Marshall University Marathon (Huntington, WV)
Marathon #3, State #3
Finish time – 3:15:24
On Sunday, November 1st, 2015, I ran my third marathon - The Marshall University Marathon ("MUM"). That makes three marathons in just shy of 12 months. I finished my first marathon in 3:57. Four months later, I ran my second marathon in 3:38 minutes (a near 19 minute improvement). This time, after several months of base building and increased mileage, I was able to improve my time by an additional 23 minutes. I'm super excited about that! Now let's talk about how it all went down.
Going in to this marathon, I was very unsure about how I wanted to approach it. I felt like I was in shape to run 3:09. Then there was part of me that wanted to be conservative and keep my 20-minute per marathon improvement streak going by aiming for a 3:18. Then there was the super aggressive side of me that wanted to see how close I could get to my BQ - 3:05. So I'd break down my goals like this:
"A" Goal - run a 3:05 (7:03/mile). This was a stretch... so really I wanted to see how long I could hold a 3:05 pace before the crash. I knew the crash would come if I chose this option.
"B" Goal - run a 3:10 (7:15/mile). This is what I think I was capable of running had a chosen an optimal running strategy from the start.
"C" Goal - run a 3:18 (7:33/mile). This would keep my 20-minute improvement per marathon streak alive, and set me up for a BQ run in February 2016.
So basically I decided to go with my "A" Goal because that is just the way my mind works. I decided to go out at a 3:05 marathon pace (7:03/mile) and just see how long I could hold on. The longer I would be able to maintain this pace; the more confident I would feel about the tall task that stands before me in just a few months when I make my first official BQ attempt at the Phoenix Marathon in February.
Pre-race activities all went smoothly. I drove into town with my wife and two boys. I figured it be a good course because off its double loop nature. They'd be able to stand in one spot and see me four times!
The race starts and finishes at the Marshall University football field, and the entire venue is made available... That means plenty of warm bathrooms. No porta potties needed! I was able to stretch, warm up and slide into my spot in line with less than 5 minutes left before the start.
Miles 1 - 6 (7:06, 7:09, 7:04, 7:06, 7:04, 7:03)
Okay first of all, the race starts with a CANON! Like literally... we receive a one minute warning. Then we receive a ten second warning. And then BOOM! the cannon goes off and the race began. I loved it.
The race field is relatively small with less than 2,000 runners total, most of which are half marathoners. I started pretty close to the front... The fastest marathon pace group offered was 3:25, which I knew wouldn't work. So I lined up behind the 1:30 half marathon pace group and in front of the 1:35 half marathon pace group. With my good starting position and relatively small race field size, I was fortunately able to settle into my pace immediately.
The first 10k mostly takes place along so non-descript industrial neighborhoods, with the exception of a few hundred feet along the Ohio River.
I completed the first 10k in 43:06 (7:04/mile)
Miles 7 - 13 (6:58, 6:57, 7:06, 7:04, 6:55, 6:58, 6:55)
Shotly after passing the 10k split, runners make a quick right then left into Ritter Park. Ritter Park is absolutely beautiful! The surface is crushed limestone, which gives the joints a nice break from the asphalt and concrete. Also the trees this time of year are awesome. See the picture below.
I don't know it was the nice scenery, the pleasant running surface, or the friendly volunteers, but I definitely got outside of my pace once I entered the park with two consecutive sub-7 minute splits.
I was able to settle down for mile 9 and 10, but once I left the park and returned to a faster asphalt surface, things got out of hand. I'm thinking that I must have gotten caught up in the hype of the half marathoners as they were nearing their final stretch because I definitely picked up my pace way more than I should have. Miles 11, 12, and 13 were ALL sub-7 minute miles. The following picture is around mile 12.5 and shows me passing by a half marathon finisher (white bib) kicking hard down his final stretch. I'd pay for this later for sure.
I finished the first half of the marathon in 1:32:11 (7:03/mile)
Miles 14 - 18 miles (7:02, 7:02, 7:09, 7:03, 7:09)
After crossing the halfway mark, I really tried to reel myself back in to my pace; as you can see by my splits, I was pretty successful. But one of the coolest moments was seeing my wife and kids for the third and last time before I'd see then again at the finish line.
Again, this was a double loop course. So the second half was the exact same as the first except (1) I was a good bit more tired and (2) the crowds were even thinner, since most people were participating in the half marathon.
I completed the first 19 miles in 2:14:14 (7:04/mile)
Miles 19 - 26 (7:32, 7:37, 7:59, 8:26, 8:36, 8:43, 8:58, 8:40)
The last 10k of the race is when I really started to fade. I could feel it starting around mile 19. I was just trying to keep my legs moving and hold as much pace as I could. I basically went into survival mode. Things got progressively tougher as my quads started to feel like cinder blocks and the muscles in my left calf started twitching to warn me of a pending cramp. By the end of mile 22, my pace had climbed to over 8 minutes/mile and I was just trying to hold on as long as I could without totally cramping up.
Around Mike 25, volunteers were handing out flowers to drop at a memorial fountain. I took the flower but then realized that the fountain was about 50 feet off of the course... Sorry I didn't have an extra 50 feet of strength in my legs to spare, so I gave the flower back to the volunteer. Yea, I know. But sometime you gotta do what you gotta do.
By the time I was approaching the stadium finish, I was totally fatigued. The entrance to the stadium is a crazy decent, after which your are handed a football to cross the finish line with. Yes, the race actually finishes in the endzone of the football field. Cool stuff! Just before reaching the finish, I glanced over to see my family cheering me across the finish line. Mission accomplished!
After a quick post-race massage and some food, we were back on the road to Atlanta. Mission accomplished. Next stop Phoenix in February 2016