The race countdown clock is at 15 minutes….
A bit in shock, and trying to regain my composure, I prepared to run. You can read all about race morning prior to the start here: http://wp.me/p3u1nG-1YB.
I did manage to snap a few photos before the howitzer cannon sent us runners on our way. One thing I did notice, and you will clearly see in the second photo, the pacers for this event were all over the place. Not sure that they had a real concrete plan as to where they should line up. In the photo above, some Raleigh folks that I met in the starting line. Todd (r) was running his 8th marathon!! It was nice to finally meet everyone!
The mood at the start was very electric. Lots and lots of servicemen and women everywhere. Some running, and some not, but what I can say is that of all of the marathons that I have run, there were a ton of very fit runners in that field.
As the cannon sounded, we were off! Having run this race last year, I had decided prior to the event to not push the first five miles as hard this time around. The start of the race, winding through Fayetteville for the first few miles, is difficult. It’s very challenging. I think in retrospect, I pushed too hard last year and struggled more at the end of the race as a result. This time I took it slower over the undulating course leading up to the All American Freeway. Lots of ups and downs I completed the first five miles in 41:17, for a pace of 8:15. I think I succeeded at conserving some energy. Last year I finished this portion well under 8 minutes per mile, and I paid dearly for it later.
With my son there with me running the Half, the potential was there for us to run together for the first ten miles, as the courses as the same. His lack of training hampered him a bit, and he warned me ahead of time to just go out in front of him if necessary. Well, about a mile in he was lagging behind me, and slowly but surely disappeared from my view. I checked now and then by turning around, but I just couldn’t see him anymore shortly into the race. I thought of him the whole way, and knew he would still have a good race no matter what. He loved running the race with me last year so much, that he just had to do it again.
Here is a special treat while running on the All American Freeway. Wear Blue to Remember had a one mile section here, full of signs of soldiers who were killed in action, family members, and American flags everywhere. It is so touching, so special.
Despite my fall earlier in the morning, I felt like my legs and body were holding up just fine. I think the fall sort of distracted me from the normal aches and pains I think about when running. I was just happy to be out there, and always so honored to be racing among the men and women of service. Our armed forces are just spectacular, and I highly respect their dedication to protecting our country. It is a real honor to run this race, and the patriotism abounds!
As I approached mile 10, where the Half and Full courses split, I remained focused on even pacing. I wanted to run smarter this year. I wanted gas in the tank throughout the race, and not let up. As mile 10 passed, my overall pace had only dropped a few seconds. I wasn’t going for a PR, or even a BQ at this event. My only goal was to try to beat my time of 3:52:25 the prior year. Now at 8:18 pace overall, I was succeeding at keeping steady.
Now on base in Ft. Bragg I remembered the course well. I knew we had some rolling hills coming up as we ran past military housing and the occasional military vehicles brought to the sides of the course. It’s a great race to say thanks to volunteers. Why? There are just so many along the course. Servicemen and women line the course cheering you on, and aid stations (which are aplenty) are packed with volunteers. These are some of the loudest groups of volunteers that I have ever experienced in a race. The volunteers are just amazing! Thank you to you all!
Mile 15 split was 2:06:34. Pace now at 8:26. Happy with that, for sure because of the rolling hills over the past five miles. Heading out toward Pope Airforce Base, the course turns quieter. For me it was a time to really hone in on the calm and serenity that is running for me. Aside from passing aid stations, us marathoners were out there in relative quiet. My son texted me that he was finished. A 1:55 Half was not as good as his finish last year, but outstanding considering his lack of training. I was so happy for him, and texted him back “well done son”!
I really was having a great run. I tried to keep it as even paced as I could. Knowing that a few tough hills were coming up at the end of the race, I felt good. From miles 15-20 I don’t think I was ever passed by another runner. Slowly but surely I passed runner after runner. I think I counted at least 30. My thought here was that I was enduring the course better than a lot of runners out there. I passed one guy, and we struck up a conversation. This was his first marathon. I wished him well, and told him to finish strong. Then I passed another, running his first marathon. This seemed to be a common theme. I passed another, his first marathon. It makes me feel good to run among new runners, or new runners of the marathon distance. I was there once, and most of these guys were struggling on the back half of the course. I think they got suckered in to the false belief that endurance running is easy. I gave all of them kudos for being out there, and to push hard to finish.
I hit mile 20 at a pace of 8:35. I was slowing down, but not by a whole lot. My body was holding up, despite now feeling some of the effects from my fall in the early morning. At this point I really wished that I was able to take some ibuprofen. Not to be, press on!
Fueling well, I never had the slightest cramp. Race temps were perfect, and yet I was sweating a lot from the very start. I had a complete Body Glide fail that day. By mile 20 my nipples were completely raw, and I knew that they were bleeding because I had blood stains on the sides of my thumbs from rubbing against my shirt. You couldn’t see the blood on my shirt because it was dark blue and red. It blended in well, so that I didn’t have to gross out the spectators.
Fearing a huge hill that I epically failed on last year toward the end of the race, that hill never came. The course had changed a bit this year, and that hill was taken out! Yeah! I was so thankful! We passed some military planes around mile 19.
Yes, I stopped very briefly to snap the photo.
The end of the race was nearing. I kept moving. Clearly slowing down, I still wasn’t being passed by other runners. I knew that I could finish the race strongly. I enjoyed the final miles as the spectators starting coming more and more into view. Finishing at Parade Field, men and women in uniform were there to greet and congratulate us. The final tenth of a mile came to many cheering on both sides of the course. I saw my son clapping. And then, I got passed! By three guys! I didn’t care. I had a strong finish, and most importantly ran the kind of race I wanted to that day. I stayed strong, and despite my accident before the race even started, I endured!
I came across the line in 3:50:51. I made my goal, and beat last years time. It was a top 14% finish for me in my 18th marathon.
I finished 85/595 overall. 8/52 in my age group.
Time to relax. I really wanted to fall over and lay on the ground. I thought I might not get up though, so I stood upright, was given my medal and made my way over to my son. It took me about ten minutes to really catch my breath and feel ok. I knew I wanted to get my wounds taken care of in the medical tent before heading home, so I grabbed some chocolate milk and some other chow, grabbed my finisher gift and then found a place to sit down for a few.
Take a look at the awesome shirt, medal and backpack!
My son and I talked, and laughed, and swapped stories of our races. I love having family that runs occasionally with me. It really makes the day special. Overall the event was meticulously pulled off, every detail well executed. All of my thanks to the numerous people behind the scenes. What a great event! The spectators, volunteers and countless military members are so appreciated. I will be back, and continue to support this amazing race!
Thank you All American Marathon!