I honestly don't even know where to begin for this race report so bear with me because it's going to be a long one. I'm still in shock that I ran as well as I did on a challenging course. When I ran my first marathon back in 2007, my goal was to break 3:30. Of course, I was naive and undertrained so I barely hung on to a 3:49 finish. Since that moment, my goal was to break 3:30...not run 3:30:xx but actually break it, even it was 3:29:59. The closest I've come was in 2008 when I ran 3:34 and finally 4 years and 4 marathons later, I DID IT.
I knew Akron would be a challenging course but chose this marathon as my goal race for 2 reasons: 1) I'm running the NYC marathon on November 4 and needed time to recover and 2) it was somewhat local and not as expensive as say Chicago. I seriously trained harder than I ever have and wanted this so badly. I was fairly confident in my training leading up to the beginning of September. I had some great runs this summer despite the blazing heat and knew those brutal 90+ degree runs would only help me come fall. I went to Akron at the beginning of September for Emily's wedding, one of my former running partners and good friend. We ran part of the course and I later drove the last 8 miles with Todd that weekend. Let me tell you, after that weekend, I was nervous for this race and knew I'd have my work cut out for me not only in my last month of training but also on race day. I had a solid final month of training that included hill work, tempo runs, 800 repeats, and a couple more 20+ long runs.
Todd & I drove up to Akron last Friday afternoon so I could pick up my race packet and get settled in before my early AM wake up call. Of course, after we went to the expo, I wanted to drive those last 8 miles of the course again to familiarize myself and see if I had remembered the hills correctly. Well, after that drive, I got even more nervous because it seemed like there were more uphills and downhills than I remembered. Todd didn't tell me this until after the race but once we drove those 8 miles, he didn't think I had a shot at breaking 3:30. Thank god he didn't tell me this until afterwards!
Pace car outside the expo
The doors of the car listed all the runners' names
Heading in to the expo
Bib number in hand!
Awesome swag: a jacket instead of a shirt
After we checked into the hotel, we headed across the street for an early dinner and then back to the hotel so I could watch Spirit of the Marathon, a little tradition I have the evening before a marathon. I slept well that night and woke up on race day morning feeling great.
Race day outfit
It was actually pretty chilly at the start, only about 40 degrees, and I kept my arm sleeves on until mile 19
Banner above the start line
Elevation chart....there were only a couple miles in the middle that were completely flat and the hardest parts were from miles 17-22
I was extremely blessed at this race to not only have Todd biking around the course to see me at several places, but Emily & Mark drove down from Cleveland and brought their bikes as well as Tracy who drove up at 4:15 AM that morning from Columbus to do the same. On top of that, Emily ran with me from miles 19-24 and then Tracy ran from 24-26 with me. While I know I could have done this on my own, it meant so much more to have them there with me especially since we had run Boston together just 3 years ago. It was a welcome relief from the internal monologue I was having with myself (I don't run with music) to be able to talk with them and for that, I'm extremely grateful.
Mile 1: 7:53 (Slight downhill)
Mile 2: 7:48 (Start talking to a couple women next to me who are also trying to run 3:25-3:30 pace and I run with them most of the race)
Mile 3: 7:38 (Fastest split of the race but I also see my support crew here which gives me a boost)
Mile 4: 7:42 (First of many shot bloks)
Mile 5: 7:49
Mile 6: 7:48 (Someone behind me calls my name and it's one of my former XC teammates from UD; she's running the 1/2 so we run together for a mile or 2)
Mile 7: 8:04 (Uphill)
Mile 8: 7:45
Mile 9: 7:53 (Making our way through the University of Akron's campus)
Mile 10: 7:39 (I see Todd, Emily, Mark, and Tracy again and grab my hand held water bottle from them)
Mile 11: 7:45 (Long steep downhill but I try to hold back so my legs don't hate me later)
Mile 12: 7:40 (Turn right onto the Towpath Trail; a 4 mile stretch on a crushed limestone trail; very pretty but very quiet)
Mile 13: 7:47 (I hit the 1/2 in about 1:42:xx and besides some tight glutes, I'm feeling good)
Mile 14: 7:50
Mile 15: 7:54
Mile 16: 7:53 (I know the uphills are coming so I'm preparing for the worst)
Mile 17: 7:54 (Steady uphill for the next 2+ miles)
Mile 18: 8:03 (Still running great splits and am about 2.5 minutes ahead of my 3:30 goal time)
Mile 19: 8:23 (Uphill ends with steep hill; slowest mile of the race for me but Em is waiting for me a little after 19 to run with me)
Mile 20: 8:00
Mile 21: 7:51
Mile 22: 8:15 (Last big steep hill & Todd is cheering me on at the top)
Mile 23: 8:06 (I'm told the hills are over at this point but they're wrong....still have some rolling hills for the next mile or so)
Mile 24: 8:14 (Tracy hops in to run the last 2 mi with me while Em jumps on Tracy's bike to the finish; my quads are really starting to tighten up but I know I'm going to PR)
Mile 25: 7:40 (Big downhill stretch is just what I need)
Mile 26: 8:09 (Few more rolling hills....are they ever going to end?)
Mile 26.2: 2:17 (Final home stretch into the stadium with a sprint to the finish; Garmin read 26.31 so the last 0.31 mi was 2:17 which is 7:29 pace)
Overall Time for 26.2 mi: 3:27:53
Average Pace: 7:56 min/mile
Female 25-29: 8/104
Mark, Emily, and Tracy waiting around for me to run by during the first part of the race
Mark, Em, and Todd
Around mile 10
The entire course is painted with a blue line....this is around mile 23-24; Em is in the gray on left and I'm in the black on the right
Coming up to mile 24
Tracy is now running with me and we have a nice steady downhill for mile 24-25
Turning the corner with about a 1/2 mile to go
Giving it everything I had for that last few minutes
Sprinting to the finish with a new PR of 3:27:53!
Walking over towards Todd
Couldn't have done it without Tracy & Em
One of the surprises after the race was when I looked to see how I placed; I looked up Top 25 Women and I was 25th!
This was my 7th marathon and honestly, it might be the one that means the most. I never really had a lot of disappointment in trying to qualify for Boston because I did it in my 2nd marathon (less than 3 months after my 1st marathon). Boston was an amazing experience, especially since I trained & ran it with Emily, Tracy, and Sara, but all I've wanted was to break 3:30. I've struggled the past couple years with being burnt out from training by myself and the disappointment of not reaching my goal but crossing that finish line on Saturday and crushing my PR by 7 minutes made every second of my training worth it. I didn't think going into this race that I would run a 3:27 and knowing I did it on a tough course makes me excited to see what I could do on a relatively easier/flatter course. I think another thing that really helped this race was fueling properly. I tend to start fueling too late and try to play catch up and that's when I hit the wall. This race, I went through almost 2 packages of shot bloks, a handful of sport beans, and carried a hand held bottle with gatorade for the last 15-16 miles. Carrying the gatorade was huge for me because I could avoid any congestion or slowing down through the water stops. In the past, I've stopped and walked through water stops towards the end to get enough fluid in me but the hand held bottle eliminated that.
Entering that stadium on Saturday morning with 26 miles behind me and just a sprint left to the finish with my husband and friends cheering me on who actually get my passion for running marathons and understand the commitment while the clock is ticking by at 3:27:xx was truly one of the best moments for me and one that I won't soon forget.