October 18, 2014-
A lot of you may be asking the question… So yes, I will answer it right off the bat. I ran another marathon this week. Wait, didn’t I just run the Chicago Marathon last Sunday? Yep. Then, six days later, I completed yet another marathon.
Let me give you a bit of the background on how this came to be. This past January while in Charleston, SC for my first marathon of the year, I happened to stop by the Greensboro Marathon table at the expo. I picked up a race flier from the guy working the table. They were offering a huge discount to runners at that race to sign up early. I think I had just a few days to make a decision as the discount only would work for a limited time. Greensboro is about an hour and a half drive from home, and so I thought sure. I signed up! A few months later, after finding out that I made it into the Chicago Marathon through the lottery, it meant that I was now signed up for two marathons in one week. Six days apart to be specific.
Of course I would run Chicago. A race of a lifetime. Where would that leave Greensboro though? As the Spring and Summer progressed, and training was going well, I decided that I would just kind of leave it up in the air. As Fall approached and a busy race season was starting I was still unsure how it would all play out. I would wing it. It’s not like Greensboro wasn’t close to home. I didn’t need a hotel, or plane ticket. I could literally wait until the last minute to decide.
After having a great race in Chicago a week ago today, I felt really good physically. I would wait a few days to see how my legs and feet would feel post marathon. My recovery this week was great. I bounced right back from Chicago, and worked a full week on my feet. I felt good. I made the decision to go ahead and run the Greensboro Marathon and really put myself to the test.
And so I did!
I got up very early yesterday morning, and started my pre-race rituals. With a later than usual 8am start time, it meant that I had to leave the house by 5:30am, to make sure that I had enough time to drive there, find parking, pick up my race bib and shirt and get ready to run 26.2 miles.
Through the hubbub of the week, I really hadn’t paid a lot of attention to the race course and elevation chart. I knew that this year (the second running of this event) the course was completely new. Looking at the elevation chart, it would be anything but flat. The complete opposite from Chicago, but nothing that I wasn’t used to living here in rolling North Carolina. I decided in the car heading to Greensboro that my only goal was to finish and go sub 4 hours. It was all just a test. I was testing my physical endurance (two marathons in less than a week) and my mental fortitude.
Let me just say that I am very happy that I made the decision to run. The race started in City Park. I was able to quickly find parking right across the road in a free parking deck. Like promised, they had my race bag and bib ready for me at the timing tent. There was no race day packet pick up offered, but I got the RD to agree to let me pick up race morning since I live about 100 miles away, and would not drive the extra distance twice just to pick up my bib. See? Race Directors can be very cool. Thank you Richard! (and Libby).
All that was left was for me to do was to stretch and prepare. I snapped a few pictures of the park that morning as I headed to the starting line.
I lined up in the start chute. A much smaller race than Chicago by about 45,300 runners, there was all sorts of room. I lined up next to the 3:40 pacer, and we started chatting. He asked me if I wanted to run with him, to which I replied, “I doubt it, I just ran Chicago last Sunday, and am just hoping for a good race”. I didn’t want any pressure, no specific time goals. While we chatted, a young woman to my left must have overheard our conversation. She jutted in, “did you run Chicago? I was there, too”. She was there cheering on her mother, who ran the race. Through further conversation I learned that the Greensboro Marathon was her first marathon. I wished her well. She told me that her mother could still hear the cheers of the crowd in Chicago long after her race had finished and she returned to their hotel room. This race was quite different, so I hoped that there would be some spectator support for her first marathon.
Sadly, there wasn’t much. This is such a small city marathon, there wasn’t much support at all. It was very clear from the start that we were on our own. My race started like many others. I just tried to find a groove over the course of the first few miles. The elevation chart shows that there are very few flat miles. I don’t remember any. ;). The hills were relentless, and challenging. I felt a bit rundown, but I would manage. I maintained a pace over those rolling hills faster than the 3:40 group for about 6-7 miles. The countryside on the course was beautiful. We passed through golf course communities with beautiful homes, passed old farmland and glistening lakes. It really was an amazing course. It was quiet, crisp and cool. The weather couldn’t have been any better. Clear blue skies, 50 degree temperatures. A perfect Fall morning in central North Carolina.
I stopped to use the bathroom (aka: a tree) around the 7 mile mark. It was then that the 3:40 pacer went on by. The “first time marathoner” also passed me during my bathroom break. I would spend the next several rolling miles chasing them. I wasn’t paying a whole lot of attention to my Garmin because I wasn’t trying to set any speed records, but nonetheless, I still was looking for that sub 4 finish. Slowly but surely I was nearing the halfway point. As the timing mat at 13.1 approached I remember thinking “damn, why did I think this was a good idea?” I felt like I was crawling up those hills at times. My energy felt depleted here and there, and as the temperatures rose, I was kicking myself that I didn’t have more energy. I wished that the race was ending at 13.1, not 26.2. How would I ever manage to run another 13.1 miles to finish out this race? Fact of the matter was that I still had half way to go. Buck up! I crossed the halfway mark at 1:50:48. It certainly wasn’t going to be my best marathon, but I knew I could finish it.
The second half of the race felt even more hilly to me. I guess that’s only natural, being more tired, and all. It just felt brutal. The scenery was still great, but I felt so tired that a lot of the scenery was lost on me. I spent a lot of time looking down at my feet, trying to will them forward. I found that looking down was my savior, especially on the relentless uphill sections. This course was so ridiculously difficult that I just wanted to beat it, to call it my bitch! It was making me crazy. I found myself dreaming of the Chicago course, with its flat landscape and adoring fans. This course? None of that.
As I made my way, hill by hill, I found myself passing people. I passed the first time marathoner. I told her to stay strong. I knew she was doing well on this tough course. Yes, even though the second half was tougher than the first, I was conquering it stronger than most. I was passing people that had been in my sights for miles and miles. One by one, I made it my goal to just reach the next person. I found much satisfaction in passing these folks. Little did they know that I had run a marathon just six days prior. If they knew that I don’t think they would have let me pass them.
I maintained a pace that I felt that would get me to the line in a decent time. I did have to walk a few times on the last few uphill sections, as I felt that walking would almost be faster than my running pace. Do you ever feel like you are running so slow that you may as well be walking? This is how I felt. Miles 22, 23, 24, 25. It was almost over. I was begging for that finish line to come into view, and finally it was there. A short straight away from the finish, I knew I had my sub 4. It wasn’t a pretty one, certainly not my best. I did it though. The small crowd clapped me to the finish. I had done it! I crossed the line in 3:53:42.
I grabbed a water, and stopped to watch others finish. Believe it or not, I only finished 15 spots behind that 3:40 pacer that I was talking with at the beginning of the race. We chatted a moment, and then I saw the first time marathoner come to the line. Her first marathon finish, about 4 minutes behind me. She finished in 3:57:30. A fantastic job on this difficult course. I hope she knows that not all marathon courses are this tough. I hope she goes for marathon #2 one day.
The post race festival was really quite nice. Right in the park, plenty of sunshine. A really nice turnout for the second running of this event. I didn’t stay long, as I wanted to get on the road home. When I figured out that I had finished 8th in my age group, I headed to my car. No extra bling for me. I really didn’t need it. Knowing that I had just finished my second marathon in six days was enough of a reward for me.
Unofficial results: Overall finish 50/284, Gender finish 39/165 and age group 8/30.
Thanks to Trivium Racing, all staff, volunteers, sponsors and spectators. Finishing Chicago in 3:41 and then Greensboro in 3:53 six days later will be something I always remember. Greensboro, my last marathon of 2014 and a springboard for the 2015 racing season.