Going into this race, I knew that I had run the most miles of my entire life. I had some ups and downs in my training, but deep down I was confident that my overall hard work would pay off in the end. My carb-heavy diet in the days leading up to the marathon was nearly perfect and I had a solid race nutrition plan. I had a few goals in mind:
1) To finish … always my number one goal!
2) To PR unless the weather was ridiculous or I puked.
3) To break 3:00, circumstances permitting.
4) To win money, this was more like a perk, not an important goal since I can’t control who does or doesn’t show up on race day.
To attempt to break three hours, I knew I had to start a little quicker than a 6:51 pace, since most marathon courses are a little long (unless you run the tangents perfectly), plus I have NEVER negative split a marathon. I had the ideal conditions for this attempt: the temperature was about 40° and sunny with minimal wind. Here is the breakdown of how it went!
Mile 1 (6:46)
I started the race at my planned beginning pace, which I aimed to keep between 6:45 and 6:50. It was a little on the quicker side of the plan. No matter how hard one tries to hold back, it is difficult not to get caught up in the excitement of a race, even though it is only mile one of 26. It did not help that the entire field was sprinting by me. I realized there were half marathoners in the race as well, but I seriously did not pass a soul until mile eight. I wondered if my Garmin was not working properly; the pace felt easy and I was getting passed like a semi on a highway full of Porsche Turbos.
Mile 2 (6:47)
I felt good. But it was mile two.
Mile 3 (6:55)
There was a mild hill which slowed my pace a bit. I have yet to run a “flat” marathon that is completely flat. I saw my boyfriend at the top which helped.
Mile 4 (6:49)
My thoughts from the previous mile were “Crap, I’m already slowing. I need to pick it back up.”
Mile 5 (6:42)
“Whoops, not by that much.” I saw the boyfriend again and I called out, “I feel good. But it’s mile five.”
Mile 6 (6:48)
“Ok, back on track.”
Mile 7 (6:47)
I sipped a Clif Shot gel. Throughout these early miles and the entire race, I mixed up my stride by doing high knees or butt kicks, and shook out my arms. I do this in every marathon to keep loose and to lessen the effects of inevitable stiffness and cramping at the end.
Mile 8 (6:50)
I finished off my Clif Shot gel, hastily gulping down the rest because I knew a water stop was ahead.
Mile 9 (6:51)
I tried to get water but a guy ahead of me grabbed it. I would have had to run backwards to get one from somebody else. I said screw it.
Mile 10 (6:48)
That water stop incident made me mad. It was at least over a mile to the next stop and my throat was full of gel. At least the frustration over this fact helped my pace.
Mile 11 (6:51)
I felt the Band-Aid on my toe slowly peeling off. Earlier in the week, I found my sock covered in blood after an easy walk. Stupidly, I had walked my dog in retired Hokas, not realizing that my sock had a hole in it. I completely avoided blisters this entire training cycle … why now??! Before the race, I had decided to run to the best of my ability, even if my entire foot was covered in blood by the end. A stupid blister wouldn’t keep me down!
Mile 12 (6:49)
Almost half way there. “I wonder if someone could drive me back if I quit now…”
Mile 13 (6:47)
I went through the half marathon point at 1:29:02. I knew I could break three hours IF I didn’t crash, and I had almost a two minute cushion. But I also realized that I had to run the entire distance I had just run, again!
Mile 14 (6:54)
That half split freaked me out. That was my half marathon race pace not too long ago. I still kept thinking, “I really have to run that whole distance again?” The task at hand seemed unfathomable. I broke out a caffeinated gel, which I had planned on reserving for later on in the race. I already needed it.
Mile 15 (6:49)
I got it back together mentally. That is, until a spectator called out, “You’re almost there! Only 11 more miles!” Seriously?!?! The “you’re almost there” method of encouragement should only be reserved for the last quarter mile of a race!
