Note: I’m posting all my old, pre-blog race reports.  Here’s how my first marathon went.
What: Christiana Care DE Marathon
When: Sunday May 12, 2013 – 7am
Where: Wilmington, DE
Time: 3:47:43.40
Pace: 8:41 min/mile
Place: 159/601
AG Place: 17/37 (Male 40-44)

Pre-Race Activities

The start/finish and expo was located in Tubman Garrett Riverfront Park, which is directly behind the Amtrak station in Wilmington. I headed down there Saturday morning to get my packet, bib, etc. Getting my packet was very easy and took no time as there were no lines when I showed up a little before noon. The expo was on the very small side, but I wasn’t looking to buy anything so this wasn’t a big deal. I strolled around for a little bit before heading back home.

I was up and out the door before 5:30am Sunday morning. Even though Google Maps had it down as being 14 miles from my house, I would rather get to races 2 hours too early than 5 minutes late. I was parked in a lot about 4 blocks from the start 10 minutes before 6am. There were a couple drops of rain on the drive down, but that was the last of it for the day. The weather was perfect to race in – mid 50s at the start and sunny. There ended up being some wind on the course, but I found the cool breeze to be more refreshing than a hindrance. 

My friend Dan who was running the half met up with me in the parking lot and we headed over to the start/finish. Right as we got there, the runners who expected to take over 6 hours to complete the course were lining up to leave. We walked around and checked out the quality/quantity of port-a-potties (good) and then killed time before it was time to go. I couldn’t believe how quick this hour went. I don’t think I was too nervous, but boy did this time just seem to fly by. I got into the corral around 6:45-50 and was maybe 20 feet from the start line. The next thing I knew some girl was singing the Star Spangled Banner (badly) and the count down had begun. 10…9…8…

Goal(s)

Going into the race, I had already done 26 and 27 mile training runs so finishing the marathon wasn’t really a goal. It was more about how fast I could run the distance than whether I could do it or not. I would have been happy with anything under 4 hours or about a 9 min/mile pace. Well . . . OK, not exactly. I was really targeting 3 hours 43 minutes (8:30 min/mile), which was the pace I ran my half marathon last fall. The vast majority of my training runs were well above this though so I really had no idea how close to this I could get.

Miles 1-541:53.5 (8:23 pace)

…3…2…1….Go! It only took me 10 seconds to cross the starting line before my first marathon, which was awesome. When I ran the Philly Half marathon last November it took me 15 minutes to get across the starting line. All that extra time just causes tons of useless nervous energy. I was racing before I even knew what happened. I didn’t want to start too fast so tried to find an easy pace. Runners were mostly passing me so I thought I was doing good with this. Then I hit the 1 mile marker and noticed I was right at 8:30 pace. Um. . . I had wanted to start out north of 9 min/mile for the first 2-3 miles to get warmed up, but apparently that wasn’t going to happen.

The pace in here felt easy though I knew that I was probably working a bit harder than I should be. There were supposed to be mile markers at each mile, but either I was too keyed up to see them or they weren’t there. So I didn’t really know what pace I was running until I hit the clock at mile 5, which showed that I was just under my 8:30 target pace. I was pretty happy with this, but knew full well that it was waaaaay too early to start counting time. I tried to keep the running easy and think that I succeeded for the most part.

Miles 6-Half 1:49:35.8 (8:22 pace)

Right after the 5 mile marker (and clock) there was a guy with a full drum kit set up by the side of the road playing. This was the neatest thing I saw from a spectator standpoint. He was still there pounding away on my second loop, too.

The only decent hill on the course was between miles 6-7. I felt really good going up it and made a conscious effort not to push to hard. Once we got to the top, there was a nice section of the course through neighborhoods. The terrain was a little up and down, but not too hilly. Coming out of the neighborhoods, we ran back down the hill and I was feeling good enough to speed up a bit. Considering my pace was a bit lower through here, I probably ended up going much quicker than I thought I was.

The half way point was a little confusing as the half marathoners were shunted off in the left lane, the relay runners stayed in the center lane, and the marathoners were moved over into the right lane. Then there were sharp turns and large puddles.  This was by far the most technical part of the course and I was a little fearful ahead of time that I would end up going the wrong way in here.  Luckily, that didn’t happen.  I came around the corner and saw the clock for the Half reading an hour 49 minutes. This was 2 minutes faster than I ran my half marathon last November. Oops. This was likely to end up being a very good thing or a very bad thing. I still felt pretty good though. My pace felt fluid and while I was working, I wasn’t dreading running another 13.1 miles.

