My running had been going great leading up to today, reaching a high of 80 miles three weeks ago after averaging around 60mpw for most of the year. Unfortunately the training probably left me a little over confident and on hindsight I probably shouldn’t have run a half marathon last weekend. My inability to adjust my expectations and target pace when faced with cold (39) and strong winds (15mph) ultimately led to a less than stellar showing.
The Olathe Marathon is a point to point race, heading from Gardner KS to Olathe KS, so the morning started with a bus trip to the starting point (after giving an unfortunate couple a ride whose battery was dead). Once at the start most of the athletes huddled in the bathrooms trying to stay warm for the next hour. Finally, about 15 minutes prior to the start I stripped down to my shorts and shirt and joined the crowd at the start. Fortunately it wasn’t quite as cold while waiting to start because all the other athletes were crowded around. Compared to some, it was a small field, about 500, but for me it was about 10 times bigger than most of the races I’ve done this year!
Most of us weren’t quite ready for the start as there really wasn’t a warning, just a big boom as a cannon went off! We paused, a few quick glances around, and then we were off. I had given myself three target times: 2:50 – Best possible result, 2:55 – Quite happy, but could have been better, and 2:59 – Upset if I at least don’t get this.
From the start, one guy went off the front with two other runners a bit behind. Initially I tried to run with a third group of about 5. About 30% of the marathon headed east, directly into the wind, so running with others would be critical to having a little shelter from the wind. We reached the first mile marker in 6:26, an unrealistic pace and one I would pay for later.
It wasn’t too much longer before I fell off this quick pace and watched my wind break pull away from me. Over the next few miles an occasional runner would pass me and I would tuck in behind them for as long as possible trying to find shelter from the wind. I’m not sure if it is a good thing or not, but running with my new GPS watch kept me painfully aware of my average pace. A 6:30 average would have given me my “best possible result”. I only saw that average for about a mile and a half and then spent the next three hours watching it slowly creep upwards! As it crept towards 6:52, I slowly came to the realization that even a sub 3 hour performance wasn’t going to happen. As I passed the half marathon point, my pace had fallen to 6:53 and I still had the longest stretch of the course that headed directly into the wind!
Fortunately I had another runner to run with for a large portion of this stretch, but by mile18 I was on my own and would remain so the rest of the way. At mile 20 I had the funny thought that if I threw down a sub 40 minute 10k, I could still break 3 hours. It was only a thought and the reality was that my pace had slowed to about 7:30 per mile and it was doubtful I would even match my previous best time. Instead I concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other and plodding on.
With 2 miles to go, I thought I had a chance of breaking my PR, so I did my best to pick up my pace. After 3 hours of running and gradually slowing down as your muscles tighten up and are saturated with lactic acid, increasing your pace is not natural. While I was able to speed up slightly, it wasn’t enough and I ended up finishing with a time of 3:08:11.
The run wasn’t a complete wash as I did run a Boston qualifying time. I also placed 10th overall plus picked up some hardware for placing 3rd in my age group. I guess as the saying goes, “Shoot for the moon and if you miss you will still be among the stars”. It’s hard to be happy when you know you didn’t have your best performance, so I’m disappointed with that aspect of my day. But I also realize I ran a time that many would be thrilled to have. Just the fact that I’m healthy and running and that God has blessed me enough that I can do what I do makes me thankful. I’m all ready considering a fall marathon and the pain of the day is still fresh in my mind! I didn’t respect the distance and it beat me today, but I’m planning my revenge…