Monday, April 22, 2013

Marion Rotary Marathon

I had registered for the Marion Marathon for a few reasons. Primarily it fit into my training plan for the 100 mile ultra I was going to run in June and I just couldn't pass up a marathon, road or not, that was so close to home. This inaugural event was being held literally 30 minutes from my house. So it had been on my calendar for a few months. Then on the Monday prior to this race, some terrorist assholes decided they would bomb the Boston Marathon. They killed three innocent people and wounded over 170. The entire week prior to this marathon was spent with America riveted to the television as the manhunt for these cowards commenced and finally ended less than a week later with the killing of one terrorist and the capture of another. I won't go into the whole scenario because they will be talking about it for years to come. Suffice it to say that the running community was shaken to the core by this senseless attack on what is usually a happy occasion full of triumph.

I thought for a while that the organizers of this marathon may overreact and cancel. But I was happy to find out that they merely tightened up some security measures and decided the show must go on. I also decided to run this race in solidarity with the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing. I would do this by carrying the US flag for the entire marathon. I arrived about an hour early on race day. Enough time to visit the facilities and get geared up for the race. Since this was to be a training run I was going to carry a hydration bottle as well as the flag. It was slightly chilly and threatened rain but generally looked to be a good day to run. I really had no expectations for the race. I was hoping to finish somewhere between 4:30 and 5 hours.

There were about 400 1/2 marathoners and about 200 marathoners moving toward the start line. I saw the police K9 patrol sweeping the start area before the race. I made some small talk with a friend of mine Darrell, who was running the half marathon, while we waited. After the National Anthem and the invocation the gun went off and we headed out. As usual I was well hydrated and I had to stop literally 300 meters after the start to hit the porto potties. This would be a recurrent theme during the race as I stopped for the call of nature about 5 times during the race. Someday I will get this hydration thing down.

The course headed north over the first 3 miles on a road that was hilly but closed off to traffic. We then took a right along a highway that was also closed to traffic for another couple of miles before taking another right and heading back south. Once we headed back south the roads were no longer closed and we had to stay to the right of the coned area. Approximately mile 5 I saw my friend Kelly up ahead and I eventually caught her and we exchanged some words of encouragement. I was feeling pretty good and joked with her that I was going with the go hard and blow up early technique on this race. I had found a comfortable place to carry my flag and had just settled into a nice pace. At mile 6 I got some more support from a lot of my running friends that were manning an aid station. Just about that time I caught up with another running acquaintance ,Clayton. He was running his first marathon and we would swap places back and forth for a few miles. Me passing him and then him catching up when I stopped to water the grass. The route headed south for about 5-6 more miles before starting a wandering track through the town of Marion.

It was about mile 10 that I decided I had a chance to set a personal record. I had previously run a sub 4 hour marathon the spring of 2012 and I thought I could do it again today. If  I could just hold my pace I would be good. Of course this being a race in Marion Iowa we had to run up the soul sucking and steep cemetery hill about mile 13. I don't think I have run any race in that town, and I have run more than one there, that didn't include that hill. But it wasn't to be the last hill. Once we passed through the cemetery we headed east back through town and then eventually turned north again to head out of town. I was still feeling good at this point approximately mile 18 or so and was well under PR pace.

 However once we headed out of town , going north along the highway, the weather we had been promised materialized. There was about 5-10 minutes of sleet, which was no big deal but it was the wind that started to make the difference. Once the buildings no longer blocked the wind it hit us on the side at about 20 mph. My flag kept flapping in my face and whipping me in my eyes. Once we hit the top of the course and took a right to head back east we were running into the teeth of the wind. Full force into your face, it was hard to move forward. I wasn't fatigued but the mere act of running against the wind slowed everyone down. I saw my cushion start to dwindle but I was still under PR pace. Eventually we turned back south for the last 3 miles down the same road we had originally started on heading the opposite way. Someone in the intervening hours since I had last saw this stretch of road had added a bunch of rolling hills that I didn't remember. Between the hills and the wind I had to put out a good effort to maintain my previous pace. I looked at my watch and saw I had 10 minutes and what I estimated as about a mile to go to beat my PR. I focused my gaze on the last hill as I could see runners ahead of me turning left and heading into the football stadium to the finish.As I crested that hill and turned into the parking lot I glanced at my watch quick to see I had just a few minutes left. I lengthened my stride as I hit the high school track and ran the last 300 meters with a purpose. I crossed the finish line approximately 2 minutes under my previous best marathon time in 3:51:34. I was extremely happy with this race and I am looking forward to my 50 mile race in 3 weeks.

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