Saturday at the marathon expo was COLD and WINDY and RAINY – which did not bode well for race day. My kids still ran like champs at the kid’s races, but every weather report from every media outlet called for thunderstorms and showers throughout the morning of race day. My wife, never ceasing to amaze me with her support through 18 weeks of training while being a “training widow” surprised me again on Saturday with the above sign (purchased from an actual sign store because she knew it had to be waterproof).
So I got up 4:45am race day morning to get ready and hopped a ride to Long Branch with training partner John C (aka Johnnie Sneakers). As it turned out, the weather guys were once again way off the mark. By the start of the race temperatures were around 50 degrees and skies were cloudy – that’s as bad as it would get. We never saw any rain, and by the end of the race the sun was out and things were starting to warm up.
They say you should start out with 3 goals in a marathon. Mine were:
(1) Finish with the 4:15 pace group
(2) Finish before 4:30
So with these goals in mind I started out with the 4:15 group, although it took me a mile just to get to them because the start was so mobbed with people. The New Jersey Marathon also has a Half
Marathon that starts at the same time and runs on the same course, so the course was filled with people and made it a little difficult to run. The 4:15 was a great group to run with – led by 4 pace leaders who had just returned from the Boston Marathon and who happen to share my taste in comedy movies. In addition I was able to meet some fellow posters from the Runner’s World forum, including Colleen (aka Coll76) pictured above (thanks to Colleen’s husband for the picture).
So after completing the first half, I had to make a pit stop at the mile 14 porta potties. Unfortunately I had to wait a couple of minutes until one was
available, while the 4:15 pace group was slipping further and further away. I made the rookie mistake of trying to make up all of the time and catch up with the 4:15 group in the next mile. I ran an 8:30 mile to catch my pace group, which was over a minute faster than the pace we were averaging in the first half. Although I caught the pacers sometime after mile 15 that was a move that would cost me dearly.
Despite my sister in law and nephew coming out at mile 17 and my wife and kids coming out at mile 18 for support (and I needed it), somewhere between mile 19 and the infamous mile 20 “the wheels came off”. I finished the last 6 miles in an ugly run/walk, with cramps eating me alive from the knees down. The good news is you’re never alone in this condition in the last 6 miles of a marathon. I had plenty of company and made plenty of friends in that last painful six miles. Everyone’s trying to help each other out during that collective agony of the last 10k of the race. I crossed the finish line with a clock time of 4:29:xx (not sure exactly what the seconds were but I know I beat 4:30). I’m still waiting for my chip time which will hopefully be kinder. In any event I made my final 2 goals, although I really wanted that 4:15.
So I had a great experience for a first marathon. Met a lot of cool people, all of whom “get it” and understand what it means to go through months of training to run one of these things. I was reminded of how supportive and selfless my family is which is humbling in itself. And I learned a lot for the next time (like not waiting for a porta potty and using the bushes immediately comes to mind). I’d really like to shoot for a sub 4 hour marathon next time, so I’ve obviously got a lot of work to do for the next one (NYC Marathon? Philly Marathon? Baltimore Marathon? I dunno….).
Katie & Christopher R.
John (7 marathons) & Paul (1 marathon)
Paul, Jake & Beth
The 2008 NJM Finishers Medal