I knew I wanted to run a marathon and get a BQ in the spring of 2017 but I just wasn't sure if it was in the cards for a variety of reasons. Once Baby H was born, my running focus was just on getting out there. The fate of a potential marathon changed for the better on February 18th when the Gazelle invited me to meet him for a long run. Without a solid lead up or string of long runs, I hoped to offer Jeff some company on a cold morning as he prepared for a April marathon. As the run went on, I continued to feel okay and made the decision to run a full 20 miler with him. I was pretty tired post run, but the idea of putting five more long runs together all of a sudden became a possibility. Having Jeff to run with on most of these runs held my accountable and I knew he'd push me hard on our runs.
During this training block, I wasn't able to put in any weekly workouts but ran my long runs at a quality pace and ran a comfortable to moderate pace throughout each week. While the lead up to the race was short, I was happy with some of the runs Jeff and I put in and appreciated the focus on hills.
Jeff picked me up pretty early on race morning. The ride to Newport went by pretty quickly as we listened to ACDC, talked about the good conditions, and received various texts/calls from Jeff Duda, who was also running. After arriving at Second Beach, we caught a school bus to the start and kept our sweats on as there was a slight chill in the air. We hung with JD, made some final race preparations, and took a picture before heading to the starting line. Based off how we matched up in our training runs, Gazelle and I had brief discussions about pacing and running together. We agreed that if it worked out great, but that we didn't want the other waiting for the other. My pre-race hope was that we'd be running together for most, if not all of the race together.
|Getting ready to go!|
As the gun went off, I reminded myself to relax and try to stick to my plan of running 6:30 pace. A hill shortly after the start and in the first mile would definitely help. Between mile 1 and 2, Gazelle and I were running together through a neighborhood and a dog broke off a leash and was lunging at us. Fortunately, neither one of us were bit! However, our adrenaline must have been sky high and we hit mile 2 in 6:17, which was too fast. These first two miles made me worry about the remainder of the race. Jeff and I reminded one another to settle in and we paid close attention to our splits over the next couple of miles. While we certainly weren't on a run to go smell the roses, the well on Wellington Ave of the Newport Bridge and harbor was amazing. Over the next couple of miles, we worked towards Fort Adams State Park. Upon entering Fort Adams, I gave thought to the many childhood visits, swims. and memories I had in this park with family. I must have been day dreaming a bit too much as I almost took a wrong turn before Gazelle set me straight. Leaving Fort Adams, two young guns connected up with us and were playing some good tunes that Gazelle and I could both get down to.
Over this bunch of miles, I mostly tried to lock into a pace. Gazelle and I also engaged in conversation with the two young guns, who happened to be UMASS runners. Based off conversation, I believe they were both seniors who were not currently running meets but still had track lockers. They seemed legit and reported to be unsure of their goal for the day other than simply finishing. I could tell they were legit and didn't expect them to fade anytime soon. They mostly ran behind us but their tunes continued to entertain us. It would have been great for them to do some of the work and trade off leading but they were carrying their weight with our group of four just by playing the tunes. It's funny how the small things can carry you through a marathon. We rolled on, enjoyed the views, looked at mansions, and worked through some of the Salve Regina campus roads as we moved back towards the starting line and midpoint of the race. As we came up on the midpoint, I started to feel some signs of fatigue and wondered what the rest of the race had in store for me.
|The train right around the half way point. Pretty cool to run stride for stride with Jeff for a huge chunk of the race.|
After a crystal clear layout for the first half of the course, we were led to some confusion as we crossed the 13.1 mark. It was really unclear where we were supposed to run and none of the race staff or volunteers in the area knew where to tell us to go. Crossing the midpoint, an additional dude with a hat seemed to pop out of no where to join the train. I was feeling fatigue and considering what I needed to do to make it through the second half of the race. Whether real or imaginary, I felt all of the guys around me speed up. In my head, I reminded myself to run my own race and let things play out. I hung on to low 6:30s over the next couple of miles and chewed on some gummies. At around mile 16, I was hanging slightly off the pack and saw my cheering squad (family) for the first time. It was especially nice seeing them as Haley was part of the contingency. Gazelle signaled for me to move back up and all of sudden I was back in the mix. I ran a speedy 16th mile and was back in the game. At this point, the UMASS dudes ran away from us and it was Gazelle and the mysterious guy with the hat. Things continued to go well as we saw my family again and Gazelle and I continued to encourage one another and work together. We had rolling hills ahead and I knew the last 7 miles of the course would be a challenge.
Gazelle and I were both feeling it as we ran out to the turn around point at Indian Avenue. I knew we still had a battle ahead of us and continued my hope that we would stay together for as long as possible. After turning around the cone, I pulled ahead of Gazelle but encouraged him to hang with me. I gave some thought about the race up to this point and the partnership we had going through the entire race. For a minute or so, I encouraged him to rejoin me again with a hand signal and considered slowing a bit to run together. Knowing the type of competitor Jeff is, I knew he wouldn't be happy if I purposely dropped back. The deal was if we could run together, great, but if not, don't wait! I carried on and did my best to not totally fall apart over the last five miles. I was on a solid pace to get my BQ and needed to hang tough. After a hard climb up Hanging Rock Road, I was headed towards the home stretch. I crossed the line in 2:54:45, which would be good enough for 6th place overall, 1st in my division. Jeff hung tough and ran a super strong 2:58:59, 9th overall, 1st in his division. Jeff Duda had a tough day and finished in 3:14:22.
|Happy to be finished but too tired to get up.|
-Ultimately, the day was a success! I ran fairly consistent and hammered down the BQ I wanted off a short marathon training block.
-Special thanks to my understanding wife, Shara, who was supportive of me sneaking out of the house on Saturday mornings while she tended to a newborn. I'm also most appreciative of the support of my parents for coming out to see me run.
-I have to give a ton of credit to my race success to Gazelle for all of the help with training, advice, and going to "battle" with me through most of the race.
-Marathons are tough. Anything can happen..good or bad. It's so important to race with a plan and do whatever preparation is necessary to feel like you are adequately prepared for race day.
-Marathons are fun. I enjoyed the venue and course and challenge of running the race.
-It took a few weeks for me to recover from this one. A sign of a good effort but wish I could have recovered quicker.
-While the course was no walk in the park, I'd run this race again.
-I'm planning/hoping on running Boston 2018. It's a race I've wanted to run since I was a high school kid. Hopefully, I can stay healthy and will be well prepared for it. I'm excited about the prospect of running the race, but am not looking forward to the logistics.
-Now what? I'm not sure. Considering the need to run a half or two in the fall just to run some longer efforts. Would running Hartford be beneficial? Thoughts?
-I like running 5ks and marathons..weird combination.