banking on feeling great.

I arrived to the Elite tent at about before 6AM. My bottles were ready to go for each of my stops and I packed an extra GU just in case something went wrong. I felt good, no aches or pains. I was healthy and ready to see what I could do. There was nothing more I could do at this point. I just thought to myself, time to send it.

A rope separated the elite section from the main corrals for both the half and full marathon. As I started getting my final strides in I heard a familiar voice. My Columbus Track Club teammate, Andrew, was right at the front, ready to help pace me through the first half.

After those final strides we were instructed to line up. I put myself behind everyone in the elite corral. My race would not be made in those first couple of miles but it sure as hell could be lost there. The race was off and I found myself lost through the pack trying to find my teammate. Within a quarter mile we had grouped and it was time to execute the first phase of my race plan. My body had other plans. Within that first mile I already had the urge to use the bathroom. How long would I hold? Well it wasn’t long. By mile 3 I had to pull to the first port-a-potty I could find, each second feeling like I was there forever. I bolted out and saw Andrew not too far ahead, slowing down enough for me to catch him without having to sprint. It was a 5:59 mile, so not too much time was lost there. Andrew calmed me down and we got back to business.

The next couple miles consisted of checking in with each other every mile and Andrew being the absolute best pacer possible. He let me have the inside line on every turn, took my water bottle when I needed it, and spent the entirety of the first half just having fun and helping keep my nerves down. With the race including both marathoners and half marathoners it was tough to have a gauge on how I was doing. All I could focus on was myself.

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Alright Wallace, one, two, three, fist bump!

At mile 8 I began to get antsy. I started seeing people start to come back to me and I yelled out to Andrew They’re coming back to me, they’re fucking coming back to me! Andrew quickly reminded me that we still had 18 to go but I figured it may be time to make a decision, start moving at 10 or wait a bit. The next two miles seemed to breeze by and I had started dipping into the 5:30s. Despite feeling good, I figured I was getting a bit too trigger happy. We decided to dial it back to 5:45s and stay consistent for the remainder of our time together.

Before long it was time for us to split. Andrew gave me his well wishes, reminded me to stay relaxed, and made his way to the half marathon finish. The race had officially started and I was on my own.

The next 5 miles proceeded to be the fastest consecutive stretch of my race. I found myself running through familiar territory. Every street that I turned on was one that I had been running on for the last couple of years through the various run clubs I’ve been a part of. I started seeing people come back to me, little by little.

Shortly after the halfway mark I had realized that in my excitement I had completely missed my water bottle and GU. No worries, I had packed one just in case. I pulled it out of my back pocket and went to open it.

Only for it to slip out of my hand…

I wasn’t going back for it. I wasn’t going to lose more time at this point.

We kept going, clicking off 5:30 mids up to campus. At about mile 16 there were volunteers handing out nutrition. Perfect I thought, we’ll make up for that missed stop at 12. I grabbed a GU only to hear a volunteer yell out that my bottle was up ahead. Perfect, not going to need this, I thought, and I tossed the GU. I ran by the table and grabbed a bottle.

Only to find that it wasn’t mine.

I dashed back and put it back on the table and probably looked like a madman trying to find my bottle.

It was gone. Someone had taken my water bottle.

Dude, don’t worry about it. Go!

I almost lost it there yelling, Where the hell is my water bottle!?

I realized quickly that there was nothing I could do at that point so I kept going. The next couple miles I ran scared. I was in new territory and I was quickly losing fuel. I felt like a nervous wreck as I approached each mile. The longer I went the more risk I was taking. Water would be the only type of fuel I could take at the moment at least until mile 22. I was gaining on people. Somehow this was going well.

In what I could only assume was a state of delusion I began to think the current state of my race as a Formula 1 strategy. I was on a hard tire strategy. We’d be pitting later and be switching to soft tires at mile 22 to run down the stragglers.

That helped, and oh boy did I need that help as the hardest part of the course was to come.

The turn onto Lane Avenue was a route that I had run countless times but on this occasion it almost broke me. I was slowing quickly as I was cresting but just as I felt I was going to break I heard familiar voices. The Fleet Feet crew was yelling at me to keep moving. I was making quick ground on the next couple groups. They were all coming back to me but I would need to keep pressing. I had almost started running in the 6’s and I had a decision to make, go now or be broken.


The next couple miles took me through my neighborhood. As it began to hurt, I would ease the pain by reminding myself that I had worked out there before. If there was anywhere to die it sure as hell wouldn’t be in my backyard. I was back in the 5:40’s and mile 22 was coming soon. I would have a long overdue hit of GU and it would be time to make my final move for home.

Thankfully the final water stop came without incident. A friend had yelled out that I was 16th and I still had some guys within eyesight. Just around the water stop I saw one guy pulled over.  I figured he was number 16. Keep moving. Keep moving. Another two were up next. Originally we had been running as a group before I hit the port-a-potty. I figured within one more mile I had them. Sure enough the mile passed and I pressed the gas hard, pushing past both. A 5:37 mile at mile 23.

15th, 14th, okay, okay.

We were now in familiar territory. A little more than 5K and I’d be done with this. My body was aching and I was beginning to feel heavy. Every couple minutes I’d have my teammate Evan biking by shouting out encouragement that would take me out of it. I was hurting but I’d come way too far to break over just over 3 miles. Within no one to see over the next mile my pace slowed a bit but it would not be for long. Running toward the 25th mile I started seeing a familiar face run back towards me. He had taken a wrong turn! Just ahead of him were another two!

My legs were burning. I was struggling to keep my form in check. Just then another bike came right by me. Jeff, who I paced at the Cap City Half Marathon was returning the favor. I kept my head up and made the push for home. As the crowd started getting bigger my legs started feeling lighter. A 5:56 25th mile became a 5:25 26th mile. I bolted past the three, 13th, 12th, 11th. I didn’t see anyone else ahead of me. It was my position to lose and I’d be damned if I lost it in the last quarter mile of this race. I ran my ass off for the last .2, bringing it down even faster to 5:05 pace.

Less than a mile to home.

After 26.2 miles I crossed the finish line, 2:30:25 and what I thought was an 11th place finish. I didn’t finish top 10 but I was so proud of my performance. I ran a 4+ minute PR off of broken build up. I did it!

Little did I know I was a bit off from where I thought I finished. Zach immediately texted me my result. I wasn’t 11th, I was 6th! Not only did I PR but I would be taking home money too! My finish brought me $500 for the 3rd Ohio finisher.

Over a month later I still can’t believe it. At the end of the day I credit this to my coach being patient with my training and adjusting to the setbacks that I faced in August. I thought Boston was going to be the most memorable running experience of 2019 but it’s hard to beat running well in front of your friends and family. My dad drove 10 hours from South Carolina to watch me race for the first time since undergrad. My Columbus Track Club teammates were all throughout the course and my coaches from Tiffin even made it out. While Columbus may not have been perfect it tested me and taught me the mental strength that I will need if I want to take this to the next level. It brought a new goal for myself:

2024 Olympic Trials.


Boston is next. Top 50. Let’s go.

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