A lot of my friends from the ultra community were going to be present, and I wanted to see as many as I could. I found Dawn Harrison-Drasner 5 minutes prior to the start, and managed to run a good portion of the race with the Great Pam Rickard and Joe "the Legend" Jurczyk. I also ran with my good friend George Themelis, and saw a number of others including Michael Varanese Schaffer and Hope Bradley who will be running in the Burning River 100 this year with me.
one of my favorite running friends: Dawn Harrison-Drasner
Marathon starts might be majestic moments for some runners, but they're an utter nightmare for me. There's no afterglow to that horn sounding; there's just a lot of impatient waiting while speed walkers and runners who clearly miscalculated an overambitious goal pour out onto the course, clogging the straight away to heaven or hell (depending on what kind of day it is), resulting in a 4+ minute wait for the main course after a few 10 second trot false alarms. Once onto the course, I was navigating my way through runners, eagerly wanting to find my target pace. It never really happened, but I didn't mind. I had a loose goal in mind of 4 hours, but I'd seen the hour-by-hour forecast, and knew what was about to be dished. Call me blindly optimistic, but I didn't really accept it for about 10 miles. Up to that point, I continued, aside from two miserable bathroom stops (and their respective waiting lines) to maintain a somewhat steady 9 minute pace (8:57, 8:57, 8:59, etc). My legs felt great; my guts did not.
early in the race, with Joe Jurczyk and Pam Rickard
The sun really started to get hot at some point between 9 and 14 miles, and I remember thinking: "this is going to be worse than I thought". Somehow a sunny 75 degrees does not feel running on asphalt with people surrounding you on all sides quite the same way it does during a stroll in the park. I continued on, still maintaining a reasonable pace, with a silent understanding that this was going to be the sort of sun and heat that was going to be the stalker ex-boyfriend that followed me through Burning River, so I might as well just learn to deal with it. Challenging. I reached the half point in 2:04:01, the slowest half marathon I've ever run, but feeling somewhat recharged after taking on water and dropping another Nuun tablet in my bottle. It was apparent that 4:00 was out of the question, and 4:10 rapidly fading, but I was determined to make the best of the run. I hadn't been doing much speed work, and hadn't really "trained" for a marathon. Most of my running had been done at a slow pace, some with walking intervals, to get ready for ultras. The Cleveland Marathon, like O24, the Green Jewel 50k and Mohican 50 next month-- are all training experiences for Burning River. With the temperature rapidly rising and heat advisories moving from yellow to red, I stopped worrying about 4:10, and mainly concerned myself with trying to stay hydrated and running.
walking with Joe Jurczyk at about 2:30 into the race
3 hours+ and smiling
The first "walk" happened shortly after reaching the 15 mile mark. I had the dreaded "guts of fire", and a vague sense of what my childhood stuffed animals would have felt like, if they had self-awareness, being left outside in my backyard all day in the middle of August. The break was short-lived, because I knew I still had more than 10 miles remaining, and walking too much too early was never a good thing. I found Dawn, who'd run into problems of her own during the first 15 miles, and enjoyed a brief jog in the shade provided by a few trees, and then moved back out into the hubs of Hades. By the 18 mile mark, I'm convinced it must have been 80 degrees, and people were getting sick. I do not know what my pace was during this stretch, but I know it was my slowest. At the 30k, I was averaging a slow 10:06. I walked 3 or 4 times, each time for about 1-2 minutes between miles 15 and 22.
George, enjoying a nice dash from person to person snapping photos throughout the day, convinced me at 22 miles that I needed to run non-stop with no more walking breaks. I think I'd reached such a heat-baked point that this sounded half like the voice of doom leading me down the staircase into the lowest level of hell, and half like divinity commanding me to do something that was actually going to be good for me. Either way, I listened. I kept running, and during these miles managed to take my overall pace down to 10:01.5, finishing in 4:22:53.
The last half mile was great, and I had my strongest marathon finish
I heard a lot of people say their time was 15-20 minutes slower than expected, so who knows how this might have panned out for me had the conditions been better. It doesn't really matter, though. This was a great running experience, shared with great people!