I thought I'd attempt a race report for my first marathon. I'm not the writer many of you all are and this turned out to be waaaay longer than I thought it would be. Don't read it after a big Thanksgiving dinner or you're likely to be asleep before the race even starts!
Like lots of people, I started running mostly as a way to lose a little weight. It worked well for that, and after a few months of doing it, it became more about the running than the weight loss.
I believe every one of my runs for at least the first 6 months were 3 miles on a treadmill at the gym. I just kept trying to do those 3 miles faster and faster which I now know to be stupid and I'm lucky I didn't injure myself.
I've never been super into racing, but eventually I did a few 5Ks and a 10K toward the end of that year and the first part of the following year. I couldn't even fathom going more than a 10K on a run. Part of that was mental, but the other part was that I'm a super heavy sweater. As in, you've probably not seen someone who sweats like I do. Just ask Dave if you think I'm kidding Anyway, that presented a challenge in terms of trying to figure out how to hydrate properly and how much nutrition I would need as I started to go longer.
Despite that, I was very slowly but surely increasing my miles and starting to do runs that were longer than 6. I did 1000 miles that second year, 1200 the following, 1500+ the next year and 2000+ in 2017. Somewhere in there I built up to actually running 15-16 miles on a single run and I did 3 official half marathons. I had also joined a local running group and did the group runs with them.
But...I still hadn't done a marathon. Really, I still hadn't even run close to 20 miles. By last fall, I finally decided that I should give one a shot.
Well, the training went fairly well until it didn't. I developed Achilles tendinities somewhere around Feb. 1 of this year. I blame too many treadmill runs on snowy days with the belt set at an incline. The race was supposed to be March 31. I rested. It lingered. Eventually I went to a doctor and PT and started doing a bunch of exercises and stretches that I'm still doing today. I got back up to speed after a couple of months, but it was too late to run that marathon.
So I did easy runs for a few months the first part of this year and then decided I wanted to give the marathon another shot. I picked Marshall University. One of the biggest reasons I chose that one was that it was in November. For me to have any shot of finishing, it has to be weather that's cooler than 60 and probably needs to be low humidity, too. I'd also read a lot of nice things on the Loop about Marshall. It's also only 2 hours away.
I started my plan - the same one as before with some modifications (no treadmill!!) - in early July. And my training just sucked. We had one of the hottest, wettest, most humid summers in recent history. And by "summer" I mean it lasted until early October. Runs that were supposed to be easy all ended up with me completely spent like I'd done a hard workout. Most of the time, I couldn't go much past 5 miles without fading to having nothing left in the tank. After awhile, I didn't even attempt the tempo and interval day each week because I knew I couldn't do it.
I pretty much did my long runs at very slow pace to failure early in the morning. For me, 70 degrees with 95% humidity isn't much better than 90 degrees with 60% humidity. I got in a fair number of tough 12 milers and one very slow 18 miler that had a lot of walking. I had wanted my weekly mileage to average in the high 40s for the duration of the plan, but I was only at mid 30s.
Somewhere around the first of Oct., I was going to do a 17 miler on yet another 70 degree, high humidity morning. I managed to only do 8 until I ran completely out of gas. And the pace was SLOW. It was one month out from the race and I couldn't go further than 8 miles. At that point, I figured the race was going to be a disaster.
Then the weather finally broke. A week after that awful run, it was 45 degrees and low humidity and I did a 20 miler at the pace that I decided to attempt for the race (just under 9:00). But that was a typical run where I stopped my watch when I stopped to get a drink, etc., so the following week I did another 20 miler at the same pace without stopping the watch. It went fairly well, although miles 19 and 20 started to get a little tough. Those two weeks I did 50 and 54 miles which were my highest mileage weeks ever. I started to have a little more optimism, although I really needed it to be cool for the race.
The taper went fine. I probably had too many miles in my plan for those last two weeks and, with a little encouragement from running buddies, I cut some of it back. Last two weeks were 31 miles and 17 miles (before the race). Most of those miles were very easy paces, though.
Marshall is on a Sunday, but there's no same day packet pick-up so I had to drive to Huntington the day before. My father offered to drive me, so I took him up on that. My wife was planning to come up on race day.
At Packet Pick-up
Packet pick-up went fine. We went back to the hotel to watch the University of Kentucky football game against Georgia. That didn't go very well. After that, we went out for dinner and I settled on one local craft beer, burger and fries. I'd also been drinking tons of water, Gatorade and Pedialyte for the last couple of day. The forecast for the next day was supposed to be about 42 degrees and climbing into the low to mid 50s by the end of the race. Perfect!
I didn't sleep real well that night, but every time I woke up, I drank more Gatorade. Maybe that's why I woke up so much.
The race start was 7AM, so I was up about 5:00. I had a couple of protein bars and drank more Pedialyte.
I looked at the weather and it was actually 38 degrees. Even better! I had planned to wear only shorts and a short sleeve shirt, but I briefly considered going to the long sleeve. I'm glad I didn't!
In terms of goals for the race, I actually feel as if I SHOULD have been be able to do 3:45 comfortably if training had gone well. Of course, I really had no idea having not done one before. And I'd also never gone more than 21 miles in any run. So I decided I would shoot for 3:55. Plan was to keep it just under 9:00 for the first 20 miles and see if I had more in the tank at that point. My real goal was to not blow up and end up walking a bunch the last several miles.
Drove to the race and sat in the car waiting until closer to start. Made one trip inside the stadium to use the restroom. I ate some Gatorade chews about 10 minutes before the race and stripped down to shorts and shirt. I made my way over to the start and nudged my way into the crowd.
Just before the start.
