I love to run marathons. I love big marathons and I love small marathons. Marathons long distances away and those close by. I love marathons that are well planned and I love marathons that are run on a whim. While the former describes next week's Boston Marathon, the later describes this weekends Eisenhower Marathon.
A few months ago, I began looking at this year's marathon schedule. In February, I ran the Psychowyco RunTotoRun 50k, and had a few other marathons on the list, completed with my first Boston Marathon experience to be run on April 19th. Well, when I really started looking at my schedule, I came to realize that I was approaching 50 career marathons (yes, I'm counting only "official" marathons, but I'm also including all ultramarathons, as those races are at least a marathon long). I thought, "Wouldn't it be cool to have my first Boston Marathon be career marathon #50?" Yes.
Well, as great of an idea as that was, I hadn't really planned on how to transition from the PsychoWyco (marathon #48) and Boston (marathon #50). I had a few potential races, but none of them panned out (either out-of-town or too far away). As my date with Boston approached, I needed a race. The Eisenhower Marathon fit the bill.
I signed up about two weeks ago, but until the night before the race I never looked at the location, the course, the time, or any other details about the race. From a planning perspective, it was very unplanned. And I was under prepared as a result (not unprepared training wise, just under prepared mentally and logistically).
The night before the race, my wife, child and I (along with my wife's friend from Wichita) traveled to Manhattan for a "girls weekend." As great as that sounded, I was happy to leave the friend's house at 5:00 a.m. to head to Abilene, Kansas for the 7 a.m. race start.
I arrived at around 6:00 a.m. for packet pickup. I took a few minutes to stretch (something I should have considered in the days prior), and to grab a quick drink. I also had a few minutes to consider pacing strategies for the day. Knowing Boston was the following weekend, I didn't want to run too hard, especially since it was forecasted to be a 70+ degree day. I also didn't want to go too slow, as a faster paced run would help get my legs geared up for next weekend's race. I settled on a 8:00 min/mile strategy, or a 3:30 marathon for the day.
At 7:00 a.m., I was off. I settled into a pace early on, and said hello to a few friends. By mile 1 I had settled into pace next to a fellow-Wichitan ultra runner named Adam. I've run with Adam on a few other occasions, but hadn't seen him in a while. We found ourselves chatting for miles, and running in good company. Neither of us were (at the time) particularly concerned with the pace, so we just cruised through the first 13.1 miles very casually in about 1:47.
At around the turn-around (out-and-back course), I realized that we were well under Adam's PR (Personal Record) pace for a marathon (Adam too has run nearly 50 marathons). While he wasn't too concerned at that moment, it sort of gave me a good goal for the days run. We didn't discuss the PR, as that would surely jinx him, so we just pushed on.
Unexplainably, we found that I pace had quickened from the first half 8:15 pace to about 7:45 pace. As the miles ticked by, I was becoming more sure of a PR for Adam. We were well under his previous PR pace and could have slowed considerably over the last 6 miles. Instead, I began to realize that breaking 3:30 was within reach. It would be very much pushing it, but if we could make good time over the last 5 or 6 miles we might just make it. We pushed on, around a park, and then to the final 2 1/2 mile home stretch into town.
At about mile 24, I consulted the watch for an elapsed time check. 3:30 seemed to be out of reach. We would have to average under 7:30's, and then push very hard over the last .2 miles. I just didn't think we could make it, but we kept the pace strong just in case. At 1 mile to go, I realized that we still had a chance. Adam was well into the red zone, and cared about nothing more than finishing (I've been there, I know the feeling). It would be my job to push him on. I took the challenge, and so did he. We pushed on, clicking the last mile off in under 7:15. With under .2 miles to go, I took a quick look at the watch and realized that we had exactly 60 seconds to make it to the finish line, which was in sight. I pushed Adam on, and he held in for a 3:29:58 finish (chip time). I had started a few seconds back, so I finished in 3:30:02, good enough for 3rd place in my age group. I suppose that is close enough to my 3:30 goal.
Great job, Adam!