High Point, NC
Placed 34th Overall; 3rd place Age Group
Yesterday I ran my first road marathon. After running trails all year long, except for a road half marathon and a couple 5k's, I knew this was going to be a different race for me. I didn't know how to pace myself. I knew my half marathon time (1:38) and I knew that 3:30 would be a good goal for myself. However, the two weeks leading up to the race, and asking advice from other more experienced marathoner's, made me decide that maybe I should lower my goal. A few people said that running 3:30 is very hard for someone with my half time and that most people just fall apart toward the end. I changed my goal from sub-3:30 to 3:30-3:40. I would be happy with anything under 3:40, but really wanted to go sub-3:35 and would be ecstatic if I could beat 3:30 (yes I kept that goal in the back of my head).
So race day came. Summer and I headed out early into the cold 28* weather down to High Point. I picked up my packet and the found a place to park. Headed to the start and then did some warmup running. I wore shorts and a singlet, with my Pilot Mountain Payback arm warmers. Yes it was cold, but I knew I'd warm up fast. Plus, with the arm warmers, I had somewhere to keep a couple of gels. I knew I'd need these in the beginning as they didn't offer gels until the mile 12 aid station. We gathered at the start, listened to the national anthem, and soon thereafter, we were off!
I took off at the front of the pack, amongst a lot of half marathoners and what seemed like a few marathoners. HM's wore red bibs while marathoners had blue. All I was seeing was red. I really didn't know how many people were doing the full. Out of the gate, I started getting passed, but I didn't care as I knew most people were doing 13.1 and they would be going out faster than I. I tried to keep it slow, but the first 2 miles were either flat or downhill. Hard to go slow when you haven't ran much all week and your body has been loaded with carbs for a few days. Even though I knew to run a sub-3:30, I'd have to run 8 minute miles, I didn't want to do that in the beginning. But I did. The first and second miles clocked in at 8:01 and 7:45 respectively. At that point I just decided to go for it. Pretty stupid when you think about it to decide you're going to 'go for it' 2 mile in to a 26 mile race. Oh well. I just said to myself, try to stay around 8 minute miles and we'll decide where we are towards the end.
Another tough thing is what to do on the downhills at the beginning. Do I use gravity and the hill to go fast and make up time, potentially risking things later on in the race? Or do I just keep it slow, conserving for the entire race? Decisions, decisions! I decided to use the downhills to my advantage and run them fast, knowing there would probably be some uphills that I lost time on.
The first 6 miles were uneventful, grabbing some gatorade at the aid stations as I went, just to keep my mouth wet and get a few calories in. I decided to take gels every 45 minutes so I had my first at 47. Around mile 12, I realized I had to pee and really didn't want to deal with that thought the rest of the race. A guy I played leap frog with the first half of the race ducked off in the woods and I said that looks like a good idea. So I jumped in some woods just past him and had a nature break. I was coming up on the first place Summer was going to try and meet me. As I headed up the hill, I saw her. She snapped a few pics of me and I gave her a kiss and said thanks. I also informed her that I was feeling good, but in order to run sub-3:30, I'd have to run a negative split, meaning run the second half of the race faster than the first.
Soon after seeing Summer, I hit the halfway mark. They had a clock there and my time was 1:44:40. Perfect. But also meant I'd have to run almost the exact same time in the second half to beat 3:30. I got to talking to my 'nature break' buddy and asked him what he was shooting for. He said sub-4 and I said that'd be easy. He said maybe, but this was his 4th marathon in 5 weeks! Impressive! He also informed me that the second half was more hilly than the first. That got me thinking that maybe I couldn't run a negative split and filled my head with doubts. But I kept trucking.
Miles 16-18 were mostly downhill, so I used them to my advantage running 7:48, 7:48, and 7:46 respectively. The next two miles were mostly uphill so I ran those slower at 8:04 and 8:02. It was this point I could feel my legs fatiguing. Darn this dreaded wall people speak of! I was still eating gels, sometimes two at a time just before an aid station then washing them down with some water. Summer made a couple of surprise appearances to take some pics of me in the second half as I figured after seeing her the first time I wouldn't see her again until the finish.
I thought I could feel my left hamstring starting to cramp and I was just praying that it would hold off. I really think the gels and gatorade I was taking in kept that from becoming worse. Who knows. Mile 21 was again mostly downhill and I did it in 7:48. But followed it up with two miles of uphill at 8:08 and 8:11. These uphills were the difference maker. A lot of people were starting to fade. Most either running very slowly or walking. I kept running just trying to hold it together, passing people steadily.
At the 24.5 mile mark, the uphill started. It was long, and I could see it up ahead. It was all uphill. I had runners in my sight, and with 1.5 or so miles to go, I said to myself 'just keep running'. I had made up some time on the downhill miles that I also knew it'd be ok if I ran a couple 8:05 or 8:10 miles. So I ran. And I passed. One guy was close behind me and I could hear him trying to keep up with me. when I hit mile 26, I decided it was time to slowly increase pace. I decided I wanted to run a sub 8-minute 26th mile and then go all out for the last 0.2. It hurt. My legs hurt. But pain is only temporary and most say that it's just weakness leaving the body. So I ran. And ran. And ran. I passed all the runners I could with one person left in sight ahead of me. It'd be a stretch to catch him but I was going to try. The guy who was on my tail faded as I picked up my pace. I reached the last water stop and was told 'up the hill and half mile to go'.
This part was coming back in to downtown High Point. Flat. Finally. I picked it up. The 26th mile I did in 7:39. PERFECT! Now time to go! I started sprinting, or what I felt like was sprinting. My Garmin at one point said I was running 6:12 pace. The crowd was cheering me on and I was grimacing and giving it everything I had. I couldn't catch the runner in front of me, but I didn't care. I was going to BEAT 3:30, prove those people wrong who said I couldn't do it, and surpass my goal. I crossed the line in 3:28:38. I was so relieved and Summer was there to capture the moment.
Absolutely elated! I couldn't believe that I did it. My legs were hurting, but I didn't care. I. DID. IT. No it wasn't a Boston Qualifying time (have to shave off 24 minutes for that), but I completed my first road marathon and surpassed my goal....by 82 seconds!!! No that's not a lot of time, but in running, it is. What an amazing day, amazing race, and I just can't say enough how much I enjoyed it. And always remember, if you set your mind to it, you can do anything. Don't let anyone tell you that you can't do something. Just give it everything you've got and you may just surprise yourself!
Thanks, of course, to Summer who again gave up half her Saturday to come follow me around in the cold.
Thanks for reading!