Sure, training just to finish a marathon takes less time than that, and that is a noble goal that stretches most people. Finishing is a challenge and I respect everyone who tackles that challenge. I'm not denigrating that worthy goal. I'm merely pointing out that there is another level of marathoning, call it (because there is a book with this title) Advanced Marathoning.
To race a marathon... To learn your body's capabilities such that you can pick the appropriate pace from the beginning and maintain that pace throughout the 26.2 miles and have nothing left at the finish, that's an art. It's an art because each race is different. It's an art because every time I've raced the marathon, there have been mistakes and imperfections, but those, along with the moments of precise pace and strategy, contributed to the beauty of the race. And each race has been unique.
Racing a marathon is special. It takes 6 months of your life. You're likely to get sick during that time. You're likely to have spikes in responsibility at work during that time. You may have a family emergency of some sort during that time. You may get injured. You're pretty likely to just plain lose motivation to run during that time. If you prepare to race a marathon, you'll have opportunities to overcome different kinds of adversity.
And then comes race day. What if you don't feel well on race day? What if you have a motivation lull during race week? What if you have a family emergency the eve of the race? And then, the completely uncontrollable bogey... What if you have bad weather on race day?
What if you have all of those? Well, you'll probably have a poor race.
December 12, 2015, all of those happened to me. And I had what I consider to be my worst marathon ever.
Now that I've philosophized a bit... I really do like the new Rocket City Marathon course. It's really cool and still reasonably fast. It's a little more difficult than the 2013 version, but it is still a fast course. And this picture is great... I cannot recommend this race highly enough.
The numbers... Results are at runrocketcity.com. I had three goals here. My A goal was a 3:05. I knew that the weather would not allow that to happen, so I abandoned that goal before the start line. My B goal was sub 3:10. You know, "three oh something". My C goal was to run a BQ time of 3:15. I missed all three of those goals.
I ran a 3:19:39 which put me at 93rd overall and 12th of 133 in the 40-44 age group. I'm frankly embarrassed by that number, but looking back at the mistakes I made during preparation and on race day, it really is what I deserved and it is what I should have expected.
So, what went wrong?
Well, let's start with race day. It was unseasonably warm and humid. Temps were in the mid-upper 60s during the race and the dew point was around 60. That really zapped me. Then, I had issues with digestion. This seems to mess me up far too often. I had to take an emergency number twp port-a-potty stop at mile 4.5. It was not pleasant, took longer than it should have, and that threw my hydration off a bit, too. When that was over, I was pretty far behind my C goal and I tried running hard to make up the time. Again, that wasn't very smart at all.
I hit the 10k at 47:52 (about a 7:43 average pace) but I had been running pretty much 7:10 to 7:15 miles the whole time. So ugh. I hit the half timing mat at 1:38:34. From there, I'm thinking, "If I negative split this thing by two minutes, I can still break 3:15." But I was already tired at 13.1 and the back half is hillier. I thought about just quitting at 13.1 Just walking right to the arena and hanging out and waiting on the winners. It was warming up and I already felt pretty bad, so what was the point? But hey, I trained and I didn't have another marathon in mind to go to later. So I just hung on. I'm glad I did because quitting would have been just that for me. Quitting.
I still passed a lot of folks in the back half. But the climb up to the Space and Rocket Center completely zapped me. I saw my good friend Chris Ramsden coming out of the Space Center as I was entering, and I knew that he should have been way farther than a mile and a half ahead of me, so I knew it wasn't his day either. I yelled some encouragement anyway, but I figured that he didn't want to hear it and just wanted to be at the end.
And those miles from there through the Botanical Garden just drained me. They're rolling. And by the time I got out of there just after mile 20, I was done. I was feeling the harder effort from the early miles. For miles 21-25, it was all I could do to run 8 minute miles. I hit mile 21 at 8:07, and I said to myself, "NO! Okay. That's the last 8 minute mile I'll run. The rest will be below 8 minutes." Then I repeated that for miles 22, 23, 24, and 25. Ugh.
When I looked at my watch at the one mile to go marker, I noticed that I had a chance to break 3:20. Well, you know, why not try? So I dug a little deeper and ran a 7:20 last mile to break 3:20 comfortably. I had to have something to reach for to just keep from giving up, so I'm glad I was close to that one arbitrary number on the clock. And I'm glad I didn't quit.
Eww. I sure was gross and sweaty at the end.