Mile 16 (7:01)
I really don’t know why this mile was slower, my Garmin jumped to a 7:20 at random even though I felt I was maintaining the same pace. I cursed at it and didn’t care if people heard.
Mile 17 (6:48)
“That’s more like it.”
Mile 18 (6:54)
A mild hill led up to mile 19. I slowed a bit, thinking I didn’t want to over tax myself this soon. I was also thinking I had time to spare.
Mile 19 (6:52)
I managed to somewhat get the pace back. The rest would be ok. Or so I thought.
Mile 20 (7:09)
This mile was the most difficult in terms of elevation. Then my right lower hamstring started to cramp. The left one did as well, but not as severely. I did some different strides and trots, and also tried to stretch my legs while I was running. I thought I could make up some time later on, and it was more important to prevent my legs from totally cramping up. It helped a little but not a ton. I know this is the cliché mile to fall apart in a marathon. The fact that I was falling apart made me even more mad! This was my slowest mile of the race.
Mile 21 (7:03)
The hamstrings were toast. I remembered how okay I felt last year at this point in the race. This year, I did NOT feel okay.
Mile 22 (7:06)
Ugh. “Well sub-3:00 is slipping away but I can still PR. Keep running.” More people called out “You’re almost there”, but it was still not even close to that point in a marathon. I needed another caffeinated gel.
Mile 23 (6:58)
After much cursing directed at my Garmin in the previous three miles, I forced my legs to go. They felt heavy and every step felt labored. My hamstrings screamed. I told them to shut up.
Mile 24 (7:04)
I kept on plodding. And it really did feel like plodding. My legs grew even heavier, my hamstrings throbbed, and my steps sounded like those of a pregnant elephant. Although I wasn’t maintaining my earlier pace, I passed a woman. I did not know if she was running the relay or the full marathon. I really didn’t think I was in any kind of contention for money.
Last year, many spectators called out “5th woman! 4th woman!, etc.” This year they didn’t say a thing. Because of all the relay runners jumping on and off the course, it was hard to tell who was actually running the full marathon. I passed a few other women but I don’t really remember where.
I didn’t care at this point. I was just running to finish. I took my remaining gel.
Mile 25 (7:03)
After throwing out all those over 7:00 minute miles, I knew I would be just over three hours. I saw my boyfriend again. He said “You’re going to break 3:00!” But he didn’t know that two of the earlier timing mats were a little off so I was actually not running as fast as he thought. I said, “No, I lost the pace!” But nonetheless, I pressed on, with a goal just to finish the damn thing.
Mile 26 (6:49)
My legs were done but I still had some heart left to hammer this mile out.
This was my “sprint.” It was all I could do.
My finishing time was 3:00:38, 5th woman overall. Apparently I was in 7th place until the last few miles, so two of those women must have been running the individual marathon. I felt like utter crap but getting a PR was worth it.
1) I PR’d by over four minutes!
2) I won money! Although I was four minutes faster than last year, I placed 5th instead of 4th this time. Like I said before, it all depends on who shows up on race day.
3) I had no stomach issues! I dialed in my nutrition and that was the best my stomach has ever felt in a marathon.
4) I am a 3-hour runner. Some races give runners a free “elite” entry if you run a 3-hour marathon.
5) It confirmed my opinion that in running, you get out what you put into it. I ran the most miles of my life in training and as a result, I was able to PR. This aspect was particularly rewarding for me.
1) I didn’t break 3:00 in ideal conditions. It makes me wonder if I ever can!
2) Some races actually say you must run a “sub-3:00 marathon” to get the elite entry.
3) My training was less than ideal at times. My hamstring pain was aggravated by my frequent, very long drives. I also did not do some of the long pace runs fast enough. This might have helped me to sustain a quicker pace in the final miles.
2) Focus on shorter races to develop some speed.
3) Look at future half and full marathons because my sub-3:00 goal seems so achievable, I’m going to keep trying!
I have some definite room for improvement, but I will continue to work hard to achieve my goals. It is good to know that hard work does pay off!