Two and a half weeks ago I finished my last big race of the season, the Road2Hope Marathon. It was very much a last-minute addition. I mean everyone just throws in a marathon at the end of race season, right? The fact is it had been in the back of my mind to do this November marathon for a while. I had run it last year and despite wind, GI issues and a cold enjoyed the experience – or at least as much as one can enjoy a marathon. I was hesitant to sign up early though, not knowing what my body would think of running a marathon 5 weeks after a 50k trail run.
Once the trail run was done I tried a 20k run 6 days later and seemed none the worse for wear, so I made the decision to go for the marathon. My hope was to beat last year’s time of 4:34, ideally by 4 minutes. Worst case scenario (besides serious injury) would be I would fit one last long run for the year with the added bonus of aid stations, a shirt and a medal. I like my long runs, but I also knew there was very little chance I was going to go out and do 42.2 km by myself one weekend just for the heck of it. I need an organized race for that kind of insanity.
I went into the race knowing I could finish the distance. As long as I don’t get injured I can finish a marathon. Three 50k’s this past year have demonstrated to me what my body can do. The issue was pace. I am a slow marathoner at the best of times. After a season of training for trail 50k’s my pace had slowed down even more. I was also used to a constantly changing run pace mixed with walking. On the trails I simply do what the ground allows me. I don’t aim for a steady pace. A marathon is obviously quite different.
The first change I made compared to past races was I decided to do 10 and 1’s. I had only ever done it once before; last spring as a marathon pace bunny. But given the lack of steady running I decided it made sense. And indeed it did. I fell into a nice pattern of running a bit ahead of the continuous 4:30 bunny, then falling a bit behind on my walk. In fact, I ran the most steady marathon ever (except for during my bunny job!) until 37km. I have to say it felt good to not be dying at 32k. It felt particularly good to pass the porta potties that I had to stop at last year. No stomach issues this time around! I think I have finally nailed my taper week/pre-race eating. (Basically it is just eat the blandest, whitest food I can find).
The fact is everything was just right for a great marathon. The weather was near perfect, it was my first fall marathon without a cold and I didn’t need to stop! But did it lead to a mind-blowing PB? Nope, unless you consider 37 seconds over 42 km a dream PB. The fact was at 37km I was done. I kept going, but I was done. It is possible I might have almost cried, bu tI am trying to forget that part. At 35k I thought I was going to make my 4:30, by 38k I knew it was out of my grasp. Final time was 4:33 something.
I finished not really sure whether I should feel happy or disappointed. Prior to the race I thought I would have a half decent PB or my body would say the hell with this and I would have one of my slowest times. It actually hadn’t crossed my mind it would be more or less the same as last year, just a steadier version of it. It certainly wasn’t a disaster of a run. My body held on to a pretty steady pace – something I really hadn’t been training for – for longer than it had in the past. Usually I start slowing down significantly after 30k. And of course I did this marathon 5 weeks after a 50k race, which was preceded by two other 50k races in June and August. In fact, in 2016 I ran a 30k, a 32k, a marathon and three 50k’s prior to this marathon. My 47-year-old body did that. So was I disappointed in the final time? Yes. I felt a little down for a few days in fact. But am I impressed I did it. Yes. It would, quite frankly, be stupid of me not to feel proud.
I also learned two important things from this marathon. Firstly, I want to focus on 50k ultramarathons. The attempt to run at a very specific pace for 42 km on asphalt is not where I find the most joy. That doesn’t mean I that I don’t want to do marathons, it just means they will not be my focus. More likely they will be training runs. Dear Lord, did I just say marathons would be training runs??? Who would have thought?
And finally, the most important lesson. Never, EVER forget your iPod in your bag check. Especially if much of your plan revolves around listening to the new tunes you had your husband add to your playlist. And in particular, don’t put it in a bag check at a very organized race where they immediately get your bag on a bus to head to the finish line. You really have no hope of getting it back until you have run 42.2 km, all the while having to talk to yourself in your head the whole way. I like spending 4 and a half hours with my music. Four and a half hours with just me inside my head though…nope.
Of course what does one do when the last marathon of the season is done? Start Googling 2017 races of course. As of right now, three official registrations are done. The focus is definitely going to be on distance!
Follow me on Twitter @AverageRunnerK