Miles Half-182:32:05.1 (8:40 pace)

They changed up the first part of the second loop from the beginning of the race. The first go round started on the streets before moving on to the Riverwalk, however the second loop was a long (relatively speaking) out and back on the Riverwalk. This was probably my favorite part of the run as you’ve got runners going both ways right next to each other along the river (hence the name). There was plenty of room so you never felt crowded, but it curved around a bit and the scenery changed very quickly.

They were supposed to have gels on the second loop and the first water stop is where I got my first (and only) gel – Banana/Strawberry. Bleah. I’m not sure if they didn’t have gels the rest of the way or I just never noticed them. They were actively handing them out at the first water stop so I figured this would be the case later on, but I never saw them again. I don’t think my drop off in performance was attributed to a lack of gels. I never trained with them and I somehow doubt a couple extra calories would have shaved any minutes off my time. I fueled consistently throughout the race with water and Gatorade so never had a problem being too thirsty.  This was due to the number of water stops (ever 1.5-2 miles) and relatively low temperatures.

Miles 18-26.23:47:43.4 (9:13 pace)

Yeah. This is where I started to realize I wasn’t out for a little stroll in the park, but was actually running an honest-to-goodness marathon. I saw my 18 mile split and knew that I was still on pace for a 3:40 time. As the miles went by though, my predicted finishing time started creeping up to 3:43 then 3:45 then something above that. The hill (I refuse to capitalize it because it was only about a 180 foot rise over a mile) hit not too long after this point and I’m kind of surprised how much harder it was the second time. Whatever juice I had was used getting to the top. There were a couple other runners who I had been pacing for 3-5 miles in here, but I noticed them starting to get farther and farther ahead of me. Sigh.

The course had taken us back into the residential neighborhood. There weren’t people lining the course, but there was a decent number out and they did a great job cheering the runners on. There were volunteers on every corner/intersection throughout the race and they did a wonderful job with traffic and cheering as well. It’s incredible the number of people that are required to put something like this on and I thought it was a very well organized race.

Mile 23 is when I started counting down the miles. I had just been cruising along to varying degrees before this, but once I got past mile 22 I started actively looking for the next mile marker. I don’t think I ever “hit the wall”, but my legs were getting more and more tired as I went along. It got the point where I wasn’t going faster on the downhill portions, I was just running a bit easier. Even though I was slowing down, my pace was only off about 1 min/mile from the first half so it was more of a fade than a total blowup.

I started to get a little emotional at mile 25. I knew that I had 4 hours in the bag even though my dream of an 8:30 pace had slipped away. (Note: I most certainly did NOT cry. There was just a tremendous amount of humidity down there by the river.) My motivation to run didn’t drop so much as that I just wanted to enjoy the experience. There was still a little gas left in the tank (it was bordering on E though), but I didn’t see the point of really pushing it for an extra 60-90 seconds at this point. I was going to end up with a personal record no matter what my time was so I just kept plodding along at my current pace. There was a modest rise here on King Street and I was very happy to see the top of it, which meant that it was literally all down hill to the finish.

There was a little jog once we got down to the bottom of King St. As I went under the railroad tracks, I saw Dan standing on the side. He had waited around after his race to cheer me home. Very cool. I ran down the chute to my 3:47:43 finishing time.

Special Mention

I could not have accomplished this without the tremendous support and encouragement of my wife over the past year. Every mile that I ran, she was home watching our son. She made countless runs to the grocery store (or worse, Walmart) for whatever my dietary needs happened to be that week. She put up with my ego as my running prowess expanded. She even treated Mother’s Day as Phil’s Day just because I went for a run. Words can not adequately express my gratitude for everything that she has done for me. This is as much her accomplishment as mine. Thank you!

Physical Aftermath

Great news on this front. I did not end up with any blisters, chaffing, strains, pulls, tweaks, or other ailments from running a marathon. It also seems likely that I’ll end up keeping all of my toe nails. Win. That said, my legs were absolutely destroyed afterward. I sat down on the ground not too long after finishing and could barely stand up on my own. I ended up limping around for the rest of Sunday. Monday was a little better though it did take a bit of extra effort to stand. Overall, it was a good tired/sore and not a bad kind.

Next Up

This was such an enjoyable experience from all the training up through the marathon itself, that I’ll be doing more of these in the future. This is what I’m planning on tackling next:

The Dam Full Marathon – 9/15/13 – First Trail Marathon (Hills!)

Bucks County Marathon – 11/17/13 – Next chance to PR (No Hills!)

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