Hopefully, I’ve kept you at the edge of your seat since my last post. If you need a refresher, here’s the link. After experiencing some ankle tendinitis in the last 2 weeks of training (what was supposed to be an easy taper), and visiting a PT several times, I decided to change my running form from heel-toe to midfoot for the marathon. I was a little nervous, but I was more happy that we all made it to the starting line and running any part of the marathon felt like a bonus.
As Kathleen and Matt have pretty much covered all of the specifics related to the race organization, logistics, setup, expo, and the finish line area, I’ll stick to my actual experience. The weather forecast had called for showers early in the morning, stopping by the race start time, with cloudy skies eventually giving way to a little sun. The forecasters couldn’t have been more wrong. It poured up until our starting time, then poured again for the early part of the race. Lucky for us, we stayed in the Richmond Marriott, directly across the street from the start line. After getting ready in our room, we ventured out onto W Broad St just as the race started, hopped into a corral and started running.
A quick sidebar to review what I wore for the marathon (which was based on overcast skies and between 45 and 55 degrees). My Brooks running shirt (that I picked up at the Rock and Roll Philly Expo), Brooks sherpa shorts, a Nike running cap, CEP compression sleeves (a new addition, anything to help combat the tendinitis), and my Asics sneakers. Accessories included my Oakley sunglasses (never needed those), two Accel energy gels, Garmin GPS watch, and running gloves. A last-minute add when I saw it was raining were my Nike arm sleeves. Very good call to wear them.
Back to the race – I settled into a good groove in the first few miles running midfoot. I knew I had the correct form and stride since my feet were smacking the ground and making a pretty loud noise. As the miles rolled along, I started to get excited about the first party-zone to see Kathleen and Matt’s parents. It was good to see them, and it felt like I got a boost of energy (this was around mile 8). There were some rolling hills and a couple steep up and downhills in the first 1/3 of the course. I felt really good. I could feel the tendonitis, but it hadn’t worsened since the beginning of the race, so that was good news.
After crossing the James River, we run down a ramp and then along the river for a couple miles. Still in a good groove, I checked my watch to see where I stood. I was averaging about 8:45/mile. We ventured into some suburban neighborhoods, still feeling good, before hitting some rolling hills on the way back towards the James River and downtown Richmond. We were about 2/3rds done, and I was still averaging about 8:50/mile.
Slowly, we approached the dreaded bridge back across the James that would lead us back into downtown Richmond. I knew that after we crossed the bridge, it was a steady uphill for about 3 miles. I felt my pace slow on the gradual uphill. I checked my watch when we hit each mile split and I was around 9:20-9:45, a good pace for the steady uphill; I knew I could make up some ground on the downhill to the finish. I hadn’t seen Kathleen or Matt since the start of the race and had no idea if they were ahead or behind me.
I approached what I think was mile 20 or so, when I started to get cramping in my right leg, on the inside, just above the knee. Not good. I slowed down, stopped to stretch, and had water and powerade at each drink station. At this point, they were every mile. I never experienced a cramp like this during training. I kept checking to see if Matt or Kathleen were passing me as I stopped every few hundred yards to stretch and try to work out the cramp. I saw Kathleen (don’t remember exactly where, it’s all a blur from mile 19 on) and she stopped to check on me. So good to see her!! We ran/walked/stretched together for the rest of the race. We stopped at various water and junk food stations and had pretzels, gummy bears, bananas, soda, powerade, and water. Anything we could find. We eventually arrived back in downtown Richmond and, with about 1/4 mile to go, I stretched my quad for the last time. We ran the downhill and crossed the finish line. Marathon complete!
I was so glad that it was over. We hung out at the finish line area for awhile. We had some pizza, a beer and relaxed. Here is the recap from my GPS watch:
After 4 months of training, the marathon was over. It felt good. I had negative thoughts about marathoning as soon as the cramp hit; I never wanted to do another. Whenever I stopped to stretch, I checked my watch to see what I had to do to break 4 hours. Eventually, 4 hours slipped away and that was difficult to cope with. I was disappointed. It took a couple of days, but eventually the disappointment faded, and I started having thoughts of when and where to run the next one. It took a few days, but I was happy to have just finished.
A couple things that went well. Bringing food from home to microwave for dinner the night before. Staying in a hotel adjacent to the starting line. Bringing a couple Accel gels so you don’t have to hope they have the flavor you like on the course. Controlling my pace early on. Listening to my body at the end and walking/stretching.
I learned a lot from the marathon experience. First, set realistic goals and don’t be afraid to adjust those goals if injury strikes. Second, proper hydration is needed during the race. I concluded that I didn’t drink enough water and Powerade during the first half of the race. I think I stopped every 4 miles or so. Lesson learned for next time. Stop every time you can. Or wear a hydration vest. Third, you’ll likely have very strong reactions about the whole experience during and right after. That seems natural and after a few days, you’ll likely think about it in a very different way. Congrats to Kathleen and Matt! When and where are we doing this again??