Thursday, November 5, 2015

Marshall University Marathon

Cruising down roads that I hadn’t seen in a long time left me nostalgic over the weekend, but Sunday morning it was time to get down to the business of running the Marshall University Marathon (MUM).

I would like to start off by talking about the weather. If only the race could have been on Saturday morning. The temperature was 40 degrees, low humidity, and no wind. In my opinion these were perfect conditions for running a marathon. Yet, we were running on Sunday. By race time, the temperature was 54 degrees and just a slight wind out of the south. But the overnight rain left the streets wet and the air nearly 100% saturated. These were definitely not nearly the conditions that I wanted.

When I tell other runners that I am running a marathon in WV, almost every time they reply with is it hilly. Yes, this is a good assumption. Finding a placed to run that doesn’t include a hill is nearly impossible. Yet, the MUM race team did a pretty good job with this marathon. This race only had 3 small hills of which 2 we ran twice. The first one, we hit at about 5 and 18 miles in to the race. The second one, we hit just before 10 miles and 23 miles. It actually is an underpass so runners go down and then back up. The third is on 29th street which is about 14 miles in to the race.

Continuing on the topic of the course, the MUM course is a two loop course. The race starts in front of the Marshall Thundering Herd Stadium. Then, it makes a short 2+ mile look before passing back by the Stadium and heading toward the west end of Huntington. Except for short stint where we run along the Ohio River, we run on the same road for about 3 miles. The course then turns south and runs over to Ritter Park where we did 3+ miles on the crushed limestone trails. These were my favorite miles.

After leaving Ritter Park, we turn right on 8th street, left on 4th street, and right to pick up the same road that we ran out. From there we retraced our steps back toward the start and do it all over again.

Before this race, I had never run a double loop marathon. There are some advantages. One of the biggest is that I know where I am going the second time around. Late in a marathon, I am tired and not having to think about where the course goes certainly helps.

I do want to give a shout out to MUM for water stops. There were at least 10 water stops spread over the 13.1 mile loop.  In total, we passed some 20 water stops over 26.2 miles.

There are some things that play on the mind when running this course. MUM marks every mile both on the road and with flag. Crossing the 24 mile mark 3 times before doing it for real kept reminding me of just how far that I had to go.

Then, there are the bricks. Ugh, I really hate running over bricks. They are never truly even so it plays havoc with my stride. If I had to compare it to anything, I would say it is like running cross country where you can see the grass but cannot see the slight undulations of the ground underneath. This course has a couple of brick sections. The 29th street is brick and there is a brick section when we passed through the university.

No recap would be complete without talking about MUM race finish. I turned right into the stadium, and was offered a foot ball to carry to the finish. I knew about this tradition from reading the many online blogs about this race. Up and until this moment, I hadn’t made a decision if I was going to take one. But when they reached out to hand it to me, I took it and headed off down the field. At about the 20 yard line, there was a hard U-turn and then the sprint of 80 yards back to the finish. My body was tired and making a u-turn wasn’t easy but the sight of the finish line spurred me forward.

What seems more unbelievable, I couldn’t find a single picture of me carrying the foot ball over the finish line. How could they have missed me? I have no idea.

There is one other tradition which I didn’t know about or understand but during our 26 mile, they ask us to take a flower and throw it into the fountain.  Never heard what this one was about.

As for me, I was walked away with a time of 2:55:16. I finished 9 Overall and first in my age. The awards were these nice green glass bowls. My bowl is setting here on my desk.  I would have to consider this a pretty unique award.

My 2:55 was better than I expected. I had set an A goal of sub 3 hours based on my training which I hadn’t done much. My lead up races: Charleston 15 miler and Race 13.1 hadn’t gone well so more than a few doubts about my fitness circulated in the back of my mind.  I fully expected to slow down during the last 6 miles, but I hoped I could maintain 6:30s through 20. I hit 10 miles a few seconds under 65 minutes. I hit 20 miles at 2:10:32. My last 6 were run at 7:05 pace so in the end, I executed exactly what I wanted in less than ideal conditions.

As I wrap of this post, I do want to give the MUM race organizers a double thumbs up. They do a great job with this race. If you are looking for a good race to do within easy driving distance of Charlotte, this is a good one to do.

The MUM's race will like get on my fall racing calendar a few more times before I hang up my marathon racing shoes.

 

Adding another marathon to the books,

The Cool Down Runner

  

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