The correct marathon results. More on that later.
Anyone who knows anything about my racing history should know better than to believe that I ran even splits. Every marathon, I emerge from my taper cocoon feeling insecure and out of shape. I'm haunted by lingering injuries and nascent illnesses and end up toeing the line feeling as nimble as a three-legged basset hound. Then the gun goes off, the crowd moves out and I struggle along as best as I can with the expectation that my first mile will turn out far too slow. I never fully credit the effects of a two-week rest, a three-day carb binge, infusion of adrenaline and caffeine, the bracing jolt of chilly morning air, etc…and next thing I know, I've gone through the first mile half a minute faster than I meant to without even trying. My mile PR was the first mile of a marathon, nuff said.
It was supposed to be different this time. I'd learned my lesson from the past and others' forays into premature anaerobia and I recited my 6:50 mantra right up until the giant C-131 cargo jet did its dramatic pre-race swoop over the field of runners. Then I proceeded to run the first mile 24 seconds too fast, the second mile 13 seconds too fast and the third mile 27 seconds too fast before finally hitting the brakes on mile four with the 6:49 that I should have been running all along. But it was what it was and there's not much you can do when you're in the mix and the damage is done. I went with how I felt, running my second fastest half ever and crashed (if that's what it should be called) by running my second half about four minutes slower. It's not text book, but it's not really terrible either and it did leave open the possiblility that all that training mileage just might prop me up to hold it together for a 2:55 or 6. It didn't happen, but well...a girl can dream, can't she. Who knows, maybe this time I'll have learned my lesson.
The last few miles were tough. I'm not sure I've run a marathon where they weren't, but I definitely had to draw from rarely tapped wells of determination to stay focused through the end. Somewhere around the 22 mile marker I discovered the motivational power of that Melissa Etheridge song about her cancer and I somehow managed to run my fastest split of the second half. My biggest fear towards the end was that phenomenon where your legs just simply stop working the way you need them to and I think I danced dangerously close to that line. I could feel the concrete hardening, but luckily the race ended before it dried completely. And perhaps even more fortunately, it ended on a long downhill!
The actual details of the day...perfect weather, crisp and bright and dry. An even, flat course, with just enough undulation to keep it interesting and more turns than most people might like, but I find that they keep me sharp. Good crowd support , great water/Gatorade volunteers and I had other runners around me for most of the race, so I never felt like I was going it alone. The female winner of the race passed me just after mile five with a friendly hello, before turning all super-hero, NCAA champion on me and leaving me in her Carolina scented 2:44 dust. The Columbus paper made her out to be some wide-eyed neophyte who was just racing on a whim, so it was somewhat comforting to see that she was good enough for Alison to have interviewed her. Some jogger, right? She told the paper that she does Ironmans, but she's never done a marathon. How is that possible?
I'm only human, so I do have a few gripes, some of them pretty significant. The half marathoners started at the same time as the marathoners, which was a little annoying because you had no idea who you were racing against, but I suppose I was supposed to be sticking to the 6:50 plan anyway, so that shouldn't have mattered. Where it did become a real problem was after the course split for a mile and then rejoined the half race, only by this point we'd run a mile further than they had. There were two race clocks each mile after that and it was very confusing for a while to figure out which clock and mile marker belonged to which race. I recorded three really screwy splits through this section, but they average out to make sense. There was a lot of weaving and dodging through this section to avoid slower half runners as well as the marathon walkers who we also caught up to at this point. So I've got to figure that there must have been a better way to organize that part of the race.
The other somewhat annoying thing was the apparent disregard the race organizers had for their top finishers. The newspaper article pointed out, "For the first time in recent history, event organizers chose not to offer appearance money, prize money or performance bonuses." Ostensibly the plan was to make this a "People's Marathon", but I think Marine Corps was one of the first races to go that route and even they have an awards ceremony, don't they?
I did get a bike escort for the last few miles as the third female, which as Joe Positive pointed out feels like an amusingly odd sort of celebrity. Then Jack was running alongside and telling me I had a mile to go and it all felt like a surreal dream for a bit as I rounded the last turns and started to hear the loudspeaker. Noise, balloons, long sloping straight-away to the place where you'll be allowed to stop running, clock ticking down seconds :28, :29, :won't be breaking :30, :31, :32....whoosh.
You can just barely see my bike escort's wheel -->
It's over. The man with the microphone wants to know what's next for you as the chip lady unlaces your shoe and you hear your voice panting over the loudspeaker something about trying to run faster in a marathon next summer. Little bottles of water, bananas, bagels, foil wrappers, medals and portajohns and finally a hug and can I pleeaase
sit down now?
I might save the controversy bit for another entry here, since I have to go get ready for work, but suffice to say... I had every reason to believe that I finished third so when my family, friends and you guys started congratulating me on finishing fourth, I was very confused. I don't know who Phyllis Parker is (though being a researcher, I do have her phone number) and I don't know how her chip managed to cross the marathon finish sensor, but I know she wasn't in front of me. Some nice fellow on the Let's Run boards thought I was being petty for caring about this, saying that my finishing place meant "nada", but when all the results listings, newspapers and marathon websites mention who finished first, second and third, it's a little bit of a bummer to get left off. It's a rare and beautiful thing to finish in the magic top three when it's not something that happens very often for you, so it did not to me seem out of line to question what had happened. Actually, that may be all that I need to say on this subject. The results have been fixed and there was no awards ceremony anyway, so I'll just be satisfied knowing that I know how the race really played out.
|1 - 6:37 6:26|
2 - 6:39 6:37
3 - 6:38 6:23
4 - 6:38 6:49
5 - 6:31 6:40
6 - 6:37 6:39
7 - 6:46 6:39
8 - 6:47 6:39
9 - 6:50 6:37
|10 - 6:39 6:39|
11 - 6:55 6:41
12 - 6:55 6:46
13 - 7:00 6:50
14 - 6:51 6:52
15 - 6:57 6:51
16 - 6:58 6:52
17 - 7:07 7:11
18 - 7:05 6:46
|19 - 7:01 7:18|
20 - 7:26 7:04
21 - 7:22 7:04
22 - 7:23 6:39
23 - 7:20 6:56
24 - 7:24 6:59
25 - 7:18 6:59
26 - 7:30 7:05
.2 - 1:38 1:18
The numbers on the right are this year's splits.
The greyed out times are from Grandma's last year.
Going out hard is expensive. Two energy gels are not sufficient.
High mileage pays off at the end. Melissa Etheridge rocks hard.