Had I written this post Sunday evening after my drive back from Columbus, it may have had a different tone. After a couple of days to see the big picture and put things in perspective, I feel better about my race. This post will not be a pity party and will not be filled with a lot of excuses as to why I didn’t hit my goal time of 3:52.
Fact: I simply didn’t run as fast I needed to
Fact: I give it all I had
Those are the facts. Everything else is just gravy. (okay – a lot of gravy)
If you would have told me Friday that I wasn’t going to qualify for Boston, I wouldn’t have believed it for a minute. I was that confident. I believe in my training and really thought I was going to succeed. Confidence is key and a lack of it was not my downfall.
The start – 13.1 miles:
The scheduled start for the marathon was 7:30am. We left our hotel and 5 of us headed for the corrals. One in Corral A, me in B and the others in C. Of course as soon as I got there, I felt the need to use the bathroom one more time. I got in line around 7:00am and stood there until it was my turn…at 7:25! Yep – it took that long. I had lost my friends right after I jumped into line and never saw them before the start again. We were in different corrals anyway, so it wasn’t horrible. I stripped my throw-aways off and actually jumped right into corral A without a hassle, 2 minutes before the start.
I used a custom pace band purchased from FindMyMarathon.com and followed it like the gospel. I had chosen a conservative start with a negative split which would get me to the halfway point with an 8:55 pace. I started slightly fast with and 8:50 for the first mile, but slowed it down to a 9:30 for the second mile and was on track EXACTLY by the time I hit mile 4. The first half of this course was a dream. Wide roads for the most part with a couple of slight rollers. Shortly after the start a friend somehow found me and we ran all the way until the 12 mile mark together. It was nice having him with me and he did a great job of calling out the mile markers and did his best to call out the turns before we got to them. Somewhere around the middle of the first half, I started to notice a big discrepancy between when my watch would click to the next mile and when the actual mile markers hit. The course was “running long” already. Columbus has A LOT of turns, one thing I didn’t particularly like about it. I tried my best to manage the tangents, but between the spectators and the runners, it was hard to see the turns in enough time to react.
This is where the pace band came in really handy. As I hit the actual mile markers and clock, I could check my watch time against the pace band to make sure I was on track. When I hit mile 13, I was 19 seconds faster than I should have been. So, right on track.
Miles 13.1 – 20
I remained exactly on track according to my pace band until around mile 16, where I fell 37 seconds behind pace. No big deal. Miles 16-19, around Ohio State University, including a quick run through the stadium (which I could have done without), completely drained me. The constant gradual uphill without cresting and going down the backside of anything proved deadly for my pace. We would run up hill, level out, go up, level out…etc. Never a swooshing down the other side, never any relief. Going into mile 19, I was1:57 behind where I should have been. I STILL wasn’t panicked. If you look at the elevation below, salvation was waiting for me at mile 19. The next three miles would be downhill. A great place to reignite the excitement, get the feet moving faster and the cadence higher.
I kept waiting for the downhill. I checked my watch several times, just be sure I had the miles right. Where the “F” was this hill? Turns out the “downhill” was so imperceptible that it offered absolutely no relief or chance to make up time whatsoever. I continued to grind through this flat terrain, turning and turning through neighborhoods until I felt dizzy. I felt like I was running in circles with no idea which way would finally turn us back to downtown.
The highlight of these miles, for sure was some random kid handing out ice pops at mile 21. Heaven!
I had three goals when I started this race:
- Qualify for Boston with a time that would actually get me into the race (preferably 2 minutes under 3:55 or better)
- Just qualify, even if it was a 3:54:59
- PR, which would mean beating my Pittsburgh time of 3:58
If you’ve ever run a marathon and you get to mile 24 and you KNOW you’re going to reach your goal, but by a marginal amount, it’s really hard to push yourself to get there. When you know you aren’t going to reach goals 1, 2, or 3, it’s freakin hell to push through just to get to the finish with a time you can at least be proud of.
That’s the first positive I take away from this race: I never gave up. I knew somewhere around mile 21 that a qualification wasn’t looking good. Somewhere around mile 23, a PR was a huge stretch too. But I kept pushing anyway. I could have EASILY (believe me) given up and rolled in with a 4:20, but I didn’t. I’ve felt that disappointment of giving up before and it ain’t pretty. I have to thank my friend Stacey for the strength to get me through the end of my race. She sent me something a few days before that really stuck with me. Parts of the picture below became my mantras in those last miles. All I kept saying over and over is “what are you afraid of? Leave NOTHING behind”. And I didn’t.
Positive number two: I gained a real appreciation for my home course. There’s something to be said for knowing exactly what the course looks and “feels” like. Pittsburgh is hard, no doubt, but I know it. I know where the turns are, I know when I need to push and when to back off or settle in. It’s a comfort level that can’t be duplicated at a foreign course. The hills are the hills, but I train on hills all year. You go up and you swoosh down the other side. Columbus can’t do that!
This was not do or die for me. Positive number three is the fact that this isn’t the end of my story. It was my first real attempt at Boston and just because I didn’t get there this time…I have many opportunities to try again. I’m getting stronger and more consistent with my running. It’s going to get better if I keep working.
At the end of the day, I’m proud of how I ran. It wasn’t a PR and it wasn’t a qualification, but it was another accomplishment that can never be taken away from me. I ran the Columbus Marathon.
- My official finish time was 26.2 miles in 4:02:21 (9:15 pace)
- My WATCH said 26.58 miles in 4:02:23 (9:07 pace) which translates to a 3:58:51, had the course been 100 percent accurate. I know – just let me have this one.
So what’s next for me?