Last week I ran under horrible conditions including rain and mud in a slow trail race. This week was the stark opposite with beautiful weather and a fast course. The result is the fastest marathon I have run in the last 2 years in what my Mother would call ‘quintessential Americana’ town/event.
4am wake up call for the 2 hour drive to the thriving metropolis of Spring Lake, MI which is a beautiful little town on the shores of Lake Michigan. We got to run by the lake a few times, which when I saw it reminded me a whole lot of my Rhode Island race a few years ago. Those houses of course are 10-20 times as expensive. Someone told me the land lots (no house) go for about a million. Yikes. It’s a nice view, but not that nice…
An 8am race start meant the sun was up with temps ~50 degrees, 7-10 mph winds, and overcast so the conditions were pretty much perfect. The race horn went off and the (eventual) winner took off like a rocket (2:44 winning time) and I ran a little ways with Rich P, a friend whom I have lost to more than once, (he ran a 2:47 this day) and I got into a quick (6:45/mil) steady rhythm with the eventual 4th place finisher. We ran together about 10 miles talking about standard stuff. He is an accountant in the Detroit area and this was his 16th marathon. I pulled away from him for a little while, then he caught me. At about mile 23 I was only 5 seconds back from him, but eventually just let him go. What was I trying to prove? Exactly. :)
At about mile 8, a marathon newbie caught up to us. He told us that he had not even run a half marathon before today. We told him good luck as he took off. When he was reaching the range of my voice, I called up to him asking him what his longest run before today was. He said he had done one 20 miler. I said I was asking because I was curious when (and if) he would crash so I could catch him. His response was simply ‘good luck!’. Heh heh. Yeah, we caught him at about mile 20 from cramping. He ended up crossing the finish line about 20 minutes after we did. Rookies…
For most of the race, me and my group (3-4 of us most of the race) had a bicycle escort. There was another guy guiding the leaders and we had ours just to help with turns and such as the course was in and out of a lot of residential areas. The course was reasonably well marked, but having a bicycle guide was nice. Cool guy, talked with us and even offered us supplemental water in between aid stations which was just plain nice.
When I finished in an average pace ~7 min, I was quite surprised. Like I said earlier, I have not a marathon this fast is a while. It did take some effort, but not a tremendous amount. Because I did it at such a clip, my legs were actually LESS sore than recent other long races. I am not saying I am gonna bust my ass in the next road race, but maybe I will push it a little. I enjoy racing so often for several reasons, and one is because then I can run on feel, meaning when I want to go fast, I can. 3:05 for me (these days!) is defined as fast. I could have broken 3, but I didn’t want to work THAT hard…
The finish was pretty cool. The major sponsor was a local brewery/restaurant, so we got a nice finishers glass, quality shirt, tasty (and free!) lunch, cheap and delish beer and a cool age award. Yet another small town race oozing with love and affection for the runners. I would rather run these size races than some 5000+ runner race any time.