Saturday morning I stood at the starting line of yet another marathon. This time, Spinx Carolina Marathon in Greenville, SC was to be my test for the day.
My only knowledge of the course came from reading Marathon Guide website comments and studying the course map.
Otherwise, the course would be pretty much a surprise to me.
At least the temperature was somewhat on my side. 46 degrees was displayed on my car dashboard.
No one seemed to be pushing up to the starting line as we got our count down.
5, 4, 3, 2, and 1, we were off. Most of the first mile was downhill. Five guys got out in front me. My first mile went by in 6:35. I passed one guy to move in to 5th place. The second came in 6:35 again. When I looked at my Garmin, I just mentally shook my head. For whatever the reason, I just wasn’t feeling it. I was well off the pace that I wanted to run.
The first 3 miles of the course are run through the downtown area of Greenville. The course has some rolling hills. Maybe this was my issue.
Around 3 miles, we turned on to the Swamp Rabbit Trail. We would stay on this trail for about 4 miles until we left the trail to loop through Furman University. Between 5 and 6 miles, I passed the 5th place guy. This was also the last time that I could see the flashing tail lights of the pacing cyclist for the leaders.
Just after 9 miles I turned into Furman. We ran around the lake and through the university grounds. Some of this was on the roads but a large portion was on the sidewalks cutting through the campus. The race organizer did a pretty good job marking the course with white pavement tape. Running through the campus was different but I am still undecided if I liked it. It is almost like running on a trail. I had to turn left then right. I was going uphill and downhill. I struggled to maintain a consistent running pace.
Then, I was back on the Swamp Rabbit Trail again. From 11 through the turnaround, the course was a steady climb. I could really feel it in my quads.
After my frustration from seeing slow splits during the first two miles, I choose to ignore the heads up that Garmin kept displaying with each passing mile. Maybe to my benefit, there were no clocks along the course.
After 13+ I finally reach the turn around. Making the loop around a huge planter, I started my trek back to downtown Greenville.
Just before 14 miles, I split off to run the neighborhood loop. Man, this section was tough. With the possible exception of Hatfield and McCoy Marathon, I have never run a marathon with so many hills. They were steep, and they were long. I felt like I struggled up every one of them.
Finally, I was back on the trail again. May be a mile later, I was heading back through Furman again. This time, the sidewalks were a little more crowded with runners still heading out to the turn around.
I was so focused on not running into the outbound runners that the entire Furman section seemed to fly by. Back on the trail again, I passed the 19 mile point. From here I knew what the course was like. I also knew there were no real big turns on the course so getting lost wasn’t really a possibility.
I passed 20 miles and hit a shadeless section and realized that the sun was starting to heat up. I just didn’t feel good. But as soon as I hit the shade again, I felt so much better. Over the next few miles, I tried to steer my path into the shade a much as possible. 21 miles passed.
The mental games were starting now. If I ran 7 minute pace, I had roughly 35 minutes of running. What makes this so funning to reflect on? I am a mileage guy. I rarely think of running in terms of minutes to run.
Anyway, I passed 22 miles. 28 minutes were left run. I wondered if my hamstrings would start to balk now. This is usually the point where they start to feel the strain and decide to falter.
Past the 23 miles point, I have just 5k to run.
Before race I had packed a Power Gel to take during the race. Up to this point, I had been taking water and Gatorade along the course so I hadn’t used it. Somewhere along this mile, the gel started to slip down in my running shorts. Pulling it out, I tossed it the trash at the next water stop. I wasn’t going to take it and I didn’t want to carry it any further.
At 24 miles, I passed the train depot. No trains were insight. Thinking about it now, I am so glad. .
After the race, I learned that some runners were caught by the train coming out. One runner missed her BQ by 16 seconds while running around the train. What a bummer.
