Marshall needed something good to happen, or that was it for him and his running career.
What happened next was unthinkable to him — he won the 2010 Prairie Fire Marathon. It has revived his running life.
"I can honestly say that race changed my life completely," Marshall said. "That probably would have been my last race if I would have bombed it. I was at a point where I wasn't really confident."
He was also a father of two, a consuming job that didn't leave much time for training. With a third child on the way, it was either all-in or nothing for Marshall.
"Me and my wife talked about it and she was like, 'Are you sure you want to do this?' " Marshall said. "It was like if I put everything into it, we might be able to go somewhere with this."
Since his victory, Marshall has finished in the top three of two other marathons. He has doubled his miles from last year, and should once again be a contender in this year's race. He will tell you he's a completely different runner.
"I feel so much more confident in my ability now than I did last year," Marshall said. "I know I won last year, but I wasn't expecting that at all. I don't know if I'm going to win or not this time, but I think I have a good chance."
This time the race won't be boom-or-bust for Marshall. He plans on running in the Boston Marathon next April. But with a growing family, Marshall feels the need to spend more time with them.
At some point, Marshall will have to give up running. But now he can go out on a clear mind.
"Me and my wife still talk about that day and whenever we have family over, we still go over the whole thing," Marshall said. "We're overwhelmed, really. It's been a blessing. Seriously, I could quit running right now and be fulfilled with my running. That was my very first marathon and I won. I never dreamed of ever winning a marathon."
O'Connell's first marathon did not end well — he walked the last 10 miles and finished in a little over five hours. He was 13.
Now eight years later, O'Connell is back for his first "real" marathon, as he likes to call it.
"Training for this has been a lot different," said O'Connell. "The time it takes to train for a marathon makes 10K training almost seem easy, and I'll be the first to say that's not even close to easy."
O'Connell's name should be familiar to Wichitans. He was a state cross country champion three times at Andover and went on to run for Kansas State. He recently moved back to Wichita and started working at GoRun Wichita, his idea of the "perfect job."
He is also in the works of pulling off a trifecta of road races in Wichita — O'Connell won the Johnston's half-marathon and the River Run, the other two big races in town. But Sunday marks the first full marathon for O'Connell.
"I think it's going to be a lot of fighting myself on wanting to take the pace out too fast," he said. "Marathons are such a waiting game. If you take it out too soon, you will pay for it the last six miles and if you don't hold a good pace, then you won't be able to run down your time."
Training became much like guesswork — O'Connell has put in 20-mile runs and is hoping it is enough. If it is, O'Connell will be one of the top contenders to displace Marshall.
"I can't really say I knew what I was doing," O'Connell said. "I just tried to put in as many miles as I could, so hopefully I can handle the distance."
Hansen has been a part of the Wichita running scene for a while now. The expansion of the Prairie Fire Marathon is close to her heart.
"It's important for me to run here in Wichita because this is my home and I've been working with the Sports Commission, so this is like a baby almost to me," Hansen said.
The growth seen at last year's event was gratifying to Hansen, who is a veteran of road races at 30.
"There was a really hard-working, dedicated small army of people that kept the marathon going previously," Hansen said. "Now because it's opened up, people can see how a marathon can really benefit the whole city. It's great for the weirdos that have been getting up every Saturday and weekday, they finally have a stage where people can be like, 'Oh cool, they are really talented.' "
Hansen represents the best Wichita has to offer in the full marathon. She finished second last season, and now considers herself stronger after working with a coach for the first time.
"It brings variety to my training," Hansen said. "There is a huge quality difference. Before I was all about quantity. Now I get a lot of quality workouts and they are different every single day. If nothing else, it's been awesome to have the monotony broken up."
Hansen's coach, Kevin Granto, has instructed her to keep a moderate pace through the first 20 miles.
"Then it's up to me and how I feel," Hansen said. "I'm allowed to drop it down if I got it left in me."
After finishing her first marathon in 1991, Steven still remembers the first thought that raced through her mind.
"I'm never running in one of those again."
And she didn't, not until 2004 at least. Now, this Sunday will mark her 100th marathon, which will also coincide with her 50th birthday.
"I wanted to do something special this year and I thought that those were nice, round numbers," Steven said. "My whole family is coming into town from Houston and they're all involved in the race, too. I think I'm more excited for that more than anything."
So what hooked Steven to come back?
"I think as I got older, the fitness aspect of it became a big draw," Steven said. "But also the social aspect of it; I love meeting new people."
An injury has hampered training for Sunday's marathon, so Steven is cautiously optimistic about her time. But she should still figure into the leaders, especially in her age division.
Marathons might be the next adventure in running for Nero, whose talents brought her to Wichita State from her homeland of Trinidad and Tobago.
Nero just wrapped up an All-America career at WSU this spring and is now driven to reach the 2012 Olympics for her country. That path will include the half-marathon on Sunday, and eventually a full marathon later.
"I really like them," Nero said. "I know it's a longer distance, but I really enjoy it. My body has had to deal with the endurance. I have had to learn how to keep my pace up for a longer time, so that's been different. But I'm really looking forward to (Sunday)."
After that, even Nero is curious where running might take her.
"I'm graduating this December, but I'm not really sure yet what I'm going to do after," she said. "The only thing I know for sure is I want to keep running and working hard toward the Olympics."