Pocono Mountains Run for the Red Marathon
20 May 2012
The day before the race, I was given wise advice by my friend Emma, a veteran spectator of the Boston Marathon. “Run fast, run far, oh, and pace yourself.” Well, I managed two out of the three.
It’s hard to be disappointed when you shave more than an hour off your previous marathon PR. So I won’t be. The goal was 3:05, a time that would’ve punched my ticket to the Boston Marathon in 2013. But like most good things in life, qualifying for Boston wouldn’t come without sufficient sacrifice.
This is the first race I’ve truly taken seriously; rather than simply finishing, I had a specific goal/pace time. In the weeks leading up the race, I did speed work on the track, dropped to a race weight of ~170 lbs, fueled my runs adequately, and tapered properly. However, the most telling sign I was taking this event seriously: I was at a wedding the night before and didn’t have a drop of alcohol, not even champagne for the toast! Talk about sacrifice.
Race (Garmin Data):
Race start was at 8am, though in hindsight, starting the race an hour earlier would’ve made a significant difference. Sunday called for warmer than average temperatures for this time of year and Mother Nature didn’t disappoint. I was hoping that the training runs I logged during the midday sun would pay off in terms of heat acclimation.
I dropped my post-race bag with the Fed-Ex truck and walked to the front of the line. There was supposed to be a 3:05 pacer who would be running even splits, but I later found that he had pulled out due to an injury. If I was going to do this, it would be on my own.
My guiding mantra for this race: “In the first half, don’t be stupid. In the second half, don’t be a wimp.”
Barely realized I had clipped off the first mile in 6:49, my legs were feeling strong and the pace felt right. The course began at Pocono West High School and the early miles wound through shaded back roads. I reminded myself that “no one ever wins a marathon in first 10k,” so I settled into a comfortable pace, running around 7 minute miles.
The gamble of running without a shirt paid off quickly as I was already sweating profusely. I started pouring water over my head at mile 4 and didn’t stop for the remainder of the race, trying to keep my body temperature as cool as possible.
The two hour dj mix on my playlist let me get into a nice rhythm as I careened down hills that would’ve been marked as Blues had we been skiing. This was billed as a fast course, and the significant drop during this portion of the race was the primary reason. Although my splits were creeping downward (6:59, 6:31, 6:23—oops, 6:39), I knew that holding myself back would simply thrash my quads and hurt me on the uphill climbs to come.
As the pace was speeding up, the temperature also began rising, despite the respite from the shade. Mantra at this point, “the real race begins at 13.1.”
As we neared the halfway point, I looked to my left and saw a group of elites join us from a different road. Confused, I was worried that I had missed a turn since I had been with a smaller pack. The elites passed us like we were standing still, and I heard one cursing and screaming at the volunteers for water. Curiouser and curiouser..
This was where the race stopped being fun. Sparse crowd support and not many other runners around for this portion. I knew that I had banked a decent amount of time during the first half, but I was afraid to look at my elapsed time at the risk of becoming discouraged.
I was pacing one of the elites for a few miles, which was odd, and eventually asked him what happened. He told me how his group had gone off course for nearly a mile, seemed understandably frustrated, and “just wanted the race to be over.”
When I finally did look at the pacing chart on my arm tattoo (TazRunning.com), I realized I was 6 minutes behind at mile 20. The sun was beating down on us as we made our way up the climbs and my legs didn’t have much left. At one point I slapped my thighs and could barely feel them.. That was the moment where I could look back and say, I didn’t give up, I physically didn’t have it in me that day.
Guess where the wheels started coming off..?
Once I had given up on the BQ, it was like a weight had been lifted and I started having fun again, chatting with aid workers as I went through, high fiving the kids. As much as I enjoy running alone, it’s those small moments that we run races for. These people were taking time out of their lives to help us achieve our goals. I definitely need to start volunteering at local races.
These may be some of the first ever race photos where I don’t look completely tragic. Kudos VIP Studios.
With 2 miles to go, we entered downtown Stroudsburg and there were plenty of onlookers outside enjoying brunch. We entered the high school’s football stadium and ran one lap around the track to the finish. It was a nice touch having the announcer call out your name as you were on the final 400m stretch.
People were collapsed left and right on the astroturf, volunteers passing out ice cold towels and water bottles. I relaxed for a while, cheering others on, chatting with finishers. It was a good way to wind down and take stock of the race.
Results / Conclusion
3:17:48 finish, 7:33 pace, 12th AG, 95th overall
The finishers medal was nice, but this race wasn’t about collecting another piece of hardware , it was about pushing boundaries to reach a goal. I can honestly say that I left everything I had out on the course. Compared to the Ironman, this race was tougher. Mentally, physically, I was completely spent from the all out effort that went into the previous 26.2 miles.
I learned a great deal from this race that I’m looking forward to putting into action during my next attempt, Columbus Marathon on Oct. 21.
Unlike any other race I’ve done, this was the first where I was out on the course and truly felt like “I’m a runner. I belong here.” It’s a good feeling, and I don’t want to let it go.