Time: 3:14:15 Place: 1/29
This was an handy local marathon on the C&O canal trail. The course is mostly flat with a couple of small ascents / descents at the locks. 6.55 miles out and back with aid stations every 2 miles.. I’ve run similar races on the towpath so knew the format. The race has a non-competitive start at 8:00 for slower runners and those who want to beat the heat and a competitive start at 9:00. This looked a perfect race to finish off a back to back weekend, and the 9am start meant an extra hour in bed!
The only goal for the race was to finish marathon / ultra number 60. 3:30 would be nice but it would all depend on how my refueling and recovery had gone after Saturday’s race. Hours in the car on the way back from South Carolina could go either way – great as time off my feet, but with significant potential for severe stiffness.
The alarm came around too quickly and it took some time for my legs to get moving. I had my second PB&J bagel of the weekend and a banana before running the 3.5 miles to the start (mostly on trail) at a slow pace to wake the legs up. I snacked on a small pack of running jelly beans and had a peanut butter sandwich (one of the sponsors is a local supermarket) whilst picking up my number and waiting for the start.
I decided to run with the Nathan pack (rather than my race belt) so that I could carry 1 10oz bottle – it’s 2 miles between aid stations and I was aware I was probably still dehydrated from the day before and it would probably get warm.
I had decided on my Hoka Challenger shoes for the extra cushioning, given the likely tired legs and the trail surface.
I started at an easy pace, not looking at my watch. I realised I had run the first couple of miles at 7:40 pace and it felt good so I decided to stick with it. I knew it would get hotter so the worst case scenario was some quicker miles while it was cool. I figured I was unlikely to blow up and would just slow if the pace was too high.
I reached the turn around in just over 50 mins. It felt comfortable and I was starting to pass people who had started quicker. I ran a similar pace on the way back and reached halfway in 1:40 something (7:38 pace for the first half). I was still feeling good and the legs were feeling surprisingly fine. I pushed the pace a bit on the way back out as there was a string of people ahead of me but I kept it controlled, slowly reeling people in rather than pushing to catch them. I reached the turnaround in 2:28 so 48 mins for the 3rd leg (around 7:30 pace).
It was starting to warm up but I was still feeling good so pushed harder on the way back, using people ahead of me as motivation to push on. I built the pace up gradually over the last 6.5 miles (even with a deer crossing my path), especially when I realized a sub-3:15 was on the card. Mile 26 was at 6:32 pace according to my Garmin. (I ran the first 20 in 2:31 so 7:34 pace and the final 6.2 in 43 mins which is 6:53)
I finished in 3:14:15 which turned out to be 3rd place male and fourth overall. I knew I had passed a lot of people in the second half but had no idea I was that high up the field as there was also a non-competitive 8:00 start and half marathon races at both start times so lots of people out on the course (though it never felt crowded).
Nutrition. Apple Sauce on the go at mile 4. Clif Shot bloks consumed from miles 8 to 14. Gel at mile 18 and 22. Water and gatorade at aid stations.
More evidence that high training miles are paying off. That mixed with more cross training than last year, and doing regular weight sessions in the gym seems to be really helping my performance.
Now having run a sub-3 marathon, what would have been a PR 2 years ago is now psychologically easier to achieve. And I now have a much better understanding of pacing. Previously to run 3:15 I would have set out to run just under that pace for as long as I could, expecting to slow a bit towards the end. Now I am more confident in my pacing, I know how I should feel at half way in order to have a strong finish (though sometimes I lose sight of this e.g. Hawaii!!!)