After an inspiring and exciting trip to the Boston Marathon with our friend Andy and his family, I came home just in time to pack up again and head out to Michigan for the Martian Marathon. Five of us piled into a minivan on Friday morning for our next marathon trip and the ~5 hours flew by with lots of Boston story-telling, strategizing for Saturday’s race and general road trip silliness. We met up with some more friends at the alien-themed expo before checking into our AirBNB in adorable Ferndale just outside Dearborn, MI. The house, town and Pop’s Italian Restaurant were all exactly as awesome as I remembered from last year.
I was full of nerves and excitement on race morning. I knew I was as ready as I could possibly be after the best training cycle of my life including some significant breakthroughs and the first PBs that I have seen in 6 years. With last minute hugs and pep talks, the crew saw me off with tears in my eyes. I felt very prepared and confident but I knowall too well that anything can happen on race day – especially when it’s a marathon. I tend to put too many of my emotional eggs in the goal race basket, as Andy likes to say, so it can feel overwhelming.
On Mark and Andy’s advice, my plan was to start 10-15 seconds/KM slower than goal pace for at least a few kilometres with the hopes of making it all back with a big negative split later. The Martian course is very conducive to this strategy – I would describe the majority of the course as gently rolling, but it is net downhill from the final turn-around at 26K to the finish.
I held back consciously as I eased into the race, though my first splits weren’t quite as conservative as I had intended. It was very quiet on the course with only 200 people finishing the marathon so I mostly found myself running alone. I didn’t mind the quiet and just cruised along listening to music.
There are some small loops around residential areas in the early miles which appear annoying on paper but actually weren’t bad at all. If anything, I found that it helped break up the race. I soon eased into goal pace and started hitting every split at 5:00, give or take a couple of seconds. I felt ready to settle in for the long haul. The gang surprised me by popping up at 10K which gave me the biggest boost (and resulted in the accidental 4:51 lap below, oops!).
KM 1 – 10: 5:11, 5:04, 5:08, 5:04, 5:00, 5:01, 5:00, 5:02 (gel), 5:00, 4:51
It was pretty uneventful from there to the turn-around. Everything was going how it was supposed to, I felt good and knew my friend Katie would be jumping in with me shortly. Sure enough everyone was waiting for me with some awesome cheers just after 27K and Katie joined me with her bunny ears, a sign on her back and her trademark enthusiasm.
KM 11 – 26: 5:02, 5:06, 4:57, 4:58, 5:03, 5:00 (gel), 4:57, 4:58, 5:02, 5:00, 4:58, 5:00, 4:56, 4:59 (gel), 4:55, 5:00
I knew I was in good hands and just had to follow her. Unfortunately I felt myself fading gradually from about 30K; I just couldn’t seem to keep my legs moving the way I wanted to and my pace was slipping. Andy, Matt and Erin popped up a bunch more times over the next little while and it was so good to see them every time. I later found out that they had to do some very creative driving and clambering up and down embankments in order to see me – never a dull moment! I did my best not to show how badly I was feeling as my legs grew more and more tired and my goal time slipped out of reach.
KM 27 – 35: 4:59, 4:56, 5:03, 5:13 (gel), 5:18, 5:31, 5:59, 5:39, 5:35
By 35K I was sneaking walk breaks despite Katie’s urgings to keep going. She was amazing and said everything I needed to hear but I just couldn’t seem to dig any deeper. Andy obviously noticed from the sidelines that we needed back-up because suddenly I had him running beside me too – in jeans for 6+KM! For the rest of the race I had the best support crew anyone could ask for and they kept me plodding along the best that I could when all I wanted to do was sit on the side of the road and cry. I think that when I started feeling tired long before I thought I should have, I threw in the towel mentally and proceeded to have a pity party for several kilometres. When I started talking about needing to do this all over again, they reminded me that all I had to worry about right now was finishing this race. They told me over and over that I was doing a lot better than I thought I was. They counted down the miles with me, lied about how much farther I had to go (like true friends, lol!) and urged me to get out of my head.
After glancing at my garmin at 40K for the thousandth time I realized that I still had a shot at 3:40 and managed to pick up the pace a bit. Finally, after Andy told me 17 times that there were only 500m to go, we were making the final turn and I saw the rest of my crew cheering like crazy as I hauled myself over the line in 3:39:15 for a BQ and the fastest marathon I have run since 2011.
KM 36 – 42.2: 5:57 (gel), 5:24, 5:38, 5:49, 5:39, 5:23, 5:24, 1:20 (0.3)
It wasn’t the race that I wanted or trained for but I can’t be too disappointed with those results and it’s hard to feel bad about anything with the amazing support I had all day. I had plenty to celebrate and celebrate we did!
It’s natural to look back and wonder “what went wrong” and we’ve hashed out some theories from high humidity (though temp was good) to nutrition in the days before to being surrounded by sick people leading up to the race and a generally hectic week. It could be any, all or none of those and while I think it’s beneficial to look back and assess the outcome, I don’t want to dwell on “what went wrong.” Sometimes we just have an off day in running and that can happen on race day just as easily as any other time. The marathon is a beast where so many factors can influence the outcome and that’s part of what makes it so enticing, why we keep coming back for more. If every marathon went exactly according to plan, I think it would lose some of the appeal. Every once in a while, everything lines up perfectly and we get the race of our dreams – the one we fantasize about during our training runs, the one where we finish victoriously with arms in the air. I know I’ll have more races like that and it will be so much more satisfying because of experiences like this one.
I had a good cry after the race with my friends holding me up and someone said “those better be happy tears!” to which I answered “I don’t know what they are.” It’s been an emotional few days for me and I am still processing all of it, but I’m focusing on the positives and how far I have come this year. I’ve been training at paces that I never thought possible and the time on the clock last Saturday doesn’t take that away from me. I’m just getting started!