Monday, November 12, 2012

Soldier Marathon 2012 Recap

Phew, what a relief to have this marathon in the history books! If you’ve ever experienced taper madness in the two weeks leading up to marathon, try adding an extra, unexpected week on top of that. The pent up anxiety will really have you climbing the walls.

I’m very happy with how the race turned out. My marathon PR was set back in 2003 during my senior year of college, so it was long overdue for an update. My finish time of 3:25:09 is a 10+ minute PR.

I was really impressed with the Soldier Marathon. While it was no NYC Marathon, it was a lot more than I was expecting. I’ve done races nearby at Callaway Gardens and was expecting something of that caliber….maybe a few hundred runners, lonesome stretches of trail running, and a few orange wedges and bottles water waiting at the end. Nothing wrong with that, just no pomp and circumstance.

Combined with the half marathon, the Soldier Marathon was a fairly decent sized event (about 2,000 runners total), and had a very professional feel to it. While I wouldn’t go so far as to advocate this as racecation destination, I would highly recommend it to runners in the Georgia/Alabama area. It had enough of production value to make it feel special, plenty of runners and cheerful spectators to keep things interesting, a variety of foods and beer at the finish, and even nice little touches like women's cut Nike dry-fit tees.

The Details:

The night before the race we stayed friends who live about an hour outside of Columbus. They were going to watch Emily which made it easier for us to get out of the house on time, but we hit a lot more local traffic than we expected near Ft. Benning. Once we parked the car, I had about 30 minutes to pick up my bib number, use the bathroom, and get myself situated. It was a little more chaotic than I would have liked, so my adrenaline was already pumping hard well before the gun went off.

My solution for carrying extra gels/chews

My goal for the race was just to break 3:30, and anything below that would be icing on the cake. I lined myself up slightly ahead of the 3:35 pace group, with the intention of staying just ahead of them for the first few miles.

The announcer said it was 40 degrees at the start, but I think it was lower. I normally love the cold, but I could see my breath, and my nose and eyes were watering.

The 3:35 pacer took it out quick, and instead of being in front of the group, I felt like I was working hard just to hang with them. A few minutes into the race I developed a side-stitch and a sloshing ocean-belly that continued to nag me for the first few miles. I was already doubting myself due to the extra week of taper, and this did nothing to help my confidence.

Add an extra ~30 secs to mile 9, my watch auto-paused there

Mile 5:
Nope, still wasn't finding my groove. Even though I was holding a steady pace and making progress on pulling away from the 3:35 group, I was severely doubting my ability to keep it up for another 20+ miles.

Miles 6-7:
One of my failures in previous marathons was my fueling strategy… in, I didn’t have one. This time around, the plan was to start taking in carbs early and often. I took my gloves off to get my first dose of Shot Bloks out of my pocket, and dropped the left glove in the process. I didn’t want to stop and go back to pick it up, so I just let it go. Then I tossed the remaining glove. Big mistake.

Oh gloves, why did I forsake thee?

Mile 9:
I could no longer ignore my bladder and the fact that I really had to use the bathroom again. And by “bathroom”, I mean a large tree to cop a squat behind. The marathon will make you redefine your sense of pride in every way.

My hands were completely frozen stiff. Cursing about the time I was losing, I struggled to pull my tights back up. I ended up tying the drawstrings in a big knot since my fingers couldn’t manage a bow. Exasperated, I shoved my iPod down the back of my pants because clipping it to my waistband required more dexterity than my Captain Hook hands could provide.

Mile 11:
My left shoe came untied. What mystical force causes a tight, double-knotted shoelace to come undone only during a race? Well, opposable thumbs aren’t something to take for granted. Tying a shoelace is rough when yours don’t work.

Miles 12-13:
I popped a couple more Shot Blocks and had a cup of Powerade at the next aid station. I came through the 13.1 mark around 1:44 and change. I figured it was over at that point, I was barely hanging on to 3:30 pace and was only halfway finished. I grabbed a pack of GU the volunteers were handing out, and gulped it down.

