Marathon number 2 is in the books and it was a hot one! Last year we had a cold snap the weekend of the marathon and this year we had a heat wave. I have yet to run a marathon in actual fall weather. (I apologize for the inconsistent sizing of photos in this post, they’re a collection of photos from myself, my friends, and family!)
My parents came into town Saturday afternoon to come down to the race with my husband. We got up bright and early Sunday morning. I drank my 16 ounces of Nuun and had a half of bagel with peanut butter. After taking care of the dogs we all piled into the car and headed downtown.
I had pre-purchased parking again this year which made parking quick and easy. We headed into the hotel to meet my running club and I hit the bathroom a few times. We headed down to the start area to drop our bags off at our club tent and moved to the atheletes-only area to use the bathrooms. A great improvement this year was hundreds of bathrooms in the athelete-only area so that we didn’t have to stand in line with spectators before the race. The lines were still long and crazy, but I was still able to get one more go-around and still have some time to chill in the corral. While the temps were in the 60s and it was humid out, there was a nice breeze and I had worn a long sleeved light zip up. I didn’t really need it, but I wanted to pretend it was cooler than it was. Despite the forecasted heat, I was still positive and planned to go in and work hard. I knew I would have to adjust my pacing for the weather, but I felt I could still run a strong race.
After the national anthem, some awesome starting fireworks, and the tradition of sending off the runners to Born to Run, I was on my way through the start. I was in corral A this year and decided to line up towards the back since I knew there would be some super fast runners heading out. It’s always very crowded getting out of this start and the course doesn’t really open up until right around the 1 mile marker. Despite getting stuck behind some slower starters, I was able to hit my goal pace for the first mile. It was around 61 degrees as we started and humid with a cool breeze. It was warmer than I preferred, but it still didn’t feel horrible. My plan was to run the first 5-6 miles about 10 seconds slower than my goal pace and see how I felt.
(Here’s a short video of the start my husband took.. he had no intentions of this showing up on my blog!)
I hit the first 6 miles right on pace, but decided to maintain the slower pace for mile 7 since it’s uphill and it was so hot. I caught up to one of my club’s pace coaches and chatted with her for a bit before picking up speed. Once I hit the mile 7 marker I was back on flat ground and decided to up my pace by 5 seconds and see how I felt. Mile 8 was right on pace and mile 9 was a little quick, but I remember picking up pace a bit at that spot last year and didn’t stress it. I was feeling good and felt if the weather stayed as it was I would still be able to have a really great race. During mile 10 I decided I needed to slow back down. It was just too hot and humid and despite taking in fluids at every water station, I wasn’t sweating at all. I figured it was early in the race and the breeze was keeping me cooler, but all that fluid was sitting in my stomach and I was starting to get stomach cramps. This is something that has never happened to me before.
The first half was going by quickly and I decided to fight through the stomach cramps, assuming they would subside. I felt pretty crappy running through mile 12, but I knew the weather was probably having a bit of an impact on my race. I was running much more conservatively than I had trained to do, but I felt comfortable and knew I could still come in with a strong PR.
I got through the half a little slower than I had wanted to, but had to keep in perspective that this race was not going to be what I had trained to do. After mile 14 my stomach evened itself back out and I was working on reeling people in and passing them. At this point the race heads into campus and I knew if I could get through the next few miles I wouldn’t have much left to go. Unfortunately there is no shade in this area and for most it seems this is when the wheels began to fall off. Mile 16 beeped in and I realized I still wasn’t sweating and at this point in the race that probably wasn’t a good thing. I was taking in so much fluid so it didn’t really make sense, but physically I felt okay so I decided to press on. My left achilles was bothering me a bit, but all in all everything felt pretty much how I expected it to feel with 10 miles left to go. I worked my way through mile 17 and it was a bit slower, but I still felt positive. And then that was it. The wheels came off. I have no clue what the temperature was at this point, but my dad believes it was likely 65 at the coolest at this point. He said the temperature rose 5 degrees in 30 minutes once the sun fully came out. I had to finally be honest with myself that the fact that I had zero sweat on me was not because there was a breeze. My body wasn’t processing the fluids I was putting into it and that wasn’t an issue I had faced during training this summer. I had taken two gels and thrown half of the third away because I just couldn’t put anything else into my stomach.
I cut back my pace and began taking walk breaks when I needed them. I had dumped water on my head and down the back of my neck at some points, but it seemed to be doing nothing. I realized a lot of people were walking, way more than I’ve ever experienced in a race. Right before mile 18 a woman was on a stretcher looking very disoriented as they loaded her into the ambulance. I didn’t feel dizzy or light headed so I figured I’d do what I could and get myself to the finish. Luckily we headed back into a shadier section at this point which provided a little relief, but I knew my race was over. I felt frustrated and disappointed having been on pace to do what I wanted to and not being able to achieve it because of factors outside of my control. I think at that point in the race I would’ve had an easier time dealing with it had I felt there was something different I should’ve done in my training. I searched for what I could have done differently either in training or in the first half, but looking around me there were some really fit athletes struggling alongside me and I began to feel that there wasn’t anything I could’ve done differently.
I made the decision to just try to enjoy the rest of the race the best I could. I popped my earbuds in so I could enjoy some of my music and just take in the experience. I continued to run easy and take walk breaks as needed. I passed the orange slice station and ended up taking a second because the first was just so refreshing. At one point I pulled off my tank top and carried it for a while, but as I headed into the Grandview neighborhood the breeze was making me cold (which made no sense, clearly my body temperature was very out of wack) and I put it back on. Around mile 21 I came up on my friends and was really happy to see them. It was so hot and I was so happy to have their cheers, high-fives, and encouragement.
