Training for and running a marathon has a bit of a let down period afterwards. For me anyway. It's almost like planning a wedding or a vacation--it's the anticipation of the the thing that is as rewarding and fun as the thing itself. And once it's over, you kind of feel...lost? There's this void where all your planning and preparation once was.
This is especially true for me after my most recent race, the Canton, Ohio Football Hall of Fame Marathon. I ran it on Sunday, April 30th, 2017.
It was not my day.
My head got in the way. A marathon, once you've put in the training and know that your body is physically capable of the distance, is more of a mental challenge than anything.
My goal: get below 3 hours and 30 minutes. My actual time: 3 hours 59 minutes.
I'll show you how my per-mile pace broke down later, but basically I fell apart at the half. And my head started in on the negative thoughts around mile 7.
"This feels hard." "Can I do this?" "I can't do this." "I can't keep this pace the whole way." "I'm tired already." "It's hot out here."
Those were the thoughts creeping in. And those are the kinds of thoughts, when running a marathon, that are not allowed. If those get in your head, you are pretty much done for.
I don't know why my brain went there either. It WAS a hard day for sure. Record high heat and humidity. But I've run through harder days. The heat was not the reason--it was a contributing factor. Along with lots of other stuff (intestinal stuff, menstrual cycle stuff, hamstring injury stuff). But mostly, it was my head. And I think I'm most disappointed because it's usually my mental game that is my strength.
To train for this race, I ran through the cold, through the dark. I ran alone. I ran when I didn't want to run. I went to the track and I hit paces in my tempo runs I didn't think were possible. And it was all to help me reach that fast race goal. I know my body is capable of running a marathon in under 3 hours and 30 minutes. Now the trick will be getting my mind on board for the next race. (Yes--there will be another attempt. How could I ever stop here?)
I've given myself about a day and a half to wallow and feel sad about this race and now it's time to move on. Setting ambitious goals means that sometimes, you don't hit them. But that never means you stop setting those goals. Because even if I didn't hit my time goal, I finished. And I have to be proud of my training.
Here is how it broke down, mile by mile.
To reach my goal, I needed to keep my per mile pace just below 8:00/mi. And you can see that I was successful until that dreaded mile 7. That is when those negative thoughts took over. And it shows in the times.
Then, at mile 10, I took my first walk break. I have nothing against walk breaks, but I also know that they are NOT for me. Once I did that, it was pretty much over in terms of hitting that 3:30 total time. My pace slowed to just over 8:00/mi and I was able to hang on until I got past mile 13. Then I started in on more walk breaks. And I got really mad. There were swear words. There was some yelling at myself. And it all fell apart.
Miles 14 through 17, I tried, unsuccessfully, to convince myself that I was running at my "I can do this all day" pace. And I could not even keep that up. It was disheartening. Miles 18 to 26 were a shuffle, walk, shuffle extravaganza. My friend, Liana, ran with me those last few miles and tried to chat to distract me. Liana--I'm sorry for what I said when I was running. She was awesome. I was a mess. I probably would have cried if it didn't make it so hard to breathe!
But, it's done. I'm moving on. The race itself had some highs and lows. I don't want my running experience to taint my evaluation of the overall experience, so I'll share the good and the bad,
--The price! I paid $26.20 to run this one. Well worth it.
--This is a great size race for trying to hit a certain time goal. There were no worries about finding the pace group or getting squeezed at the start line. It was awesome to be able to just walk right up to the start. I usually have trouble and extra stress around physically getting to the start line--none here. (Except the parking issue--which I will get to in a minute.)
--I would not consider this course hilly. There are some longer slopes, but no big hills. Nothing I wasn't able to handle had conditions otherwise been right. And I did not train hills for this.
--The race expo was small, but well organized. I get overwhelmed at the big ones. Packet pick up was a little chaotic, but I was easily able to swap shirt sizes when I realized that they were crazy small. The shirts, although they ran small, are super cute.
--Plenty o' Porta-Pots.
--Plenty of water/Gatorade stops and they were in good spots for where the Gu was stationed as well.
--Cool finisher medals that look like football game tickets. The fleece blankets they gave out would have been awesome on a cold day. On this day, they were an ironic slap in the face.
--The parking debacle--The race instructed everyone to park at the nearby fairgrounds and get bused to the start. This was completely unnecessary and poorly executed. They warned everyone not to show up at 6:30 (the race was supposed to start at 7:00). I got there at about 6:20, which was later than I wanted, but I'm late for everything and the lines to even get a parking spot were stretched miles back. I ended up bailing on the line and parking on a side street and running over to a bus. I had to pay $5. I should have just parked downtown.
--The parking debacle part II--At the end of the race, there was an extremely long line to get back on a bus to get to your car. Not a great time to have to stand and wait in a line. I thought I was going to poop my pants, puke, or pass out. Luckily, my friend offered to drive me back. BUT, the route to get back to cars was through the race!!! So you can imagine that traffic was again at a complete standstill while police officers waited for gaps in runners to let a few cars and the buses through. It was a terrible idea.
--The race started 15 minutes late. Please see "The parking debacle" above which I believe was the cause of the late start. Not cool.
--The water and Gatorade were warm. I know, 1st world problem, but the day was so hot, a nice cold drink would have been heavenly.
--The route--it was interesting to say the least. A 13 mile loop that you ran once in one direction and again in the opposite direction. It was very industrial and went through some rough neighborhoods. And, being a smaller race, there wasn't the crowd support, bands, other entertainment that goes along with a larger race. (But to me this is a trade-off of the good things about a smaller race.)
--Post-race amenities were average. The post-run food and drink options were very limited. (They did have Body Armor which I really love!) They had bananas and trail mix bars. The other option was a hot dog. Not really up my alley.
So there you have it.
Would I do it again? Maybe. But probably not. There are too many others that I would love to do instead. Next spring I'm putting Glass City on my calendar since it's my hometown!