Marshall University Marathon Race Report

So I have had enough little teasers about the race, I may as well formulate a proper race report.

Early this year, an aquaintance who was serving over in Iraq mentioned she was training for her first marathon. She was from West Virginia, and had targeted the Marshall University marathon in Huntington. I said that I’d heard of it, and could be tempted to run it as well! Her Sargeant (sp?) over there worked for Budweiser in Huntington, and she said he had offered to sponsor us. Even better!

My target race for this fall was Chicago, and I also ran Columbus for the sake of tradition. I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure what sort of race this would be. As the time grew closer, I toyed with the idea of not wearing a watch, of running based on my HRM, all sorts of things. At the same time, I knew the times last year hadn’t been outstanding so there was a possibilty I could place in the top 10 or in my age group if things went well. Eventually I decided that due to the fact it was a small race and crowd support was likely to be minimal, I would run with my mp3 player, something I’ve never done in a race before.

I got out to Huntington mid-afternoon on Saturday. Drema had downgraded to the half marathon, and she was nice and excited. She and Sargeant Lloyd had already gone to the expo to pick up our packets, so there was nothing much to do that evening. We ate our carbs and headed to bed by 9:30 or something ridiculous!

I had been watching accuweather, and the forecast was looking a little cold. I had my sugoi blue shirt on with the mp3 pocket in the sleeve, and shorts. When we stepped outside that morning, I knew I wasn’t going to need gloves or anything, it wasn’t too chilly at all!

We headed out to the starting area, where they were handing out chips (they were not given out at the expo). We could then head inside to some campus building, where we used indoor bathrooms and stayed away from the wind and all before the race started. A nice reminder of Steamtown!

A couple minutes before the race started, we headed outside. I wished the half marathoners good luck and headed towards the pace signs. Right up at the front they had signs that said “6 min pace”, “7 min pace” and “8 min pace” all within two feet of each other! Gulp! I headed up to that general area, where I literally had two people ahead of me. There were a few serious runners who crouched down as though they were going to shoot out of blocks on the track, but a few other folks around me smiled and shook hands and wished each other luck. A guy next to me was wearing a Marathon Maniacs shirt, and I asked how long he’d been a maniac. He gruffly replied “2 years”. When I said, “ah, I joined last year” he looked at me again with a newfound respect, and reached out to shake my hand.

Soon enough it was 8, they let the lone wheelchair racer go, and then we were off. Now, I have never understood these chip-timed races that don’t have a mat at the starting line, but whatever. We were off!

I thought I was maybe going a little fast to start, but I’m not that great at gauging pace. I was running, trying to fix my MP3 player, just probably looking like a mess, when we approached the first mile marker. 7:10.

Ok. For those of you who don’t know, my 5K PR is a 7:04 pace. 7:10 is NOT ok in a marathon.

So I slow up. That’s just ridiculous. What’s interesting though is that there really aren’t that many folks catching up with me and passing me. There are enough people around that I know I’m in a running event, but it’s certainly not crowded.

Mile 2: 7:33
Mile 3: 7:41

By this time my breath has gotten back to normal. I’m feeling pretty good as we complete the loop of Marshall Stadium and pass by the start line again, where my 5K time is 24:xx and I ask some kids for high-5s. Probably a little fast, but who knows? If I can peel off a 7:49 in Chicago and feel great, maybe I have some extra speed in there somewhere… at the same time, I want to reign it in a little, and tell myself to just concentrate on trying for sub-8s.

Mile 4 7:40
Mile 5: 7:48
Mile 6: 7:50
Mile 7: 7:54

An older gentleman in bright red shoes comes up next to me and we start chatting. He’s stopped running marathons, he’s running the half. He asks if I’m qualifying for Boston, I tell him I already have in a previous race. He asks what my qualifying time is, I tell him 8:24 and he looks at his watch and comments that I’m doing just fine! We run together for awhile (my headphones banging on my shoulders annoyingly), and then I grab some water on the way, and find I have a bit of trouble catching up to him.

Oh yes, the debacle that were the water stops. I already left feedback at marathonguide.com about this.

Attention race directors. Provide paper cups in a marathon. Drinking on the run is hard enough. It’s nearly impossible when you provide little plastic cups that break if you try to bend them. Another nicety is different cups for water vs energy drink, and having the same energy drink at all stations. Yes, I appreciate that beverages are even provided. But please!!!

It’s really hard to drink water when it’s given to you in a little plastic cup. I occasionally walk water stops, I was virtually forced to in this race.

Mile 8: 7:45

Mile 9 was where the full and half marathoners parted ways. I bid my new friend adieu and he went left as I continued into Ritter park. I grabbed a drink, then realized I must have missed the mile marker. Made a nice little loop around the park and started heading back in the direction from which we’d just come.

Mile 9/10: 16:15 (8:07 pace)

As we retread our steps, we had a chance to see other runners. Saw Drema and Ron, Drema said she’d only counted 6 females ahead of me. I could feel myself fading, and I joked, “oh, so no pressure!”.

