Thanks for so many well wishes and congratulations on my race! I love how supportive the running community is!
Funny enough, this memory popped up on my Facebook today:
It was from 8 years ago when my husband ran his first marathon ever. I wasn’t a runner at all and it’s what motivated me to train for my first half marathon. The comment exchange between my friend and is so representative of what I thought about runners. THEY were incredible, but I could never run that far or run that fast.
I meant to post during the week leading up to the race, but never got around to it. The weekend before the race I woke up feeling like I was getting sick and I spent most of the week trying to fight it off. Zicam, elderberry, and multiple nights of 10 hours of sleep helped me keep it at bay. All week long I felt incredibly run down and was worried about running a marathon sick. In the end I think it helped in a way because I rested and slept more that week than I have in years! Saturday we drove up to the expo to pick up my bib. The expo itself is tiny – I think there were maybe 4 vendors – but very well run and easy to navigate. They had sample race shirts out so you could try them on to decide which size you needed which I thought was a nice touch. The race shirt is a long sleeve tech shirt, with men and women specific fits, and the women’s shirt even had thumbholes!
After my half marathon PR I plugged my race time into McMillan’s Running Calculator which predicted a 3:35:49 marathon time for me. This calculator has always been pretty accurate for me and I’ve always slightly outperformed the prediction so this goal was always in the back of my head. It’s the time I based my training off of, but I wasn’t confident that I could really pull it off.
A Goal: 3:34:33 – this was my dream goal that when I was tired on a treadmill or training run I would visualize. This would get me a BQ -5, virtually guaranteeing that I would make the cut-off into Boston.
B: 3:37:00 or faster – a BQ with enough buffer that most likely I’d make it into Boston.
C: sub 3:45 – this would give me a PR and I felt like it should be achievable, but a lot can happen over 16 weeks of training and 26.2 miles of racing. I feel like nothing is a given on marathon day.
Looking up, totally thrilled to finish while the race clock still said 3:34:XX
Far before the race I had plugged all the numbers into a pace calculator to figure out what pace I would need to accomplish my goals. Using 26.4 miles as the distance, knowing that I wouldn’t run tangents perfectly and that Garmin isn’t 100% accurate, I calculated that I’d need to average an 8:07 pace to run 3:34:33, 8:13 pace to run under 3:37, and 8:31 pace to run under 3:45. Obviously the difference in pace between my A & C goals was pretty substantial. Going into the race I decided I was going to push for an aggressive goal. There was really nothing to lose – maybe I would implode and limp it in, but I didn’t want to be left wondering and regretting not aiming higher. I wanted to stay between 8:07-8:13 pace and run as even splits as possible. This made made me a bit nervous, because it left really no room to slow in the later miles and still meet my A or B goals. My plan was to break the race into sections – get to mile 7, get to 12 where I’d see my husband, the halfway point, mile 20, mile 22 where I’d see my husband again, the finish – it felt more manageable that way.
Part of this strategy was to be aggressive, yes, but not reckless. In the miles when keeping an 8:07 pace felt ridiculously easy I didn’t push it and think that maybe I should go for an even faster goal or try to “bank time”. I enjoyed it feeling easy and told myself that this would pay off in the later miles – and it did. I was able to run the last 2.2 miles of the race as my fastest miles of the marathon. I never hit the wall or felt like I couldn’t do it, it always seemed manageable even when it was tiring.
- I also made a vision board the night before the race. Cheesy, I know, but I read about an elite athlete who did this and I’m a big believe in positive visualization so I went for it!!
And perhaps the biggest part of my strategy was to stay positive and strong mentally. Going in to the race I told myself that it would hurt, that I’d have to tough it out, and that I could do it. The night before the race I rewatched the video of Ironman Chris McCormick that I talked about before. After watching it I went through my training log and pulled out my key workouts that made me feel like I could crush my goals – my long tempo runs running 8-10 miles at GMP in the middle of a training week, my last two 20 milers where the last mile was run under 8 min/mi pace. These were the positive folders I’d think back on when I needed to during the marathon.
Race Pace Jess had a great, and timely post about how to prepare mentally race. The articles she linked to, including one by Chris McCormick, really resonated with me. No negative thoughts would be allowed. When I felt tired early on in the race I reminded myself that a bad mile is just that – one bad mile, it doesn’t dictate the rest of the race and more good miles would be ahead. When the 3:35 pace group would get further away from me I told myself that I was running even splits and that energy I was saving would help me finish strong. I played games during the race where I’d work on increasing my cadence, but not pace, for a few minutes. When I got tired around mile 20 I told myself that’s okay, that’s good, everyone is feeling tired here and staying comfortable early on left me with enough energy to keep going. And in the last half-ish mile I just counted down over and over from 60. It was something I would do during speed work and it gave my brain something to think about other than feeling tired.
photo courtesy of Baystate Marathon
Baystate was a fantastic small race! They bill themselves as a race For Runners, By Runners and it really shows. The medal is really cool, with a moveable runner going across the bridge and they make a big deal about reaching a PR or BQ – adding keychains to symbolize hitting those goals to the race swag this year. The course itself is a flat, partial double-loop course (you run miles 3-12 again as a loop), and pretty. I will say that there was a fair amount of road kill along the course – 2 skunks, 1 snake and one other large and unidentifiable animal that I noticed. The is also a half marathon option that starts at the same time as the marathon, but splits off shortly after.
While the course is open to traffic the volunteers and police do a great job of making it safe for runners, as did the drivers who were courteous and patient. Because the course is open to traffic there is a small section of the road that is coned off from traffic. If you run Baystate beware of these cones! There are large parts of the course where cones are only about 2-3 feet from the shoulder of the road which would basically mean everyone had to run single file in the race. This obviously doesn’t happen and runners seemed to take up more like 5-6 feet of the road. I saw a man trip and fall over a cone less than 4 miles into the race. He hopped back up and seemed okay, but nobody wants that to happen to them in a race! My husband commented that the same thing happened when he ran Baystate and nearly every blog I found recapping the race mentioned someone tripping and falling over a cone.
The post-finish line area was easy to navigate. Bottles of water and volunteers with heat blankets were ready for you once you crossed over the finish line. On the way to the food stations was a tent dedicated to live results. All around a table were machines set up where you could look up your results and print out a ticket with you all of your info – division place, 3M, 10k, 8.5M, 13.1M, 16.3M, 30k, and 23M splits, net time, gun time, and if you BQ’d. Along side of the tables was a clock that you could type your bib # into and it would show your name with your finish time.
I easily found my husband as I was making my way through the finishing area – another benefit of a small race – and made my way over to the food. Baystate has, in my opinion, the BEST post marathon food ever – chicken noodle soup! During one of my long runs over the summer I mentioned to the other runners how when I was in the hospital having my daughter they had chicken broth available that was fantastic. I remember drinking it and thinking it tasted like liquid gold, and told them I felt like it was be so delicious after a marathon. Well what do you know, one of the runners told us how Baystate has chicken noodle soup and it is amazing! As silly as it sounds, I thought/talked/obsessed over this soup so much during training and was so looking forward to it. And yes, that’s me holding my cup of chicken noodle soup in the above picture! There were also Yasso ice cream bars (also featured in the picture above), bananas, Honey Stinger bars, and peanut butter & jelly sandwiches. There were 2 other kinds of soup, including a vegetarian option, but I was laser focused on getting my chicken noodle soup that I can’t recall what they were 🙂
How do you prepare for a race?