Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Harrisburg Marathon Race Report

 I'm not excited to write this race report, since things didn't go as well as I wanted, but it must be written.  As I sit here with aching quads and a post-marathon hazy feeling, I am going to try and summarize some of what transpired. The good, the bad, and the ugly.....
 The good first. My best friend Michele arrived on Saturday evening with her husband and 2 daughters. I haven't seen her since we ran the Nike Women's Marathon in S.F. in Nov. 2011.  We have kept in touch via phone, texts and emails since then.  When she offered to come and visit for this weekend to support my marathon, I was thrilled.  She and her husband would bring our kids to the marathon to cheer us on, and then we could celebrate afterwards. 
  After a spaghetti dinner Saturday night,  we all got to bed early. I turned off my light at 10pm after preparing everything for the morning.  I slept well until 3 am, then started to toss and turn a bit.  I got up at 5:30, and had my breakfast of bagel with peanut butter and honey, orange juice and coffee.  My husband was up as well, he had a warm bath and ate a bagel.  We were out the door at 6:30.  We arrived in Harrisburg at 7am, for a 8:30 start.  I was calm and ready. I drank gatorade, sips of water and a Luna Bar while staying warm in our car. After a last minute potty break, my husband and I headed for the start at 8:25.  We lined up behind the 4 hr pace group (9:10 pace). We were very disappointed that they had no announcer, and no national anthem before the marathon.  On Veteran's Day of all days! Anyway, the next thing we new, we heard a beeping noise, and the marathon had started. It was very anticlimactic, nobody really knew we had started for sure until people started moving forward. This was a very unusual start for a marathon.  Chris and I have run 11 marathons between us, and this was the first time there was no announcer to start the marathon.

Our cheerleaders: our 2 sons with my friend's 2 daughters, and our daughter.
Anyway, we were off.  We cruised through the first miles, feeling great.  We skipped the first water stop at about 2 1/2 miles. It was about 40 degrees, and we had hydrated well before starting.  Just after mile 5 was another water stop, so we each took a Gu gel and water, walking through the stop.  We easily got back on pace, still following the 4 hr pace group closely.  Our splits for the first 6 miles were: 9:00, 8:49, 8:59, 9:01, 9:09 and 9:18(took Gu)  The course was nice and flat, other than a couple of inclines up bridges, overpasses. The scenery was nice, especially when we ran down a soft wooded path.  I was truly enjoying myself as my husband and I chatted.  Miles 7-13 continued to feel good, with splits of 9:01, 9:08, 9:06, 9:20 (took Gu), 8:54, 9:05, and 8:56.  We were on pace for a sub 4 marathon. I was feeling great!  I knew we were going to see our kids and friends somewhere around 15 miles, and I was getting excited for that.  Splits for mile 14 was 9:22, not sure why, I was still feeling good. I may have taken another Gu at this time. Mile 15 was 8:57.  We saw our friends and kids between 15 and 16, and that picked me up, but I was started to fade a bit.  I handed off my arm warmers and sunglasses to my friend, and really wanted to hang on to my pace. But there was something happening that I couldn't control.  My legs started slowing down, and as much as I was willing them to go faster, they wouldn't.  I started saying to myself "Your body can do this" over and over.  I knew that I had trained well, that I had nailed all my tempo run, the Yasso 800's, the marathon pace runs, this should have been no problem, right? Wrong.  Chris was encouraging me, telling me that if I just picked up the pace, we could still make my goal.  He told me if I could just "grind" it out to 20 miles, then we could pick up the pace in the last 10K and finish strong.  I remember thinking to myself I would be happy just to make it to 20 miles, let alone "pick up the pace". Are you kidding me?  I only said to him that I was going as fast as I could, and turned on my music on my iPhone.  Splits for miles 16-20 were 9:30, 9:31, 9:51,10:46, 10:32.  I was taking short walking breaks at this point, even when we weren't stopping for water and cytomax. And we were now in Wildwood Park, the hilly part of the course. These hills absolutely devastated me.  I have trained on hills for the last 2 and 1/2 years, while living in Northern California, and then doing hilly long runs here in Pennsylvania.  These hills should not have been a problem.  But my legs were not cooperating, and now my mind had totally given up.  I knew I would never make sub 4, would be very lucky to PR, and just wanted to finish.  Mile 20-21 was the worst, walking up the hills, feeling frustrated.  It was my slowest mile: 12:31.  After the hills, I tried to rally a bit, running very slowly, but running.  The next splits were 10:14, 11:04, 10:43. And then my battery on my Garmin decided to quit.  I was happy not to see the time anymore.  I just wanted it to be over.  My quads were cramping, and I had to stop and stretch them every 5 minutes.  I was just struggling to keep moving.  Finally we got to the Lower Riverfront, where we had run miles 8-10, my favorite part of the run. I was not enjoying the view as much, but I knew it was almost over.  I struggled up the last incline to the bridge leading to the Finish Line. I don't know how fast I was running then, but I did pass a couple of people which surprised me.  I heard my kids yelling down below, and I waved at them.  Chris and I crossed the finish line holding hands and smiling.  I was so glad to be done.  The race clock said 4:20 something.  I wasn't sure of my chip time.  It ended up being 4:19.34.  Not my sub 4 goal, not a PR, but not my worst time either.  My second best time. 
My friend captured this photo. I think my eyes are closed in relief to be done!
We walked through the finish chute, got our medals and water to drink.  It felt so good to stop running.  We met up with our support group, grabbed some food to eat for them and us and we were ready to head home.  I was disappointed with my time, but proud to finish at all.  It was a rough race for me, but I did what I could.  I have to say that I have great memories of the race.  It was the first (and probably the last) time that my husband I will run a race together.  Sharing this race with him was special. Yes, I wish that I would have reached my goal and we would have that memory.  But just having him beside me during the good and the bad was what I needed.  I may have quit if he hadn't been beside me.  He really tried to keep me going and I know I wasn't the nicest to him the whole time.  But he was very patient and encouraging the whole time.  I know this wasn't easy for him.  Every time I wanted to walk, his legs would hurt at that pace.  He is used to running a much faster pace and slowing down for me was a challenge.  I am proud of us for getting through this together. I am truly blessed to have him supporting me.Knowing that my kids are proud of me, and cheering me on always fills my heart with joy. I am also so blessed to have my best friend Michele, along with her fantastic husband and girls.  They were so supportive, taking care of our kids, getting to the best spectator spots, and then helping us at the end.  We could not have asked for better cheerleaders!!
We had a nice dinner at a local pub and enjoyed a few beers.  All my disappointed feelings were gone, and I was just enjoying the time with the people I love.

We did it together!!



  1. Congrats on your race! Even without getting the time you hoped for, you have much to celebrate and be proud of and it sounds like a wonderful weekend. Hugs!

  2. Wow, I too ran the marathon! It did not go as planned for me either. I am new to the blogging world, and have yet to publish my race report on Harrisburg. You'll have to check it out when I get it posted :). Hope you are recovered from the race!
    And congrats on your race! It is a huge accomplishment to just complete that distance - something I needed to remind myself of and still am after my disappointment. We have plenty of other marathons we can run. Take this one as a learning experience!