I ran my 8th marathon on Sunday. It was not a PR. It was not entirely pleasant. It was cold and windy. But I had a great time!
We headed down to Virginia Beach on Friday afternoon. I needed to hit packet pickup for my bibs — I was not only running the marathon on Sunday, but the 8K on Saturday as well. If they offer a challenge, I will do it! (It’s the Whale Challenge if you do the 8K and full marathon, the Dolphin Challenge if you do the 8K and half.) After the Goofy Challenge, I figured that’d be easy, right?
Well, it was OK.
I focused on keeping the pace slow since I really didn’t want to be racing the day before a marathon. It was easy enough to stay slow, but I got kind of bored. Once I was getting towards the end, I couldn’t keep it slow anymore. I just let go for the last mile!
OK, so it was kind of fun at the end. Post race I didn’t stick around for the beer tent — no drinking the day before a marathon! I grabbed my medal (!) and some snacks, and headed back to the hotel.
I took it easy the rest of the day. I even napped for a couple hours. I was a little concerned about a sore shin, likely from running on the concrete boardwalk. I wore compression sleeves for the rest of the day, and fortunately felt better on race day.
Race day was quite leisurely for a marathon. The full marathon had an 8:30 a.m. start, so I could sleep a little later. Still, I was up by 6:30 getting ready, eating a peanut butter sandwich, and deciding if I wanted to make any last-minute wardrobe changes.
According to my weather app, it was supposed to be in the mid-40s at race time. I decided to brave it and wear compression socks with a running skirt even though I usually wear pants or capris unless it’s over 50*. I settled on a short-sleeve shirt with arm warmers. That would have worked for mid-40s …
But then it was closer to 40*, and there was a wind chill. Brrr… when it came time to bag-check, I couldn’t part with my jacket. I didn’t want to race with it, but it really wasn’t that bad. I got a tiny bit warm for only a short time when I debated shoving down my arm warmers … but then the wind picked up again and I was happy I kept my layers.
Oh, but I guess I should get to the race itself, huh?
I decided I would line up with a pace group. This race offered 4:00 and 4:15 goal times. While I thought 4:00 was a bit too ambitious — I’ve only run two halfs under two hours — my personal best marathon is a 4:09. On a net-downhill course, but still … I had to line up with the faster group. I know myself, and I knew I wouldn’t pick up the pace enough if I started that much slower.
The first 11 miles or so went well. I had no problem with the pace, and the miles were ticking by. And then we hit the boardwalk. The wind was insane! There were sea gulls everywhere that seemed to be swarming us — it looked line one was trying to steal somebody’s hat. OK that’s unrelated to the race itself, but it was just weird and stands out in my mind. Anyway, it was a struggle, but I stuck with my pacer.
I was so happy to leave that windtunnel! We got back to the main road … and I felt like I was fading — I spent too much energy fighting the wind. I was losing the will to stick with the pacer.
And then she put in headphones, which turned me off. I know some people can’t run without their music, but aren’t pacers supposed to engage their runners and *not* tune out? Then the next mile split hit at 8:58 — faster than goal pace. My chip splits have the 13.1 at 2:00:23, so she was doing well. But I couldn’t handle speeding up, so I decided to drop back. I managed one more mile by myself at 9:07, but then I really did slow it down.
It was really strange how the crowd thinned immediately once I dropped back. I guess a lot of people were running a 4-hour pace? It was nice to have space and to just be able to run, no more zig-zagging around people.
I sort of hung in there … but there’s a long, gradual incline that actually starts around the halfway point and lasts all the way until mile 19. The road from miles 16-19 was slanted, too, which started to bother my knee (which was not a problem at all throughout training). I started walking through the water stops.
That’s actually not as bad as I expected. I did feel pretty down for a few miles there, but mentally once we hit mile 20, things started looking brighter. It surely helps that we got off that slanted road and stopped going uphill!
I also really enjoyed the jelly beans they were handing out around mile 22.
I started chatting with runners. There was a guy from Canada running his 7th marathon. Another man who also kept on his gear he intended to bag-check. And the woman who said to me, as we were leaving Fort Story, “We’re doing awesome.”
Yes. We were.
It was around mile 23 that I caught up with my pacer. She was walking, with who I’m assuming was the 3:50 pacer! She had a quad cramp, he had a side stitch. They started running again and it felt faster than I had been going, so I thought maybe they’d help me bring it in … until I passed them. But knowing I was so close was enough to move my legs a tiny bit faster.
I knew a PR was unlikely … and while I tried to pick it up, it wasn’t enough.
Still, I’m happy.
My 4:10:12 was not too far from my 4:09:07. And now it’s feeling less like a fluke that I had one fast(ish) marathon! (Next best: 4:22:22.)
Post race, it was SOOOOO cold! It made this year’s finisher’s gift — a fleece blanket — so appropriate. Did they know how cold it was going to be? I gladly bundled up, as did just about every other runner!
My husband joined me in the beer tent where it was a little bit warmer, and we shared my free Yuengling. Four free beers? That’s the most generous post-race party I’ve ever been to!
Overall, this is a great, well-organized event. I didn’t really love the full marathon course — I think I’d actually prefer some rolling hills! But perhaps I’ll come back and do the half. It was a fun weekend.