After heading through this section, the course takes a nice long downhill. It was tough on my quads, but was nice to just cruise the decline. At the bottom one runner stopped as another tried to work a cramp out of the stopped runner’s calf. Despite my dehydration, I wasn’t having any cramping in my legs and I was really thankful for that. However, I was so thirsty and felt that no combination of Gatorade and water was helping. The next section of the course was different from last year and was a switchback in a newly developed area. The ground was this uneven stone type brick surface that was so painful! Every step caused uneven footing and I thought about how, even on a good day, this was a really not nice thing to have runners do this late in the race. I headed into mile 23 and was thankful to only have 5K to go. At some point I took my shirt back off.
I noticed a runner that I had been playing relay with for the past few miles. I would take a walk break and she would run pass me, then I would start running again and she would take a walk break and I’d pass her. I ran past her and tapped her on the shoulder and said “Come on, you’ve got this!” A little while later I noticed her running and chatting with another runner who had adopted a similar strategy as us. About a mile or so ahead I took a walk break and she passed me and gave me a few words of encouragement. Finally I rounded the corner onto Buttles which to me signaled I was almost to the end. This is a short incline and I just didn’t have it in me. I began to walk and both the women ran up behind me and encouraged me to keep going. I joined them and we finished up the small hill and rounded the corner together and chatted a tiny bit about the heat. At this point the one woman moved ahead while the other woman and I stopped to walk. We began running again and got to the Nationwide headquarters where a woman began to yell widely at her, “You’re almost there! You just have to go around the corner! You’re almost to the finish!” She told me that was her mom and I asked her if this was her first marathon to which she replied yes. We had about a mile and half to go and I told her we were going to finish strong together. She mentioned she had just missed the 4 hour mark and I told her that was okay.
We headed onto High Street which is the last small hill and she stopped to walk. I asked her if she needed to walk and she told me to go ahead without her, but I told her my race was over and I was going to stick with her through the finish. She began running again and we rounded the corner onto Long Street. We ran down a bit and she said, “Where’s the finish?!” and I laughed because that was the exact thing I said to Joe when we got to that point the year prior. Finally we saw the 1/4 To Go sign and she said, “We still have a quarter mile?!” I told her, “You just have a quarter mile until you’re a marathoner!” At this point my family called out to me and I smiled and waved to them as I ran with this woman into the finish. We crossed the line and I congratulated her on becoming a marathoner and she thanked me for running with her. I got my medal and was handed a bottle of water when the other woman happened to be in front of me and turn around and congratulated me.
My official time was 4:05:05. I was of course disappointed with the outcome, but I held onto my pace through mile 17 so I truly believe in better conditions I could have had the race I wanted. My parents said the announcer stated that many seasoned marathoners were needing medical attention. While I had moments I wanted to break down into tears from frustration, I overall felt really positive during this race and truly tried to make the best of it. I really enjoy the marathon distance and was already thinking about what I wanted to do next before I had even finished the race.
My family also noted that most people crossing the finish line looked absolutely miserable and most people were not sweating. As I started hearing more stories from the day, I realized that my experience was pretty typical for those that ran the marathon. I had two friends that had to drop out due to heat-related illness and many more that said things fell apart after mile 16. I saw my really fast friends post times that are impressive to me, but were far off from what they’d hoped to achieve. While my initial thoughts during this race were, “Today’s not my day,” I quickly understood that a good marathon that day was far and few between. After I grabbed a dry shirt from my bag, I pulled up my weather app to see the current temperature.
73 degrees before noon in October. I went from disappointed to happy I even made it to the finish. In hindsight, my time was really good for the conditions, but 18 weeks of hard work derailed by above average temps is still hard pill to swallow. I heard and read many messages of “This is what you trained in,” but oddly those all came from people that didn’t run the marathon. Training and racing are two different beasts and I would never push myself for that long in that type of a heat for a training run and I don’t believe many would.
Sunday evening we grabbed an early dinner with my parents and when we got home my mom took me through a short yoga session to help me stretch out my hips. She is a certified yoga instructor and I was really happy to have her help me get loosened up.
While I had so many nerves and anxiety going into this race, when things began to unravel it didn’t even end up mattering to me as much as I thought it would. There were moments where I felt upset, but by the end of the race I felt so happy to be crossing the finish line and I was ready to celebrate. It may be because it was a rough day for everyone and not just particular to me. It also may be because I genuinely just enjoy the training process that goes into preparing for race day. I am still eager to hit the goal I that I know I am so capable of achieving. I plan to spend the week recovering, maybe hitting the bike for some light cross training. Beyond that, I’m not sure what’s next for me. I initially had no plans to run a marathon in the spring, but this race left me wanting redemption. There are a few March marathons that could be a good opportunity to try again. Since I didn’t run the entire race hard I also have the option of recovering, doing some light running, and trying again before the end of the year. For now I am focusing on recovering this week and seeing how I feel after a full 7 days off from running.
To anyone that ran the Columbus Marathon this weekend, congratulations for pushing through tough conditions. If you were a first time marathoner, I promise it’s much more enjoyable in cooler temperatures! The crowds and volunteers were top notch as always and this remains one of my favorite races. While I don’t plan to run it next year, it’s one I highly recommend to anyone that wants an amazing race experience.