Local newpaper article
Yes, yes, that is a 1st place win. My first overall win ever in my entire life. Any distance, any age, any anything. I have run more than a few races, garnering two 2nd places, a few 4ths, a 5th, etc. but never a number 1.
Let’s get through the normal stuff first. A little long of a road trip that took me part of two days. Because I spaced it out, I had the opportunity to stop by Atlantic City to do the ‘AC’ thing, which felt a lot like my trip to Vegas. I wandered through 2 casinos, Trump and Caesar’s. I even spent some time wandering along the boardwalk. Afterward I headed down to the ‘expo’ to pick up my number and shirt (A very nice one, by the way). It was not much of an expo considering there was really only one business there. Afterwards, I still had time to catch two movies, get a nice veal Parmesan dinner with a couple of Yuengling’s and head back to my hotel for a pretty good night sleep.
With a 9am start, I could get up at my normal time of 6am for a race, which was nice. Peanut butter sandwich and a few cups of tea and I parked at the finish line at about 7am to catch a bus to the start line. I had a wonderful conversation with a nice New Yorker who has done >40 marathons in his life. We arrived at the start 1 hour and 20 min before the start. With the temperature hovering in the low 40’s and a stiff wind, my choice of shorts and long sleeve shirt was a little cool. I found an entryway to a local restaurant to keep warm. It was about 15 min before the start of the race that I decided what pace I was going to run this one at. I decided to shoot for a 3 hour race, but would be satisfied with something slightly slower, owing to the headwind.
Oh, a what a headwind it was. 12-15 mph steady with gusts up to 20 mph. As with Boston 2007, the wind was in my face the whole darn way. Well, there were a few blocks in residential areas that I got a break from the wind, but >80% of the time I had the wind in my face.
As with the 2007 A1A marathon, I did not know I was in the lead until well into the race. In this case, there was a 10 mile race that had the same start and course as the marathon. After ~5 miles I was firmly in 3rd place, and I swore that one of the guys in front of me was a marathoner (instead of a 10-miler) so I thought I was in 2nd, maybe 3rd place. At about mile 9.2, I got passed by another guy, but he was another 10 miler, so I let him go. I came up to the 10 mile finish and saw the timer truck (A pickup with the gate down holding a big race clock) waiting for me. Oh no, I am the first marathoner. A quick question to a race official confirmed my unhappy suspicion. Yes, I was the first marathoner. I threw up my hands, swore, and said out loud “I am not supposed to be here”. A similar expounding I made back at the A1A marathon. I don’t like being in the lead because I don’t like pressure. I don’t handle it well. Don’t put me in the lead, I will fail for sure. The first thing I did was look behind me and see where the next runner was. Great! There were 2 guys about 1/4 mile behind me. Wonderful. They will team up, bear down and catch and pass me. Then I can relax and get into my grove and run my race, NOT in the lead.
I held my pace and just tried to be comfortable. At about mile 15.5 there was a short ‘turn-around section’ where I could see exactly what kind of lead I had on the next runners. One guy was about 1/4 mile, another 200m behind him, then a few more a little farther back. Great. I will be overtaken, and then I will be comfortable. Again, NOT in the lead. I tried hard to learn from the failed experience of A1A. #1 lesson, keeping a solid even pace and #2 lesson, keeping hydrated. I kept checking my ‘head’ and body parts for signs of dehydration and was fine until about mile 24.5, which by that time it was too late to be damaging. In terms of pace, I ran the first 9 miles at exactly 6:40 pace. At mile 18, I was doing an average of 6:41. A final pace of 6:44 means I did not slow down significantly.
At about mile 20, I started to finally believe I had a shot at winning it. I still had the healthy lead and this time I still had my brain and body intact from plenty of fluid. This is about where I started the mantra ‘If I hold this pace, I can win’. I believed that the next runner was not about to pick up the pace enough to pass me if I stayed steady.
At about mile 24.5, I started to feel that crappy loss of feeling in my hands, a sign of dehydration. For the first time, I ran a marathon with only 12 in-race aid stations, each about 2-2.5 miles apart, with the first Gatorade supplied one not being until mile 11. For this I was not too thrilled. Not starting to feel funny until I was min away from the finish though gave me confidence that I could make it. By mile 25, the ‘keep this pace and you win’ mantra was pretty much constant.
With a little more than 0.75 mile to go, I turned on to the final boardwalk and saw the finish line sign up ahead. A guess at the distance, a quick check of the race clock and I realized there was a snowballs chance for a PR to go woth my win. I put my head down and gritted my teeth and picked up the pace. After a ‘sprint’ of 1/3 of a mile and I realized I was not going to make it. (I eventually missed a PR by 46 seconds) A quick look back and yes I still had my hefty lead, so I slowed back down to comfort speed and wandered on up to the finish. In my 3rd marathon in a row, I passed over the finish line on my hands. This time I actually managed to ‘walk’ a few steps across, and I got to smack my butt on a finish ‘tape’. I talked with the race director and kindly asked for the tape and he promised me I would get it in the mail soon. If you have not seen the scene yet, you need to watch the video.
After the initial ‘congratulations’ from everyone around I found the massage tent and got my massage. I had to enjoy this rare moment of no line at the massage tables. While in there I did one newspaper interview and one TV interview. After that I changed my clothes into something dry and warm and then did another newspaper interview.
With a long ride back, I had originally planned on heading west very soon after the race. The awards ceremony started a full 2 hours after I finished. I had to stay to enjoy this very rare moment. Whilst waiting for the official results I sat and had a couple of beers with the second place finisher who lives in Beijing but is Irish by birth. A very nice guy and fun to swap marathon stories with.
The feeling of the win was surreal and completely unexpected. It messed with my head a lot. Now that I have a marathon win under my belt, I have an invaluable experience that I just might be able to us again in the future (I hope!)
No taper, no specific training with this race being a ‘goal’ race, nothing special for this race. My training since I have gone 1 marathon per month is pretty boring, doing ~55 miles per week with no real speed work, just doing long runs, some hard, some easy. Again, this makes me think I could do great things if tried hard. Another ‘life goal’ just got checked off when I didn’t think it would happen this day. It came as a surprise so I was a little taken aback when it happened. A day that I will never, ever, ever forget.
- walk after the run, no matter what. Get the lactic acid out of your legs and you can NOT have sore legs 24 hours after a 2:56 marathon.
- Veal parmesan the night before a race, YUM! Eat until you are full, then eat some more.
- A peanut butter sandwich 3 hours before race start is perfect race morning food.
- Tape (only) all toes, completely before the race. No need for moleskin. I did this for this race I had NO lost toenails, just one blister on one big toe.