Between 24 miles and 25 miles, the trail splits into two different surfaces. Half is asphalt. The other is a track surface rubber. I had avoided running on it going out but coming back I moved over to run on it. My feet really thanked me. They felt so much better. I wished this surface ran all the way to the finish.
25 miles came to pass. I grabbed a cup of Gatorade as I run under the overpass.
Leaving the trail, I hit Reedy View Drive and then over to River Street. Here I mix in with the ½ marathoners. River Street and South Main Street are both uphill. The grade isn’t steep but after 25 miles, a mole hill can seem like Everest.
½ marathoners seem to float by as I meander through them. I focus on the road ahead of my training to gauge were they are turning to go around the stadium. My legs are grinding their way to the top.
The stadium appears to my left. I turn at the corner. I can hear them calling out the ½ marathoners coming to the finish.
I only need to run two more corners before entering the stadium.
Left at the next corner is followed by a downhill. My legs love it. My feet hurt and my legs are tight as I try to push on this last downhill.
Making the right into the stadium I give this woman a “heads up” yell so she doesn’t try to cross my path.
Running around the warning track of the baseball field feels good to my feet.
For the first time since mile 2 I look at my Garmin. I am momentarily stunned that it says 2 hours and 44 minutes. Looking across to the finish, I try to gauge the distance. With 2 tenths to run, I might be able to break 2 hours and 46 minutes.
I pump my arms. Pumping them helps me run faster but it also makes them start to tingle. I split some runners. I pass others either on the left or the right. My eyes are glued to the finish line clock.
The time is counting up to 2 hours and 46 minutes but I realize that I am going to make it.
I cross the finish line and come to a halt almost immediately. My hands are still tingling. I walk over to the wall and stand there for a second. My entire body is shaking. One of the medics came over to check on me. Yeah, I say. I am okay. I just need a bit to recover.
My legs are still shaking during my climb up the steps to the upper level.
My walk is slow back to car, but the smile on my face is huge.
My expectations going into this race, I thought I could run maybe 2:49. Then, after the 2 miles at 6:35 pace, I figured it just wasn’t going to be my day.
Now, I finished in 2 hours 45 minutes and 51 seconds. I finished 4 overall and won the Male Masters’ category. The day couldn’t have been any better for me.
After changing shirts and pulling on some pants, I headed back to the finish area. The marathon awards were to take place at the noon.
I looked at my phone. The display said 11:05 and then I heard them calling out the marathon awards. My name was being called and I headed up to pick up my glass.
They were calling out the awards out so quickly that some of the categories hadn’t been filled. The runners had yet to finish.
Myself, I walked very slowly back to my car and headed home. This had been a good day.
Spinx Carolina Marathon is a small race. Don’t expect to have a lot of crowd support or to have lots of runners around you. Aside from passing two runners in the first 5 miles, the rest of the race was a solo time trial for me. Overall, I would give them a pretty good grade for their efforts. The course was well marked. I would like to have seen a water stop in the first 3 miles but otherwise; there was plenty of water stops on the marathon course. The sidewalks through Furman were a little tight for runners to pass. Fortunately, most outbound runners gave way and let me through. The stadium finish is nice for friends and family to hang out while you are running. By no means is this course flat. The first 3 miles have plenty of rolling hills. The Furman section has its own little hills. Then, there is a neighborhood section which is absolutely nasty with hills. However, if you survive to the 19 mile point, you are pretty much home free. From 19 through 25+ miles there are no major hills. Plenty of long uphill and downhill pulls but nothing too hard. River Street and South Main are an uphill grind, but I probably made them out to be harder than they were. At 25+ miles I am pretty much running at my limit. Nothing is going to be easy.
So to the Spinx Carolina Racefest organizers, I say good job.
I would like to wrap up by giving a shout out to Caleb and Steve. They have been so awesome in our Tuesday track workouts. They have pushed me to improve. I owe them a huge debt of gratitude. I could not have run so well without their supporting efforts. Thanks Guys!
Sharing one thought at time,
The Cool Down Runner