Mile 11: 8:03

I knew my pace was still ok, although not as strong as it had been. Now I had a count to keep in mind!

Mile 12: 8:07

I didn’t much like this part of the course: the streets were not closed to traffic, and we literally were on the side of the road with cars going by. Couple that with the fact I was in a city I didn’t know, wearing headphones, and I wasn’t feeling completely confident.

Mile 13: 7:51 (overall time: 1:41:45)

Another aside. My half PR is 1:41:56. Ok, sure, this was .1 of a mile less than that. But still. Too. darned. fast. And I’ll admit, part of me wished I’d run the half and just busted it out.

Mile 13 brought you in and out some little strange alley thing. I stopped in this mile to stretch my legs, I was feeling a bit tight. I took this time to glance behind me, and saw there were a few women coming up on my heels. Despite the slow mile, I was able to hold them off.

Mile 14: 8:33

Uh oh. I tried not to worry too much about the crossover from “7s to low-8s to…” but it was there..

Mile 15: 8:15

Mile 16: 9:05

At what point did things start to slip? I’m not sure. I guess there was a steady slowdown, but it was more than that. It was getting warm, I was feeling tired. Sure, only another ten miles. I knew I could do it, but my heart just wasn’t in it.

Mile 17: 9:34
Mile 18: 8:36
Mile 19: 9:26

Somewhere along here I started to feel a bit.. not dizzy, but just like my reflexes werent quite there. My feet weren’t lifting as high as they should have been, and was I too close to the curb? I got confused whether I was on mile 17 or 18. Ugh. Just not on my game. I started walking every so often, and people would pass by, offer a few words of encouragement or ask if I was ok. I always replied, “oh yeah, fine”. It just wasn’t my day.

Mile 20: 11:41

Ya know, it’s one day. One race. So what if I sat down on the curb for awhile, took off my blue shirt (it was getting warm – you know that’s no lie when I end up running in my sports bra!!!) and just gathered my wits. I wasn’t aching, wasn’t dehydrated, wasn’t an emotional wreck. Just wasn’t a great day, and now I just had to bring it in.

Mile 21: 9:44

Even as I was slow (my hips were sore), I was surprised by my overall time. I could run 10 min miles and still get in under-4? After all, despite how strong I started out, my goal for this race had been 3:30 – 4, and if I came in at 3:59:59, I would have achieved my goal. So I kept plugging along.

Mile 22: 9:53

With 4 miles to go, we were back at Ritter park for one more loop and then we were on the same course the half marathoners finished on. For some reason, that helped me, I felt we were back on the homestretch. I just wanted to bring it in, and I was surprised I was taking note of things (‘wow, that’s kinda a big pothole, can’t believe they didn’t mark that off, wonder if anyone tripped’).

Mile 23: 10:25

Somewhere around here, they were giving out pretzels at the aid station. Sure, it was late in the game, but dang did they taste good!

Mile 24: 10:43
Mile 25/26: 20:27

As we got near the end of the course, we retraced the steps we’d taken out. I thought of how strong I’d been a few hours earlier, and I just wanted to be done. Even at this stage of the game, a few women passed me, and I let them. Finally in the last half-mile, we ran up onto campus, very picturesque except for the BRICK sidewalk (!!). Just as we approached the stadium we were to finish in, another woman passed me. But it was too close to the finish for that to happen. Plus, I knew I was close to 3:50 and I wanted to get in before that. We got into the stadium, and steping onto grass caused my leg turnover to slow dramatically. The girl was still ahead of me. But as we made the final turn,volunteers were handing out footballs you could carry across the field to the finish. She took one, and I sprinted ahead. I bore down on the finish line as I saw the seconds clicking away. And at 3:49:52, I crossed the line.

last .2: 1:37

They had pepsi and domino’s pizza waiting for us. Odd, but pretty darned good! Met up with the gang, Drema had finished in 2:11 and was feeling great! Even though I had about 15 girls finish ahead of me, I’d hoped for some age group hardware, but the awards table only had awards out for 60+. Ah well.

Because everyone else had been spectating or had done the half, we took off right after I was done, so I didn’t exactly do a lot of stretching or anything. My hips had been feeling tight through the last half of the race, and even a few days later, I feel a bit sore. Time for a break!

In the end, I finished 14th female overall, 2nd in my age group. I emailed the RD and they’re mailing me an award. YaHoo! I met my goal of 330 – 4, and I saw I can hold a decent pace there for.. well, at least a half a marathon! And I know I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. NO MORE THREE MARATHONS IN A MONTH.

What was great about this race is that I still was able to finish strong reasonably strong, despite how I felt. I think back to SunBurst and how much I beat myself up over that race, and this was so different. I know I’m a strong runner, I know what I’m capable of. This just wasn’t the day.

A few friends have asked me if I’d recommend this race. I’m not sure, I guess it depends what you’re interested in. The organization was good, I like the feel of a small race where you are more than a number. But I also like the excitement of a big race with lots of spectators. For only the third year of the race, I thought this was really well organized, and it’s a nice flat course, especially for West Virginia!

Not so bad for lucky #13!