Monday, March 18, 2013

My First Sub-4 Marathon

In the days before Rock 'n' Roll USA, I came to the full realization that it's been almost a year and a half since I last ran a proper marathon. I momentarily wondered if it was possible that I'd forgotten what running a marathon entailed, but I quickly came to the conclusion that I hadn't. If anything, I'd supplanted that knowledge and experience with a better, broader spectrum of each.

I think I proved myself mostly right. And I'm sure it didn't hurt that this was my seventh marathon. At this point in my endurance career, marathons are, well, fun. I went into this one with a sort of serenity that I've never had before a marathon. My goal was to run a sub-4 hour marathon. Normally, it takes a lot of mental discipline not to let the weight of my goals bring down my psyche. Not this time. I went into it knowing I could run a sub-4. I had no qualms about my ability to do it and understood that all I had to do was make it happen.

As usual, I didn't get much sleep the night before and I kept Amortya and our gracious friend Shivani from getting any either because I arrived in DC at almost 2am. We woke up at 5, got ready, and headed for the start around 6. Upon arrival, I used the restroom (glad I did it when I did because the lines grew obscenely long very quickly), we checked a bag, and headed to the corrals. My corral was 15 and Amortya's was 19 but I really wanted to find the 4:00 pace group. After unsuccessfully trying to locate my friend Eric, we milled about the corral area trying to locate the pace leader. Finally, just as the gun was about to go off, we spotted the sign in the corral behind us.

Thank you, pace group leader!

The 4:00 marathon pace group and the 2:00 half marathon pace group started the race together, so it was nice to have a big group to stick with. Around mile 7 (I think), Amortya split off to use the bathroom and I continued on. Not long after, I pulled ahead of the pace group against my better judgment. I balanced my fear of going out too fast by remembering my Baltimore Marathon experience and trusting in my ability to run my own race.

The race was very large from the beginning to about mile 12, which is where the half marathon runners split off to their finish. I thought it would be helpful when the crowd thinned out but found that I actually lost my sense of pace a little bit. Being surrounded by runners turned out to be easier for me to deal with than the comparative desolation of my new, sparse surroundings.

After a couple miles, though, I found my way again and was happy to reach mile 16, at which point it became a countdown from 10. By 20, the race was taking its toll and I felt myself slowing down. But never did it occur to me to stop or ease up. I was taking it one mile at a time and calculating what time I could expect to see on my watch at the next mile marker by doing 9 minute miles. 3:00, 3:09, 3:18, 3:27, 3:36, 3:45, 3:54 were my last milestones. Though I knew I was slowing, I'd built up a couple minutes' lead before that last hour and just kept telling myself I needed to go fast enough to still hit those times. I hit all of them and sailed in at 3:55:26. I even managed a good kick.

It showed me how much tougher I've become mentally since the last time I ran a marathon. Between 2012 in 2012, training for and completing the Ironman, it was probably inevitable. Still, this might have been the first time I fully appreciated how far I've come. From beginning to end, I approached this marathon differently than any other, as a significantly better and stronger runner.

Amortya also ran a sub-4 and it was his first marathon! This is only the beginning for him and I expect that he's got many, faster marathons in him. Kudos, good sir!

After the race we met up with Shivani for post-race, pre-St. Patrick's Day shenanigans before catching the bus back to NYC in the evening. Great day!