I continued my trend of one road marathon a year by running the Publix Georgia Marathon on 3/19. I say that because I used to run a ton of road marathons (or other road races for that matter). But the last 3-4 years I've migrated to the trails and ultras. I think it for a couple reasons;
1) I love the community around trail running and racing. Not that it isn't there for road running, but it's a tighter group of amazing people IMHO
2) The roads hurt more! I can go run a 5 hour trail race and be fine the next day. Sometimes I can't walk for two days after a road marathon. Just what you are used too I guess
3) I love the love key and quieter parts of trail running. My life has tons of noise and it's nice to get away from it all sometimes
After finishing as the second masters runner last year, the race sent me an offer about 3 weeks before the race to come run on a complementary entry. If I was looking for an excuse to run a big event road marathon, that's all you need. I decided at worst it would be a good opportunity for a long training run.
I admit I was only marginally excited about this race in the several weeks I had to prepare. Not much time for any changes in training but I also couldn't get very excited about the race. But there is nothing like stopping by the expo on Friday to get you pumped up! After leaving there I was excited to get out there and give it what I had......no expectations just run and have some fun!
Working at Coke has its benefits, including getting a perfect location to park within a short walk to the start with no hassle. I jogged the 1/2 mile over to meet some of the Flying Ace's running group at 6 am for a quick picture and some good-lucks then headed over to the "A" corral. I'd been assigned race number #3. That made it quite entertaining as some of the faster guys were sizing me up trying to figure out whether I was their competition! One of the perks of a #3 bib was that I was in the front corral and had my toes on the line when the race started. Chip and Gun time were the same for me.
Scott Meckert and I had run the half course a few weeks before, so I was very familiar with the first 6-7 miles of the course (same for both races) and then the last 2-3 miles. But it'd been a year since I ran the race and didn't have a clear picture of the rest of the course in my mind. I went out somewhat more relaxed than I might have in the past but was still dropping 6:00-6:15 min miles for the first 3 or 4 miles. I fell into a more relaxed and somewhat easy feeling pace of around 6:30 for the next few miles until we separated from the halfers. Then it got lonely out there. I figured I was in 10-12 place around then and pretty happy to be feeling good. I love this next stretch of the race. Running towards and through Decatur is one of the highlights of the course and made the miles fly by. I hit the half mark in 1:25 and started to feel like a sub-3 was within reach. I always run the second half of a race slower (not a negative split guy) so I knew I could give up 10 minutes on the second half and squeeze under 3.
After the square in Decatur, the course was much more exposed, the temps were rising, and the sun was beating down. Definately the low-point on the course for me. 13-16 were some tough miles and I knew the hills were only going to increase. After Emory, there are some beautiful but hilly stretches and I found a second wind and powered through the next few miles. Passed a few people (in addition to getting passed by a couple) but felt like I was still pretty strong. I knew that the last 6-8 miles were my home turf as I run those roads a bunch in the mornings. I was also very much looking forward to seeing my friend Kim Pike and her daughter that I knew would be around the 22 mile mark. People were really starting to suffer in the heat. I passed a guy that was cramping real bad. I happened to have some S-Caps so I offerred him a few and he gladly accepted. I brought 6 S-Caps and ended up giving all 6 away to his guy and two other runners that were hurting pretty bad. I didn't feel like I needed them so no big deal for me but the guys sure were appreciative.
I hit Piedmont Park for a quick out and back and got to see Kim and her daughter.....really lifted my spirits with 4 miles to go. I also knew my lovely wife was going to be at 24 cheering. I can't say that the last 2 miles were exceptionally fast, but I managed a decent 8ish min/mile clip and cross in 2:58. 9th OA, 1st Masters. Plenty happy with a sub-3 on a hot and hilly course.
Another road Marathon? Maybe I'll consider this one again in 12 months......