Uhhh, so much for blogging more!
It’s been a few weeks since I ran the Cleveland Marathon. Three and half weeks, specifically. The details are sort of fuzzy by now, so you can go ahead and stop reading here if you’re looking for a detailed recap… 😉
A little background on what went down in the months/weeks leading up to race day: T proposed we do this race sometime in January. We both signed up, drew up training plans for ourselves, and promptly followed them…ahem, loosely. The winter sucked. I ran LA in March as a training run and as a gauge for what time I could realistically aim for in Cleveland. I ran a 3:56:34, felt great at the end, and then had nine weeks to recover from that marathon and finish training for Cleveland.
I did very little speedwork, but managed to get most of my prescribed runs in.
As race day approached, I had NO idea what time to aim for. I figured something in the mid to high 3:40s was realistic, but really had no plan when I toed the line on May 18.
I had read race reviews that mentioned the lack of corral system and the ensuing chaos in years past, so I was prepared for that, but I actually found the race start to be decently organized and easily slid in just behind the 3:40 pace group. Maybe it was more clustered further back, but I had plenty of room to stretch and move around, and crossed the start and began running with no issue.
Miles 1-5 went as follows: 8:38, 8:40, 8:25, 8:24, 8:18. I was super paranoid about going out fast and bonking at the end — I was even worried that those paces were too fast– but I didn’t think too hard about it and just kept on going. My stomach wasn’t feeling too hot, I couldn’t seem to get into a comfortable rhythm, and I very clearly remember thinking pretty early on, “This isn’t going to be my day and that’s OK.”
The weather, by the way, was absolutely perfect for a marathon, but very chilly for May. No complaints! The sun was pretty intense, so the temperature felt nice.
Miles 6-10 were 8:38, 8:33, 8:26, 8:42, 8:24. I saw T’s mom at mile 8, which was a nice quick pick-me-up.
At some point in there, I overheard two dudes near me chatting about how many miles they had left– and from that, determined that they were running the full and not the half. I decided to stick close behind them because for some reason it felt comforting to have fellow marathoners near me. They seemed to be running at a good pace that was similar to the one I’d been running, so I thought they would keep me from slowing down.
I drafted off of them for a while and at one point, 2 women joined up with them and they all started chatting. I joined their conversation and learned the 2 women were from Cincinnati and that it was their first time running Cleveland, but they had done 30-some odd marathons. I almost always run alone (I need running buddies!), so it was nice to have companions for a while. It made the miles go by very quickly. 11, 12, and 13 were 8:21, 8:33, 8:28.
My watch was being really wonky, so I wasn’t sure what my time was for the half, but I also didn’t really care. It was nice to just run and enjoy the absolutely gorgeous day. Somewhere around the half, we saw the leaders coming back on the other side — there was a turnaround at mile 15 up ahead. I absolutely love race courses like that where you can see the leaders — I find it so incredibly inspiring. I cheered my head off as the woman leader ran by (she went on to win with a time of 2:34:58.)
I had at some point lost my companions and was back to running alone. I spotted a pace group up ahead and since I was suddenly feeling oddly strong, I decided to chance pushing the pace a bit and pass them. As I approached, I saw that it was the 3:45 group. I kicked past them and cruised on to the 15 mile marker and the turnaround. Miles 14-16 were 8:31, 8:10, and 8:07. My brother texted me asking how I was feeling. I responded that it was tough but I was feeling good with about 10 miles to go. Soon after, I saw T’s mom, aunts, and uncle and was elated at this sighting.
I knew I was going down a hill before the turnaround and I remember dreading the uphill portion. It’s obvious here that I was on it, but I don’t remember feeling like I was suffering. In fact, I look pretty stoked. I also look like I’m the only person running the marathon(?) Just FYI, I wasn’t.
Miles 17-21 were 8:17, 8:26, 8:45, 8:28, 8:46 . I felt myself slowing down and getting kind of over it. I needed something to focus on, so I spotted an older woman up ahead who was absolutely cruising and decided I needed to catch her. G-d bless her, she was speedy! She was difficult to catch and kept me going for a while, but I was finally able to pass her at a water stop (I cheated and didn’t stop; she did.)
Around then, I found a second wind and started passing people. I felt like I was flying! I wasn’t– but I was going faster than I had been. I turned on some tunes for the first time that day and listened to some pump-up songs. I pretty much never listen to music in marathons, but there weren’t too many spectators at this point, so I indulged. Mile 22 was 8:22, then 23 was 8:08 and 24 was 7:53. I’m not sure what happened in mile 25, but it was my slowest one of the day– 8:54. I think I was paying a bit for the previous faster miles. But as I hit 26, I was super stoked and excited. I turned off my music and took my headphones out so I could enjoy the best part of the race– the finish! Mile 26 clocked in at 8:25, and I flung myself into the finish area and through the chute, spotting T (who had run the half) and his best friend Eddie in the final .2 (7:29 pace.)
My official time was 3:41:47 — a negative split and my second fastest marathon time. Definitely wasn’t expecting that.
In summary: I felt pretty darn good and far from destroyed at the end of the race. I really loved the course– which went through some charming Cleveland neighborhoods like Tremont, Rocky River, and Lakewood– and the weather was freaking perfect. Did I regret going out slowly and conservatively? A bit. Did I regret not training harder? Absolutely. My time was good, given my less than awesome training. But all-in-all, it was a wonderful experience that I’m very happy with.