Saturday morning at 6:30 AM, I found myself setting in a high school parking lot in Charleston, SC waiting for time to pass until the marathon start at 8:00 AM.
As I waited, I kept turning over in my mind what should I wear. 37 degrees isn’t that could for running but the 15 mph wind that we would face made it feel 27 instead of 37.
My hope was that after the first mile or so, the race would get into the interior of the island and the wind would not be an issue.
At the last minute, I opted not to risk it and added an undershirt and arm sleeves. “Boy”, was I glad that I did.
Standing at the starting line, I could not stop shaking. Each gust of wind made my limbs and face feel numb.
Stan was leading the 3:30 pace group. I looked through the crowd but never stop him. I did see Jamie Dodge and Philip. Philip had opted for a singlet and I could see that he was shaking from the cold. I was never more ready for a race to start in my life.
Finally, we got a second by second count down to zero.
For the first mile, I felt like I was just in the way. There were so many people passing me. I kept checking my Garmin to make sure that I stayed on pace.
After about a mile, the runners passing started to level out.
I did notice that suddenly the wind was no longer in our faces but at backs. I felt like I was cruise mode and kept trying to hold back.
After 3 miles, we made the turn from the view over looking the bay and downtown Charleston before heading north. This is the point where I hoped “wind” would not be a factor. Much to my chagrin, the wind was blowing hard. “Kings” street acted like a canyon and focused the wind right into our faces. There were tiny pockets where the wind was shielded from us and when I hit one of these pockets, I could instantly feel myself surge forward.
Miles 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 passed as we battled the head wind. I noticed that I was catching a lot of the ½ marathoners. They were struggling against the wind. There was something else that I noticed. Even with the wind, my splits were right on target with my game plan.
Around 10 miles, we made the split with the ½ marathoners, and we headed south again and out to the pier. These would be some of my fastest miles the entire race. Pushed by a strong tail wind, I was clipping off 6 minute miles.
They sent us on to the pier. I knew what was coming. Coming to a dead stop and turning around, I ran head first in maybe the stiffest headwind of the entire race. It literally stood me straight up.
Off the pier and headed back, I spotted Stan with the 3:30 group. I also saw Paul G. running hard as well. With in another mile, I caught up to a couple guys who had been running far up in front of me. We quickly teamed up and worked through the headwind on the way back.
We merged back into the ½ marathoners again. As to be expected, this made navigation difficult. I had to pick and choose my spots to split between them. Fortunately, we turned out off the ½ marathon course after another mile.
The three was us were still working together and we picked off several guys. At 18 miles, I was feeling pretty good so I pushed the pace and gapped them.
From the course map, I knew the last 8 miles had more than twice as many twist and turns as the other 18 miles of the course.
I went through 20 miles in 2:07 and felt great. I was starting to think I might be able to run the last 10k in sub 40 minutes.
Unfortunately, this is the point where my struggles started. I was coming around one of the huge traffic circles and was completely confused. The road head presented two options. One was to the left and one was straight. There was no course monitor to direct us. Then, down the street, I spotted a sign which appeared to be pointing left. I made a late turn and went left. There was nobody out. Every cop was setting in his or her car with the engine running.
I just crossed my finger and ran. Then, I spotted the 21 mile sign and breathed a sigh of relief. Yes, I was going to right direction.
Then, I ran right into another traffic circle. I knew that I needed to turn off but I had no idea where to turn. I went around the circle merged on to the road off the other side. When I merged on to this other road, I realized that I was catching other runners on their way out. My gut was telling me to turn back but mentally, I still thought I was headed in the right direction. While this was taking place, two thought crossed my mind. One, I knew that I needed to turn left, and two I didn’t remember seeing any left turns off this street. In hindsight, I should have turned around and headed back. Instead, I made the loop and went by the 19 mile mark again. At this point, I realized that if I went left, I would be retracing my steps again for miles 19 and 20 so I turned right and back along the course where I had just ran the 21st mile.
This time, I came to the same traffic circle again. Here I met a guy walking back towards me cussing up a storm about not knowing where to turn off. I to was sharing his frustration but I just didn’t share it in the same matter. I passed 21 miles and headed around the traffic circle.
There was still no one telling us to turn but this time, I saw a sign down the street telling us to turn left. The first time around, there had been a huge group of people on this corner and hidden the sign.
Finally, I was off this endless loop.
Mile 22 came up and I knew was back on course. However, a glance at my Garmin told me that I had run 2 extra miles.
2 extra miles is roughly a 13 minute penalty for me. Any thoughts of being one of the top masters runner were out the window.
At this point, I could have easily said to myself “take it easy and jog it in”. For a moment, I considered taking this idea.
But strange as it may seem, I still felt good. My Garmin said that I was still averaging 6:18 per mile.
Besides, there were a line of runners in front of me so I just let my competitive nature take over. I lost count of how many runners that I passed over those the last 4 miles.
I finished in just over 3:01 and 20th overall which placed me 1st in my age group. My Garmin said that I run over 28 miles.
As l look back at this race, I am bummed by what happen. However, I can only blame myself. Every runner is responsible for knowing where to turn. I missed one.
For the race itself, I am extremely happy. This is the best that I have felt in nearly 2 years of marathoning and this is exciting to me as I consider my options for the future marathons.
Sharing one thought at time
The Cool Down Runner