I’m a two-time marathoner.
I had NO idea what to expect. Obviously, it would be smaller than the NYC and Chicago races. I knew the crowds would be a lot thinner. I expected the expo to be just a few booths. While I’m a Jersey boy, I had no clue how much of the race would be through streets and how much would run on boardwalks. And while I’d run the Chicago Marathon back in October, I had no idea what to expect from my physical performance. The heat in Chicago had literally burnt up my race plan and destroyed my anticipated timing. What would I be capable of under normal weather conditions? And what about my conditioning since Chicago? I’ve since gotten faster overall and even set a new half-marathon PR.
The answers came quickly. I hit the expo the day before the race with my Uncle Steve. It was surprisingly decent – though not too large. I bought myself a new pouch that could fit my iPhone on my fuel belt and was a happy guy. I also ran into run buddy Sharon P., who, by the way, broke her previous marathon PR by 9 minutes! I also discovered that the number of full marathon participants would be minimal compared to the simultaneous Long Branch Half Marathon. The marathon bib pickup had two lanes while the half had five or six. The numbers between the two seemed to run up to around 10,000 – less than a quarter of the people who run the NYC Marathon each year.
Race day morning – I woke up early on about five hours of sleep and scarfed down my usual pre-run Clif Bar with a cup of coffee. I looked at the weather – mid-60s and sunny with a slight breeze. Perfect. My cousin-in-law and his father, who were running the half, picked me up and we headed straight to Long Branch. A big thank you to the race director who sent out a pile of race updates leading up to the big day, yet failed to mention the ridiculous construction and traffic we’d hit just before arriving at the parking lots (seriously, how the heck did he not mention this!?) The full marathon began 30 minutes before the half and I was running LATE thanks to the traffic. The shuttle bus from the lots to the start seemed to take a lifetime, and I arrived 3 minutes before the gun. Bless the women who let me cut in front of them at the port-a-potty. I made it to the starting corral with a minute to spare. I tightened my shoelaces and was instantly on my way.
MISTAKE 1 – THE RUSHED START. It threw me for a bit of a loop – it barely hit me that I was running the race I’d spent months training for till I was several miles in! From now on, I’m getting to major races early. While every minute of sleep matters for me, I would rather lose 15 minutes of sleep than my mind. Rushing sucks and caused me to forget my headband – I had sweat in my eyes for the first 13 miles. Fortunately, the sweat evaporated before hitting my eyes later in the race as the temperatures got hotter.
Needless to say, I hit my groove and ran. I felt great for the first 8 miles and was looking forward to finding my family where I told them to wait around mile 8 or 9. They never made it. MISTAKE 2 – FAMILY PLANNING. Not that type – the type where I make a set plan with my family and friends to cheer me on at very specific locations. I spent the entire race looking for them, needing a boost, and didn’t see them till the final miles!
I kept my pace nice and steady until right after mile 13, when I had to stop and use the bathroom. Those miles were comfortable and fun. Picked it back up after and ran solid until mile 20 when I started to get tired. I pushed myself through mile 24 where I decide to walk for one minute just to get a little different motion in my sore legs.
Somewhere during mile 25, I finally found my mom and uncle! I looked at my time and knew that I was well within reach of the time goal I wanted, so I decided to stop and give Mom a hug. They offered me cold Gatorade and a banana, but I’d been good about my nutrition the whole race. I’d taken Gu at every 4 miles, drank water and/or Gatorade at each mile and water station and had even consumed a few pieces of banana volunteers had been handing out. I told Mom and Uncle Steve I loved them and I’d see them in a few. I had a race to run.
I had two miles left and was feeling great. Tired, but great. I chugged along a short distance before finding the rest of my family. They cheered loudly and I got pumped – but there was no stopping this time. I sped up. They were at the beginning of what turned out to be a crowded end of the race. The sidelines were packed with spectators cheering loudly! I managed to hold a nice pace and give a few high-fives to kids.
The final 200 meters came quickly. It was go-time. I stepped on the gas and sprinted. Within moments, an AWESOME medal was dangling from my neck.
Overall place: 534 / 1855
Gender place: 398 / 1134
Age Gender place: 53 / 153
I survived. I broke four hours, my first goal, and broke a 9:00 pace, my second. I’m extremely happy with my performance, though I know I could have given a bit more. Chicago had been such a weird race due to weather, I felt like this was my first race all over again and ran somewhat conservatively as to not totally bonk before the finish. Guess I’ll just have to run another! Bring on NYC!
I always find motivation from reading other’s race reports. I hope this one makes you want to get out there too. Just one piece of advice – learn from my MISTAKE 3 – LACK OF SUNSCREEN. I’d brought sunscreen with me, but between rushing and the bad advice of my cousin-in-law’s father, I skipped it. I figured that it was only May 1 so the sun wasn’t that strong, and by the time the sun would kick in I’d have sweat it all off anyway. Bad call. I finished the race with a horrible burn on my shoulders and arms. Seriously, wear sunscreen. The good news – forgetting my headband allowed me to avoid another truly awkward tan-line.
Special congrats to Katie who ran an incredible 3:16:08 and Steve who wrote quite an incredible, lesson-filled and motivating recap of his own NJ Marathon experience, Failures and Ambulances. You guys inspire me.
Motivating Track of the Week: “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen. Cliché? Yes, but there couldn’t be a more appropriate time to be listening to it!