Marathon No. 3 is in the books! Can’t really believe it, but definitely very happy about it. Big thanks to all who supported me throughout my training and on race day, both near and far. Very thankful to have had Gabe there. It was great to see him at miles 3 and 15, as well as coming up the final hill to the finish line. Also have to thank friends Lori and Jen for making the trip down to cheer Regan and I on yesterday.
Gabe and I headed down Saturday afternoon to hit packet pickup, check in to the hotel, and meet Lori, and Regan and her family for dinner. Packet pickup was painless and right next to the hotel. We ate dinner in downtown Gettysburg at O’Rorke’s, an Irish and American restaurant. After dinner, we headed over to the outlets where we got some great deals at Adidas, Under Armour and Old Navy.
We stayed at the headquarters hotel, The Courtyard by Marriott, which is just outside of downtown off of Rt. 15. It seemed brand new! There was also a new Wyndham right next door, as well as a movie theater, an Appalachian Brewhouse restaurant, and one other restaurant. The race offered a shuttle bus to and from the race beginning at 6 am. We grabbed it at 6:30 and had plenty of time to spare since it was a short trip.
The race start/finish was in a neighborhood just outside of the downtown area. They utilized the lawn of a local elementary school. The race had a bag check area, as well as a store for extra race goodies. The start line was about a block away from the finish.
The marathon started with the national anthem before a canon blast sent us off running. That was kind of a cool start, definitely got your heart pumping if you weren’t expecting it. I decided to not carry my phone with my during the race, but at times wished I’d had it to take photos of the scenery. Oh well…it’s definitely in my memory.
Due to the course being on narrow country roads, they advised spectators to not drive the course and instead offered a shuttle bus to the 3 and 15 mile markers, which was a section of the course that overlapped. It was great to come up the hill and see Gabe and Lori. I even stopped for a few seconds to chat the second time.
The traffic was pretty minimal and controlled by both police and construction crews who directed traffic to ensure we weren’t stuck at intersections and could safely cross streets. Most of the time there would only be cars in one direction. Water stops were located about every 2 miles, give or take a 1/4 mile or so. They offered both water and Gatorade, as well as Gu at the mile 16 and 20 aid stations. I carry my own Clifshots so I wasn’t looking to take Gu, but I personally think they should offer Gu somewhere around the 10 mile mark and again at somewhere between 16-20. That’s just my opinion though! Regardless, the volunteers were all great, very encouraging and a positive presence.
The course was made up of rolling hills, with the bulk of the hills between miles 1 and 11. The second half of the course was more rolling and flat with an overall descent in elevation that you can see below.
The worst hill was definitely that first big peak you can see between miles 6 and 8.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’ve stopped wearing my GPS watch, even during races, choosing to run by how I feel. Early on in this race I had a general idea of my pace after overhearing other people talking about what their watch said. I was hovering just above 10 min/mile, which was close to the pace I’d run my 20-mile training run in, and it felt comfortable. Eventually I caught up to the 4:25 pacer. I stuck with the small group from about mile 8-18 but at that point began to fall off.
I think I passed mile 19 before they really started to gain some space in front of me. I was a bit bummed about this, but told myself to keep them in sight if I could as I still could get under what I had deemed my unrealistic goal of 4:30. Around mile 22, the gap had widened and the aches started to take over. I guess this might be the wall that people talk about, but I don’t know if I’d call it that. I was still running, albeit a bit slower and a bit down on myself. I was even at one point doubting I’d ever do another marathon 😦
At the mile 23 aid station, the volunteers were so loud and cheerful. One kid had a sign that said “Touch here for power!” and so me and another lady did and he yelled “You got this! Only 3 miles to go!” It was a great pick-me-up. I stopped for two short walk breaks. The problem I find with walking at that point is that everything starts to hurt and it hurts more to start running again before eventually everything numbs back up. Basically that keeps me running and has gotten better with each marathon.
The final two miles took you past Gettysburg High School, which is absolutely incredible, and through a neighborhood. After returning to the main road, I passed a guy who was clapping and said only 500 yards to go. That was definitely great to hear and I even found the energy to speed up a bit.
Gabe, Jen and Lori were right where the above photo was taken, cheering, waving and taking pictures. They definitely made me smile. The lady at the turn was also great, as were all the people leading up to the finish line. It’s great that everyone cheers even though they have no idea who you are.
I was very pleased to see I was crossing in under 4:30 with an official time of 4:28:08. I honestly thought the 4:25 pace group had increased the gap too far as I hadn’t seen them the last 2 miles.
I got my medal and headed into the food tent grabbing two waters, two chocolate milks (don’t keep a girl from her chocolate milk after she’s run 26.2 miles), a banana and a bag of pretzels.
Gabe had walked over and told me the North had won the timing competition so I’d get an extra prize, a pint glass.
We hung out along the hill for a bit with Lori and Jen, cheering on runners and chatting. Since we had to get the shuttle back to the hotel to get the car we left a bit early before Regan had crossed the finish line so we could meet them at Tommy’s Pizza in downtown. We got back, I grabbed some clothes from my car and changed in the hotel bathroom (no late checkout) and tried to clean up as best I could.
We met the group at Tommy’s for lunch where I finally got to congratulate Regan. She did great and overcame some challenges in her training due to injury. She should be so proud!
After lunch, Gabe and I headed over to the Pennsylvania Civil War memorial for a picture and grabbed some Rita’s ice as a treat. Then we hopped in the car for the 2 hour ride back home.
Overall it was a great day and a great race. The weather was perfect, sunny with a high in the mid to upper 50s. I couldn’t have asked for better weather. It wasn’t windy, but there was often a nice light breeze. Despite my doubts around mile 22 that I’d ever subject myself to a marathon again, I had completely changed my mind before I had even reached the finish line. I shed a few tears when I saw Gabe, but I was happy not sad.
Running a marathon is hard. I don’t think anyone would or could say otherwise. But it’s worth it to me. I am proud of myself for committing to the training, getting through the race and improving my overall time. Even if I hadn’t PR’d, I’d still be proud for simply going out there and trying my best.
What’s next? Well some rest time, but hopefully I’ll be in good shape to run either the Black Moshannon 5k or 10k in May, as well as the Zooma Women’s Half Marathon in Annapolis on May 30. I also think there are a few more marathons I’d like to tackle!
Question: Did you run or race this weekend? How’d it go?