Standing on the starting line for the 2009 Charlotte Thunder Road marathon with some 9000 full and half marathon runners... the guy next to me bouncing up and down, the guy to my left jittery with nerves... I stood with a clear head ready to take my first official step toward Boston 2011. That was the goal of the day... aim somewhere around 7 minute pace and get in under the 3:10 mark.
The starter exclaimed "start your engines!!" and the official pace car was revving up and we were off. The flow of runners surged by me from my front row center perspective and I had to tell myself constantly to slow down... slow down... easy. Mile 1-6:15.
Getting a toe in...
I felt this was too easy to be accurate, and so I did what any intelligent distance runner would do; I slowed down even more. Mile 2 gave us a little moderate climb, the first of maybe 10-12 of the day, none super challenging; just the type of hill that helps to break up the repetition and use some different running styles. Mile 2- 6:55. Right on target.
By this time things were beginning to sort out and the group around me was comprised of half and full marathoners... about 50/50 with the top 3 women from the half in the general vicinity. I was feeling very smooth, effortless and flowing across the beautiful neighborhoods. The trees lines the streets along with gaggles of fan support every half mile or so. This sort of marathoning is extremely motivating and the mile markers were flying by. The runners were still in thick groupings in the journey...
M3-6:38 M4- 7:09 (bathroom) M5- 7:01 M6- 6:30
I threw in a little quicker pace there in order to get re energized. I felt I was becoming a little lethargic and wanted a bit of an eye opener. So a gel was sucked down and I was through 10k in about 42 minutes. The next few miles clicked on by much the same. The climbs were little more drawn out and the downhills were a tad more gradual and longer. This all helped with keeping the mind engaged.
M7- 6:47 M8- 6:48 M9- 6:50 M10- 7:05 (bathroom) 1:08:06 About 2 minutes fast but feeling like I am poking along at this point.
I was taking a lot of pitstops (insert Thunder Road/ NASCAR reference) ... I think 3 for the day at about 30 seconds on average... these seconds did add up and if I were shooting for a specific time goal I might have had some regrets... but this run felt like a training run... and with the urban setting, the port-a-potties seemed the best option for running more comfortably for 3 hours. So I took advantage of them.
I hit water every mile for the first 20 miles, I feel it is best to get water early when you are feeling good and to maybe skip the water in the last 10k. If you are hydrated with a mixture of water, energy drink (for balancing minerals) and energy gels... for, well energy, then the fuel issue should not be a big one... given proper training and pacing.
M11-6:54 M12- 7:12 (bathroom) M13- 6:59
13.1- 1:30 or a shade under... right on schedule!!
Now the 2nd third of the run begins. You can get antsy about this point and get tricked into blowing the whole effort from 13-20 miles. This is a really crucial point to stick with the plan.
A Four Dimensional Game of Go! (with apologies to Gary Snyder...)
The crowds grew thicker and louder and we entered the city-scape again. The elements can combine to work against you as you might shoot for short term gains... many runners began to pass me here as I plodded along. I started to feel less "fresh" but according to my splits I was right on and there was no reason to go with these passing runners... this was simply temptation at work. I let them pass.
M14- 6:58 M15- 6:39 M16- 6:57 M17- 6:59 M18- 7:20 (bathroom- last one I promise)
The 3 hour pace group caught me around mile 14 and we ran together through mile 15.5 when I realized that I did not want to be running 6:40 the rest of the way. I was beginning to feel a bit tired and so I though 7's sounded about right. Conservative and patient was the order of the day and with my goal in sight I was not going to spoil it with a foolish gamble of machismo. Execute the Marathon; don't allow it to execute you!
M19- 6:50 M20- 7:15 M21- 7:13
I began to feel fatigue, not just a loss of sharpness. The miles in this area of the course were sparsely populated, the lonely miles every marathon should have, where you are left with only yourself and your doubts. I never really had too many doubts on this day, just maybe, lost some focus for about 15 minutes... knowing my goals were somewhat secure from here on in. After the second consecutive 7+ I regained my composure and picked up the tempo.
Four miles to go and the crowds were back. The steps were quickly adding to miles and the clocks were getting closer and closer to each other. Usually, as any distance runner knows, at this point in the run the opposite is normally happening.
Moments of Perfection...
Funny how perception behaves. I was going along with a big smile!! Only 5k to go now and confidence allowed a little more effort to come forth. The flow was alive a well. The spirit was flourishing in this place!! Passing the final large gathering I was spurred on by their resounding joy!!! They watched from their front lawn on some random corner house lot in Charlotte. These folks were having a great time and so was I!!!
The Marathon was being kind to me and I was to it I suppose but it is never as easy I you hope for, there is always a challenge lurking. Mile 24 brought one last grind of a hill. The kind that goes under an overpass with a swooping, dipping action and up the naturally formed hill on the other side. Though I was catching people every quarter mile now and feeling great I still did not go sub-7 here. Any small increases in effort were creating stabs of oxygen debt immediately and I found the balance between the dis-comfort zone and the clock in my head... 15 minutes to go, 10 minutes to go and so on. BTW- I was now seeing many of the backs that had redeeded around mile 13 -15... My investments were garnering returns. I did feel some pity for those guys out there though... we all the know the feeling of despair.
We come to know what we can do and accept can doing for certain periods of time. This is called coping! This can serve as a lesson concerning where we are in life. The more we want to take on, the deeper the reserve, the more of a meaning there may be in our task... I think this is called spirit... you could call it fight.
M22- 7:01 M23- 6:57 M24- 7:11 M25- 6:43 M26- 6:40 .2- 1:32
Total- 3:01:33... (chip 3:01:27)
Average pace 6:56 28th overall:)
So, that is it! I accomplished my goal. Boston here I come!! The year capped as a successful running campaign! Now, I rest for a few days and resume maintenance for next month's Disney Marathon. With a BQ secured I can take a little more aggressive approach in Orlando. It is my intention to run 2:53-2:57... in other words:
At Disney I will run a new Marathon PR:)