My nutrition plan was a 24 oz bottle of Tailwind that I would sip until mile 7 or so. After that, it would be an electrolyte pill every 5 miles, followed by a Gu or Sport Beans the next mile. I'd take in water or Gatorade at most of the water stops after my bottle ran out.
The race begin and I slowly made my way into the crowd and the first mile. I started back further than I should have, but didn't want to push my way in too far at the start. The 4:00 pacer was somewhere ahead of me and I crossed the line about 30 seconds or so after the cannon went off.
I caught up with two women from my running group in the first mile and chatted with them for about a minute and eased ahead. First two miles were at 8:54.4 exactly. Both of them. Right on plan. Waved at my father around mile 2 or 3 near the stadium and turned East. I caught up to the 4:00 pacer around mile 4 or 5 and went past eventually. Next three miles were 8:55, 8:54 and 8:52. My pacing is the thing I'm most proud of for the race.
At that point, I saw another woman from my running group up ahead. I caught her at the next water stop when she slowed for a drink. She was originally going to shoot for 3:55 in this race. I thought maybe we'd just run it together, but two weeks before the race she said she didn't think she'd trained well enough for that. I ran with her for almost a mile, but she was going slower at that point and I moved ahead. That mile was 9:07 due to being distracted talking to her and some uphill. That was the only mile in the first 20 that wasn't between 8:52 and 8:58 other than an 8:49 at the mid-point near the stadium.
After mile 6, we head into the park to run on the crushed gravel trail. Despite being scenic, this was my least favorite part of the course for two reasons. One, there were mud puddles in the middle of the path and you had to run into the grass to get around them. I'll bet there were at least a dozen of those spots. Two, little bits of gravel got in my shoes both times I ran this path. They always shifted to where they weren't bothering me after awhile, but I didn't relish the thought of having to take off my shoe at some point to get them out.
The rest of the first loop was pretty uneventful after that. I liked the long, slight downhill following the park. There was a place where the road goes under an overpass and so the downhill is short but pretty steep and the uphill on the other side is about the same. Other than that, the course really is fairly flat.
Toward the end of the first loop, they turn you into the campus for a bit. As I was nearing the end of the campus section, I saw my father again standing on the edge of the sidewalk. It had warmed up enough that I handed him my gloves after he snapped a picture of me coming down the path.
Out of the campus, I turned right and began the second half of the race. The first half was 1:57:05.
The second loop was much of the same except a lot less people running near me. I spotted one of the first two club members as she was approaching the finish of the half and high fived her.
I continued to just keep the same pace going very evenly through mile 20. At that point I was supposed to decide if I wanted to pick it up. The decision was easy, I didn't While I didn't feel at all out of energy or like I was going to hit the wall, my legs were getting fairly sore and stiff.
At mile 18, I broke out some sport beans while I was in the park. They really just seemed like a pain to eat at that point. I prefer them to Gus in training, but the Gus were a lot easier to deal with during the race. They will be my go to moving forward.
After the park and more of that pesky gravel and the mud spots, I knew that underpass was coming up. Instead of worrying about the uphill, I decided to use it as a reward. I was going to walk up that part to hopefully stretch out my legs. I was still pretty much on pace although mile 21 was 9:05 and mile 23 was 9:09. I walked that uphill and set off again.
At around mile 23, it would have been time for another pack of the sport beans, but I was over them and decided to skip.
I knew I was running the tangents well and was only about .05 long at each mile marker. I decided I would walk again at 24.25 for just a few seconds to stretch my legs again and that would leave only 2 miles to the finish. When I got to that point, I decided to just keep going. Mile 24 had been 8:55, but mile 25 ended up being my slowest of the day at 9:17. I decided I'd do the quick walk break at 25.25 instead and that would only leave a mile. The rest of the miles were all in the same range as the rest of the race.
Just as I was approaching the mile 25 sign, I heard my wife shouting my name. She had walked about a mile from the start to see me come in. She was very encouraging, but the only thing I said back to her was "I'm walking for a bit at 25.25". She ended up jogging on the sidewalk on the other side of the road along with me for about a half mile or so to where the split to go through the campus occurred.
As I turned onto that campus path, they handed me a flower for the Marshall Memorial. I really didn't know what to do with it. Also at that point, the sidewalk is a fairly short, but decent uphill and I walked it until I got to the top.
Going through campus, there were a couple of women directing me to put the flower on the memorial, which was a little ways off the path. They also offerred to do it for me. I promptly handed it to them and said "I only have so many more steps in me".
Exited campus and had a short bit on the street before entering the stadium. I thought you actually turned in at the first corner, but was told to continue on to the far corner. As you go into the stadium, you go down a fairly steep ramp. My legs wouldn't bend that way, so I walk/shuffled down it and onto the turf and started running again.
I took the football the guy tossed me and made the quick up and back on the field. I pretended to throw it to my wife and father as I was nearing the finish and the caught that on camera.
I crossed the finish and it was over. I had completed my first marathon. Final time was 3:54:59, so basically one second from what I was going for.
It was a 50 second positive split, but I'll take it. I was in the top 40% of finishers, top 50% of males, and top 40% of male masters. But get this, I was in the bottom 50% of my age group! If the numbers are right, almost 15% of the entire field of the marathon were in my gender age group. Not sure how that is possible.
Overall, I'm pretty pleased. I didn't blow up. My pace was psychotically even. I don't think I could have done it much faster although I might have left a minute or two on the table.
The next day, I wasn't too sore to go up and down the stairs at work. I did take one day off of running and then attempted a short run on Tuesday. That wasn't happening, but I did a 2 mile run the following day and have been ramping up ever since.
I start my new plan for the Carmel Marathon 2019 on the Monday after Thanksgiving!