Yesterday I ran the Glass City Marathon in Toledo, OH and had the best race of my short running career. I knew I was ready, but, honestly, I didn’t know if I could do it. While I knew I had put together a great training cycle, I was still pretty nervous. That made for a nerve-wracking Saturday evening waiting for Sunday morning to finally get there.
I had decided on a plan for the race and checked it out with my coach, Luke Humphrey. The plan was to try to run a 3:30:00 marathon and to do so by negative-splitting the race: run the first half at an average pace of 8:05/mile, then crank it up to 7:50/mile for the second half. The 7:50 pace on the back half wasn’t exactly necessary (a 3:30:00 is an 8:00/mile average), but my history at the marathon has me slowing down considerably in the last few miles, so I built that in to my plan.
After a fitful night’s sleep (as usual), race morning was finally here. The weather forecast was for a cold-ish, kind of blustery day, with the race start at about 35 degrees. Luckily, I brought throwaway clothes to keep me warm while waiting around for the starting gun. Here’s me and my two sons just before we left the hotel for the race.
Nope, those aren’t pajamas, those are hospital pants. And yes, those are the hospital pants from a decidedly different outcome at the Flying Pig about a year ago. They were chosen for three reasons:
- A not-so-subtle reminder to myself to stay hydrated.
- I’m tired of that memory and wanted to throw it away, too.
- They’re cheap (hospital bills not included, local taxes may vary).
After a bit of a traffic snarl getting into the start area, I gave my wife and two boys final hugs, went to the waiting area and made the requisite last minute trip to the porta potties, stretched, took a Hammer gel with caffeine, then waited for the gun to go off. I tucked in behind the 3:30 pace group, knowing that I be letting them go during the first half, but I also knew I needed help to keep things nice and easy at the beginning. I have a bit of a nasty habit of going out too fast, and I knew I wouldn’t achieve what I wanted to do if I did that again.
I got to see my family for the first time just after the two mile mark. They had made signs and were cheering like crazy.
It’s such a huge pick-me-up to get to see your family there cheering for you. I am so thankful they made the trip and stood out in the cold to watch me run. I saw them again at about the 7 mile mark (where I took my first gel), then again at about 12.
I had made myself a little paper with some split times I was hoping to reach, so when I hit the halfway point, I was glad to see I was just a bit under my plan: 1:45:15. So far, so good. Now it was time to go to work and pick up the pace.
The miles between the halfway point and about mile 19 are a bit of a blur. I can’t say I remember much about these miles, with the exception of the wind picking up a tad. I know I got to see my wife and kids a couple of times, and photographic evidence suggests I was hanging in there.
Just after mile 19, I got to see my family another time, only this time my dad had joined my kids and wife. I knew there was a possibility that he and my mom might make it, but since I hadn’t seen them yet, I assumed I wouldn’t. Getting a high five from him was a nice boost just as I was really starting to feel the work I had put in. Most runners will tell you that the marathon really doesn’t start until mile 20 when you have that final 10K to go, and I agree, so getting to see my dad really helped going into that last section. Speaking of support, knowing I’d need every bit of support I could get for this race, I had taken the audio from a video clip my older sister had made of me at the 2011 Marine Corps Marathon and put it on my iPod. In it, she’s cheering like crazy for me, so getting to hear that every 45 minutes or so was very cool.
That last 10K was tough. In fact, I’ll admit it, I hit a very real low point at mile 21 where I didn’t think I could keep pushing. I remember seeing other runners starting to walk and thinking to myself, “Man, it must feel good to be relaxing.” When I look at my splits for the race, mile 21 was my worst, by far: 8:22/mile. I did manage to snap myself out of that thinking, took my last gel, and began to push again. Once I got to 24, I was really digging deep but I knew I could stand any amount of pain for those last two+ miles. I told myself to keep pushing until I hear my Garmin beep and then I could tick off one more half mile. Next thing I know, I was rounding a corner and entering the campus of University of Toledo and I knew the finish line wasn’t far off. Whatever little bit I had left in the tank was put toward that final push because I knew my goal was within reach, but it was going to be close. As I entered the chute, I saw my family cheering for me, I put my head down and just gave it everything I had.
As I crossed the finish line, I stopped my Garmin, glanced down and saw 3:29:51. Barring any huge difference from my chip time, I had done it. My chip time ended up being 3:29:54.
Aside from a great overall result, one of the things I’m most proud of is finally shaking off bad starts (too fast) and bad endings (slowing way down). With the mile 21 exception I mentioned above, my splits are pretty consistent with what I wanted to do. My final 5.2 miles splits were 8:02, 8:01, 8:01, 7:57, 7:57 and 7:31 for the final 0.2. For the curious, here’s the Garmin data.