Jarrod found the Marshall University Marathon in Huntington, West Virginia on November 11, 2012 and we decided to do it. Since the summer was so hot and humid I chose to do a 12 week training plan instead of my usual 16 or 18 week plans. I started my 12 week plan on August 20th. I ran 249.0 miles in August, 282.2 miles in September, and 283.6 miles in October. The 12 week plan went well, giving me confidence I could run a fast marathon.
Jarrod, his wife Jen, my Dad, and I arrived at the Marshall University Football stadium shortly after 6 AM for the 7 AM start. I did my usual dynamic stretching warm-up routine and then did a short jog with some goal pace pick-ups in it. I felt ready to go. The weather was chilly and the sun had not come up yet and wouldn't till around 7:20 AM. I met up with my friend Chris Milano, from East Carolina University, before the start. Chis was running his first half marathon. We walked to the staring line and Jarrod and I made our way to the front and lined up next to another friend of mine, Shaun Pottberg. Shaun now lives in Denver, CO but used to live and run in Greenville, NC. I was sure he was in for a great race after over a year of altitude training.
The gun went off and Jarrod and I were out fast. Jarrod and I stayed at our goal pace and ran the first mile in 6:41. My hands were freezing and turning red. I opted to leave the gloves in the car. I was wishing I kept them on and I could have tossed them to my Dad later in the race. My hands starting warming up after 5K where we entered the David Harris Riverfront Park on the Ohio River. This was a pretty part of the course even if we had to run on sidewalk through it. The sidewalk was lined with trees on both sides that had beautiful fall colors on their leaves. Jarrod and I stayed at 6:40 min/mile pace for the first three miles.
Just after six miles we entered Memorial Park and ran on a trail with fine crushed limestone. It was nice running surface and the park was shady. I took my first gel, GU Roctane, a little before the 7 mile mark. The trail eventually led us to Ritter Park just after 8 miles. Jarrod and I were still clicking off 6:40 min/mile pace and a few seconds faster. After running on the trail for three miles we were back on the roads starting with mile 9. After the park, we ran back to the University but went through the Riverfront Park again. There were no volunteers there telling us to go in the park on the way back but it was the right thing to do. The race really needs more volunteers on key turns and places like that because there was nothing stopping us from cutting that part of the course off if we wanted to.
We split from the half marathoners and made our way through the Marshall University campus. They have a pretty campus, small, but nice. There were no volunteers directing you through the turns of the campus so we had to pay attention to the arrows and green painted "MUM" signs on the sidewalks and paths. After running through campus and by the football stadium we hit the halfway mark. The halfway mark was the only point on the course, other than the finish, that had chip timing mats. There were no chip mats at the start so everyone was on gun time, which sucks for those that lined up in the middle and back of the pack.
After 15 miles the course repeats itself because it is a double loop course. I wasn't thrilled about doing a double loop course but it was nice knowing what was ahead of myself the rest of the way. I was holding onto my mid 6:30s pace as I ran back through Riverfront Park for the third time. I picked off one runner just before 18 miles. I hit the same, short hill again at 18.5 miles or so. I saw a runner at the top reach back and grab his hamstring. I passed him and offered some words of encouragement to hang in there. I was still feeling comfortable and had to keep telling myself to hold back till 20. I wanted to go but knew it was still too soon.
I was on the trail again around 19.3 miles. I looked up on the road and Jarrod wasn't too far behind me. The park was very nice the second time through as well. The trees kept the sun off us but the temperature was still nice and we did have a little breeze as well. I passed another runner on the trail and moved into 10th place. I could not see anyone else ahead of me but I was still picking the pace up. I hit mile 20 feeling good and started picking up the pace for the final 10K. I took my third and final gel at mile 21.
I started feeling bad in my stomach and thought this could not be happening to me now. I've never had stomach issues during a race. I used the same gels I've always used and didn't eat anything different all weekend. Anyways, my stomach was in distress and I had to back off my pace so I wouldn't have an accident. It got bad enough at one point I thought about stopping and finding a bush or something because there were not portable toilets in sight. This was frustrating. I felt good enough leg, muscle, and cardio wise to run faster. I slowed my pace to the mid 6:40s for miles 22-24. That helped alleviate the pain some.
I was back on the roads for the final four miles. I was praying that I would hold on and not have to stop for my stomach. I ran through the Riverfront Park for the fourth and final time before heading back to campus. Miles 25 and 26 were the hardest on my stomach. I thought backing off for 22-24 would allow me to pick it up for the final 2.2 miles. That was not the case. I had to back off even more and ran mile 25 and 26 in 7:00 and 7:08.
Shaun finished in 3:00:27, an amazing 18 minute PR for him and Boston Qualifier. Chris Milano finished his first half in 1:27:43 and took 3rd in his age group. Mike Freemont broke the world record for 90+ by running the marathon in 6:35:47. Jarrod and I met Mike at the expo and he's a nice, funny guy. Most people don't live to 90 and yet he's still running marathons!
Overall I was happy with my placing and time considering I only did a 12 week plan. Missing a PR by 3 seconds was painful though but not as painful as my stomach. I think if my stomach had not acted up I would have ran 1-2 minutes faster. My whole body felt good minus the stomach so I know I had more in me. The weather was great, so much better than Boston earlier this year.