Miles 14-19:
It was like someone flipped a switch. There’s no other way to explain it, the sudden burst of energy was so dramatic. I finally felt warm and loose. Maybe it was the sugar hitting my bloodstream? The rising temps? The adrenaline rush knowing I was over the half-way point? Whatever it was, the pace suddenly began to feel easy and I had a renewed sense of confidence.

In a huge race like the NYC Marathon, the only thing mere mortals like myself race against is the clock. In a sea of thousands of runners, it doesn’t really matter to me what anyone else is doing.

However, being that this was a smaller race, there was incentive to pass other runners. I began targeting the ponytails off in the distance, and challenged myself to reel them in. I was also high-fiving spectators, cheering for the lead runners who were coming back in the other direction, and smiling for the cameras….

The miles clicked by, and I felt like I was on top of the world.

Mile 20:
Seeing this marker is always exhilarating. No matter what, even if you have to hobble, you know you’re going to finish once you see that marker.

Up until Mile 20, it’s a balancing act of pushing the pace but keeping enough in reserve to finish. With 6 miles to go, there's no little voice telling you to hold back anymore. It’s time to let it all hang out and give it everything you’ve got.

Miles 21-26:
After freezing in the beginning of the race, now it was getting HOT. There was no more tree cover, and the sun beat down on us. I broke out the last gel from under my hat, and gagged on the first mouthful. Despite taking in Powerade at every aid station after Mile 10, I was SO thirsty and it felt like a glob of glue in my mouth. Blech.

“Just keep putting one foot in front of the other” was the mantra on repeat in my head. I was hot, tired, and my lower back ached, but I never hit "the wall" the way I remember in previous marathons. I was almost done!

The last .2:


Instant gratification. They posted the results as soon as they came in.

Anxiously awaiting my turn

Chip time 3:25:09, 8th oa female, 2nd age-group

 Now I can give up running…well, at least for a few days :)


  1. Congratulations on a great race!

    I totally get the feeling and hate it when you cannot control your hands at all because they are so cold. This happened to me in Stockholm last June (remember that race recap?!) - it took over 1 mile to open up my Gu and it took all of my mental strength to will my fingers to grasp the edge and tear it open. Ugh.

  2. That is insanely fast! Congrats to you!

    Enjoy your rest days... when's the next one? :)

  3. Great job!! You never fail to inspire me :)

  4. Congrats! That is crazy fast! And BTW, I HATE tapering so I can only imagine how adding another week to that madness felt!

  5. Congrats on a big PR! You looked so strong at the finish. Well done!

  6. Ohhhhh seeing all those "7s" boy that makes my day. I see "14s" all the time. hahaha! You did great! I am always curious how people handle the cold.

    I had my first 37 degree run this morning and I actually really liked it. But I wouldn't want that everyday and let's not even talk about ice and snow.

    Good job! What is your next run or goal?

  7. Congratulations!!! You are amazing!

  8. Glad to read your review. The Soldier Marathon was my first. I have a lot of great experiences from the weekend. It was a wow moment for me. In fact, the last 4 miles was the most fun I have ever had running. Neevr hit the wall.

  9. Believe it or not, I was actually thinking about your story during my race. I was hoping to see the hubby somewhere along the way so I could steal his socks!

  10. Congrats on completing your first marathon! I'm glad it was a great experience for you as well. Very impressive to hear you describe the last few miles that way. Best of luck with your next!

  11. Tina @ Best Body FitnessNovember 20, 2012 at 7:36 AM

    THAT is one heck of a PR! Way to go!!! I want to do that race one year. It sounds like such a great one. I've only ever really heard good things about it.

    That's so amazing that you conquered that time even with the few mishaps along the way. Although getting an energy bust that late into the race must have been soooo nice.

  12. I haven't gotten around to commenting yet, but I still want to add my congratulations! You really had an amazing race. Glad this all worked out