I’m fortunate to have a really great, supportive LRG based at the YMCA in my town. Group runs are scheduled at various times every day of the week and there’s usually always someone ready to jump in on whatever workout shows up on my training schedule. Still I don’t think I truly appreciated the benefit of a solid LRG until everything shut down last March and all running races cancelled or went virtual. Several sub-groups of our LRG popped up to train for and run virtual Fall races together.
The Mohawk-Hudson Marathon was on my calendar for October and promptly cancelled, as expected. A few runners in our LRG had registered for the Boston Marathon, which postponed until September. K, one of my regular running buddies, had qualified for Boston and was looking for company on long runs. Her mid-September deadline for running Boston was only a few weeks before Mohawk-Hudson, so I gladly moved up my plan so we could train and run the Marathon together. The thought of 15+ mile long runs and hill repeats in July gave me second thoughts, but 3 others were interested in the planned easy pace and wanted to join us, so why not.
Our group met every Saturday for long runs through the summer. We all live within a few miles of each other so we could easily meet at 7 AM to start. Usually I left water in my driveway for a make-shift water stop. We also left water with the cars for another stop. We planned Saturday 9/12 as Marathon day and figured Sunday 9/13 could be the rain date. Fortunately, we were blessed with cooler than expected temps and clear skies Saturday morning. It was still hot for a Marathon, but very doable.
We met in the YMCA parking lot around 7:00 AM Saturday. Four of us, K, L, J, and I were running the Marathon, another LRG member wanted to run 13.1, and 3 others joined us on bikes to carry water and provide encouragement. We… meaning “me,” designed a course consisting of 3 loops from the YMCA so we could return to our cars for water and gels. We also set up a water stop at my house with more gels and access to a bathroom. Soon water was packed on the bikes and we lined up at a Starting Line made up by another LRG member.
K had qualified for Boston. She had the app on her phone so we listened to the unofficial start for Virtual Boston, including the National Anthem and a starter’s gun. K’s Virtual Boston app is the closest I expect to come to running the Boston Marathon. Is it possible to run Virtual Boston as a bandit? We kind of did. The first loop was 11 miles with a water stop at my house. Soon we were back at the Y for water refills and more fuel. One cyclist left and another LRG member joined to run a loop with us. The second loop was 6.5 miles and we were back to the Y for our last stop before the final 8.7 miles.
Starting the third loop was tough. The sun was getting higher and the temp was close to 70 by this time. We were nearly 17 miles in by that time. Our Half Marathoner had finished and our loop 2 pacer was done. J dropped out – it just wasn’t his day to run 26.2 miles. That meant we were down to three marathoners and two cyclists. Off we went again. Running with friends is always nice. Running a Marathon with friends is even better. The miles passed by quickly. We kept up the conversation, told stories, suffered together, and motivated each other. Around mile 24 I dropped my very last Sport Bean. I mean I dropped it onto the ground. It was gone… because there was no way I could have crouched down at that point to pick it up. It felt like someone had punched me in the mouth. I guess you don’t realize just how precious every single carb is until you pass the 24 mile point and lose your last Sport Bean. Caffeinated Sport Bean. You get it if you’ve been at mile 24 a few times. Carbs and caffeine are the nectar of the Gods at that point. Fortunately, I made it through the last 2.2 miles notwithstanding the lost bean.
A few LRG members came out and set up a Finish Line, complete with a toilette paper tape. We had actually finished about 2 tenths of mile before the TP finish line and walked it in. The LRG members who set it up were mad so we ran the last 20 feet so they could take some pictures of our fake finish.
Looking back, that’s the most fun I’ve ever had running a Marathon. Running is a community and I didn’t realize how important my running community was until the Pandemic ended life as we have known it as runners. Running with friends will always be there in one form or another, but it took a pandemic to make a LRG Marathon a real thing. The support was great. The bike escort was nice.
I’m looking forward to the return of races and life without a pandemic. But, I have to say, I won’t be let down if my next Marathon is another LRG marathon just like this one.