"just get to the finish, don’t worry about passing or being passed, just keep going forward!"
I am a Triathlon and Running coach. My company is called Zone3sports. This is by no means supposed to be an advertisement for my services.
A large group of Zone3sports clients took up the historic 26.2 mile challenge of running that far in a day, and not dying at the end of it like Phidippedes did at the 11th Philadelphia Marathon.
The entire race weekend was very well organized with a good expo, easy registration and friendly people.
Here’s my story if anyone is interested.
Race day was perfect—10 degrees and overcast with light wind. The course itself has three fingers, each extending from the start/finish at the infamous steps that Rocky ran up and did his little dance (which, by the way, are not that big). 10,000 headed downtown for the first finger of 8 miles. Loads of spectators lined the streets with police at each intersection. I settled into a great group of 6-8 guys that couldn’t stop talking about how much they were going to stop, drink and watch the football games on TV before they continued on with the race. Considering we were clicking off very steady 5:55 miles, I really doubted their seriousness, but took mental notes of the bars they mentioned for future reference.
There’s a few bumps in the first 8 miles but nothing serious. At 9 miles, though, there is one fairly longish hill that could drain a body if pushed a bit too enthusiastically to the top. It brings you into Fairmount Park, a beautiful area with several large monuments to various historical figures. A few of the guys in the group pushed a bit too hard up the hill, and eventually dropped off the pace. We were down to 4 guys, each with a different strength—one guy was amazing on the downhills but not so good going up hill (possibly a tactic), another was strong up hill, and okay down hill (pb of 2:33, so certainly someone to watch), one guy seemed to be hanging on for dear life but never falling off the pace, and I was kind of the metronome, never letting the pace vary any more than 5 seconds except on the big up hill and the subsequent down hill (that was 10 seconds).
Once out of Fairmount Park the course follows the river and is quite flat though the half way mark. We split 1:18:10, which I knew was a bit rich for the training I had under my belt, “but,” I said to myself, “what the heck.” The 4 of us rocked along at our very steady pace back up to the centre of the course and the start of the final finger: 6 miles out and 6 miles back. This section starts off with a long and gentle downhill (which means long and gentle uphill last mile) which felt pretty quick to me, but the pace was the same. “Curious,” I thought, “it felt much faster than that. I wonder if this is the beginning of the end of my day.” Half a mile later, I could feel the pace slowing a bit as I felt more comfortable I was concerned it was slowing too much so I went to the front on a bit of a suicide mission and wound it back up. We began to catch some stragglers from the groups in front and two of them were able to lock on to us. We were now up to 6 guys, which changed the dynamics of the group. It became more competitive and there were a few extra surges to deal with, which hurt me a bit. At this point, I started to develop a blister, and chafing, and my bowels started to act up. The washrooms were not very consistently placed, so I bit the bullet and dropped off at the first port-o-pottie that came by, at mile 18. I lost a minute on that mile, but was again able to concentrate on running. It was the right decision, but I’d lost my running buddies. I ran past most of the people who passed me while I was in disposed, but could not close the ground on my group. I tried, oh, how I tried. And then the wheels fell off. At the turnaround on this section, the crowd support is fantastic. It helped a bit, more out of embarrassment than inspiration (I’m not stopping in front of all these people, I kept saying to myself).
I resigned myself to run in as fast a survival mode as possible. This is more of a point of view than anything else (just get to the finish, don’t worry about passing or being passed, just keep going forward!). I was no longer on the balls of my feet with good posture. I was running flat footed and hunched over, but still fighting hard. Fortunately, the mental math I was attempting was fatally flawed: I thought there was still hope of running under 2:40. I ran believing it was possible, but really, without setting a world record in the mile, it was not. Not knowing the futility of my efforts, I pushed hard right to the finish line. I would probably have beaten myself up had I not fought hard and given up and coasted in, even if the time would have been fairly close.
The first woman passed me with 500m to go and the crowd was going wild. They were encouraging me to catch her, but I didn’t feel right doing that as it was her moment, so I hung back about 2 seconds and to the side so as not to get in any of the race photos. She ran a great race and very well paced. She ran back 2min on me in the second half of the race to finish in 2:41:57.
All in all, considering a multitude of factors, the race went very well—probably better than it should have, so I am very satisfied with the results.
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