Today was the big day, the day that I predicted I would break that horrid 5 hour marathon mark. I even predicted a finish of 4:48 back a few months ago. I’m happy to report that in fact I beat that prediction by two minutes with a 4:46:06 time.
The weather report for the race was constant thunderstorms, and as we lined up at the start line in Two Harbors the rain started to fall quite steadily. Most of the racers donned garbage bags, hoping to avoid hypothermia and getting too wet. The race kicked off at 7:45, and as we began, the rain abated. In fact the rain never fell very heavily again for the rest of the day. Around mile 16 the sun even came out for a while.
My strategy in this race was to keep it moderately slow at the start, but try to build up a nice dozen miles sub-11 to build up a buffer for my eventual slowing at the end. I felt really great for the first 15 miles and so this goal was easily accomplished, and I even had to back off a bit at time to avoid going too hard.
One of the other things when I run 20+ is that I tend to start taking walk breaks around 16. I know from previous marathons that mile 16 is too early to start walking. So this marathon I set another goal to keep running until 20. I told myself over and over again, that there was no choice, I had to run until 20. When you look at my pace chart you see that I, in fact, ran until 20, and then immediately started a walk break. Breaking through the wall at 16 and 17 wasn’t too bad. Mile 18 was rough, but 19 was the absolute killer mile when it came to wanting to walk, but forcing myself not to.
I knew that I couldn’t walk for long however, or I’d just slow down and end up walking the rest of the race. I know my mental limitations and so I started setting little goals in my head about where I was going to run to next. I knew (and saw in the distance) the biggest hill on the course right after mile 22, so I told myself that I would run until the bottom of that hill, then kick it back in and run as much as I could the rest of the race. After that hill we entered Duluth proper and I knew that just that fact alone could help keep me going. It also was fortuitous that the 4:45 pace group happened upon me right around that time, and I happily fell into a practice of keeping them in sight.
After lemon drop hill, I managed to run the final 3.5 miles to the finish line, not stopping to walk even once. About mile 23.5 I got a second wind and things just felt really great for a while. I don’t know if all of my nutrition decided to kick in at once, or if my body had just given up on trying to make me walk. Whatever it was it worked and I managed a solid 11-11:30 to the finish.
As soon as I started running the final 3 miles I knew I would make it. That fact helped propel me as we took a long and circuitous route around the lower downtown area to finish out the mileage that we needed. As I crossed the finish I looked at the clock and it said 4:48. Since I started 2 minutes after gun time I knew I had met my goal. I also shattered my previous PR by a full 27 minutes. That fact alone shows how far I’ve come this year with my training, despite focusing so much on trail running.
After the race I checked my phone and saw that my wife decided to complete the entire course and so I knew I had time for a quick nap. I found a small patch of grass over by the lake and laid down for some well earned rest. My wife finished with a PR of her own and now we’ve hobbled back to the hotel to recover. After a couple hours I’m not feeling too bad, so I’m marking today as a solid win for my running.