On Patriots Day (April 15th to everyone who’s not a New Englander!) I’ll run my 2nd Boston Marathon. Boston is the first marathon I’ll run twice. I’ve run Â five marathons (and two 50K Ultras), all of them on different courses. I guess I like different scenery…
Preparing for a marathon always reminds me of my previous 26.2 adventures. As I enter serious taper mode (my last hard workout was today, 5 miles alternating 6:45 and 7:15 pace), I thought I’d sit down and share my marathon experiences over the last seven years.Â I got into marathoning late, considering I’ve been racing since the Heinz schools’ marathon relay at age 11, way back in 1984. For a long time the distance and discipline scared me. Funny thing was, I’d happily run 20+ trail miles with Reston Runners, but the mere mention of the marathon gave me chills. It was a place that I wasn’t prepared to go, mentally more than anything, for some time. Until finally…
Marathon #1: Marine Corps Marathon (MCM), October 2006
The story of MCM starts six months earlier. Back in March of 2006 my friend Kathy and I traveled to Virginia Beach to run our first ever Half Marathon. Shamrock was a very small event back then, so small, in fact, that most restaurants had not yet opened for the season and we had a hard time finding somewhere to eat! On the way home from the race we stopped at a gas station and saw some other race finishers looking stiff-legged. We said hello and found out that they had run the marathon. One woman we talked to was so excited to have finished her first marathon in a great time. Kathy and I looked at each other and knew a seed had been planted. We signed up for MCM almost right away. (Back then it didn’t close in 2 hours!) MCM is my local marathon so it was an easy choice. It’s also a very crowded race, as I quickly learned.
MCM was an eye-opener, as most first marathons are! I went into the race feeling well-prepared, having logged the mileage, albeit all of it at an easy pace. I got carried away, however, by the spectators cheering and the surging of the runners around me, and ran the first 5 miles at an 8:15 pace, much faster than my planned 9:00. And of course I crashed and burned by mile 17.
MCM finish: 3:58
Marathon #2: Disney World Marathon, January 2008
My training for Disney was very similar to that for MCM, except for the fact that the weather was much colder for my long runs. Of course, it was hot and humid in Orlando. I carried a water belt for the first time, had to ditch my shirt at mile 4, even though it was still dark, and ended up with “burns” on my skin from the friction of the fuel belt. Although I still started too fast, I paced this race better in the later miles, fueled better (switching the fuel belt for a hand-held at halfway), and didn’t crash.
Disney Marathon finish: 3:44 (BQ)
Marathon #3: National Marathon, March 2009
National was simply a training run for Marathon #4, Boston. I scored a free entry from Reston Runners and so decided it would be good training. I started out at the pace I should have started my other marathons: 9:15. I ran that pace for 18 miles, then picked up to marathon pace for the next 6, and cooled down for the last 2 miles. There was no pressure and it felt relatively easy. But did I learn my lesson?
National Marathon finish: 4:01
Marathon #4: Boston Marathon, April 2009
Did I learn from National? Of course not. At Boston I started out at an 8:30 pace, convinced that was what I needed to do on the first several downhill miles, to compensate for the hills later on. I crashed badly at Boston, partly because of this strategy but also because of my disastrous fueling, or lack thereof. In the entire race I only at 2 GUs, enough for 90 minutes of running max.
Boston Marathon finish: 3:58
Marathon #5: Shamrock Marathon, March 2011
Shamrock was always meant to be a training run for Capon Valley 50K, my first ultra. But given that my training was going well, I’d run a Half Marathon PR in November, and Capon Valley was eight weeks away, I decided to race it. I had low expectations because I was only 8 weeks into marathon training, but that meant there was less pressure to run a certain time. I went out too fast at Shamrock, running low 8s for the first few miles, but it felt so ridiculously easy. I managed to slow myself down a touch, but was still surprised when the 3:40 pace group passed me at mile 8 (it was like being swallowed by a giant beast as I could see their shadows on the pavement, then being expelled out the other end), clearly well ahead of pace. At mile 20 I passed them back. Never has passing someone felt as good as that! I dug deep for the last 6 miles, fueled well the entire race, and felt tired but strong at the end.
Shamrock Marathon finish: 3:37 (BQ)
Marathon #6: Boston Marathon, April 2013
Do you like to run a different marathon each time, or the same marathon more than once?
Are you training for a marathon right now? Which one?
If you haven’t run a marathon, are you considering running one in the future, or have I totally turned you off?!!