Race morning dawn over Huntington WV as the fog slowly rolled across the city from the Ohio River. Most runners only dream about weather conditions like this on race morning: 39 degrees and no wind.
I was excited about racing but worried about my lack training. For the record, my training consisted of the bare minimalist of long runs and no speed work or tempo of any kind. In the back of my mind, I knew I’d pay for this in the latter stages of the race. However, what could I do about it? The tendentious in my hip which flared up in late July and lingered for months kept me from running anything other than an easy runs.
For my race day apparel, I opted for my Hoka\CRC singlet, no gloves, and sunglasses, and of course my 2XU compress shorts. Carrying me over this course would be my trusted Hoka Claytons.
I raced in WV for a number of years, and I cannot remember a race starting with a cannon blast. Yet, both Charleston Distance Run and the Marshall Marathon do so. A couple of us were chatting at the starting line. The announcer had indicated less than 5 minutes until the race starts. We were all talking then, the cannon fires. People kind of looked around and then realize that we should start running. Thinking back, we all probably looked a little bewildered at hearing the cannon fire.
Runners took off up 3rd avenue. We hit the “brick” street. Not my favorite section because the bricks are all very uneven. Runners will really have to concentrate on picking up their feet or they could easily trip. Nearing 2 miles, my fingers were tingling from the cold and my body’s sudden shift of blood from the hands and arms to my legs.
Back by Marshall Stadium and by the University we went. We made a slight right and went through the park so we could grab a quick glimpse of the foggy Ohio River. Then we were back out on the road and headed for the far end of the course.
The miles were clicking off and faster than I expected. However, once you have your book of matches on fire, there isn’t much one can do about slowing the fire.
From one end of the course to the other is roughly 6 miles. On the far end, the fog was rather thick. So thick in fact, that my sunglasses were covered with moisture. I had to push them on top of my head.
We picked up the trail section of Ritter Park. Running through here, is my favorite aside from the finish on the football field.
After 3 ½ miles, we were back out on the road and headed back to the University.
The ½ and full separated on the upper end of the University Campus with the ½ marathoners staying on the road while the full marathoner cut through the campus.
This time, I understood the significance of the rose and took one to toss in the fountain.
After the campus section, we repeated the opening 2 mile section except in the reverse direction. My half marathon split was 1:26 and some change. Although, instead of feeling strong, my body was sending up signals that it was headed the other way.
My goal, quite lofty in fact, going in to this race was to run between 2:55 and 3 hours.
With every mile, this seemed to be slipping away.
Strangely, the weather kept flip flopping. On ends of the course, the sky was foggy, overcast, and colder. While in the middle around the University it was clear and sunny. I felt bad for the people wrapped in the blankets that waved and shouted encouragement as I ran by.
At 20 miles, my split was roughly 2 hours and 14 minutes. I was like a car with one of those little donut tires. I was still moving but at less than highway speed.
Between 20 and 25, I could literally feel the hemorrhaging of time. When a race isn’t going your way, the last thing that you want to do is look at your watch.
Passing the 25 point, my brain forced my arm up and eyes down to see the damage: 2 hours 50 minutes and 30 seconds.
With 1.2 miles to run, I “willed” myself to run faster. Every part of my body from the head down resisted the urge. But I had 9 minutes and only 1.2 miles to cover. I could do it. I would do it.
Back through the University Campus one last time we went. My legs were screaming for me to slow down. Changing direction, any direction other than directly ahead hurt.
I could see the 26 mile flag, and I heard my Garmin beep. I was well short of it. Either the flag is in the wrong place or my Garmin was confused about where the 26 mile point was. Mile 26 was 6:59, and yes, it hurt.
Right we went into the Thundering Herd Stadium, and on to the field we ran.
One of the guys tossed me a football to carry. Even thou finishing was the only thought ringing through my head; I took it. I ran the last 160 yards like a defensive tackle having recovered a fumble.
My time was 2:58:40 placing me 15th overall and 3rd in my age group which was far better than deserve considering my training.
The Marshall University Marathon Race committee deserves some serious credit for a job well down. Numerous water stops, volunteers, decent medals, unique awards, and yeah, they give some awesome swag. Just for entering the race at $70 when I registered, I got a nice heavy Asics Jacket MUM Branded, a long sleeve race shirt MUMs Branded, and nice large duffle bag MUMs Branded. I have run numerous races through the years. When it comes to swag verse the cost of the race, MUM does their runners right.
I’d also like to thank the people of Huntington for coming out to support this race. They were loud and supportive. You don’t know how much this means when you are tired and ready to be done. A kind word on the right moment makes all of the difference.
All are part of the reasons why I returned for the second consecutive year.