Today was the Grand Rapids Marathon In Grand Rapids, MI.
Woke up this morning with all my stuff already set out from the night before. I pretty much threw on my gear and drove myself 20 minutes to the starting line. The temperature was 39 degrees for the start, but calm and dry. I ran wearing my tri shorts and Grand Valley Running Club singlet, and new Saucony Fastwitches, so basically nothing. The first 3 miles were absolutely freezing. I went out with the lead group to get a feel for the pace. I began to evaluate the lead runners around 4 miles. I decided I would let two of them go, and the rest I would make sure stayed behind me. I battled it out with a few guys until mile 8, where they turned for the half marathon return. I felt kinda stupid for possibly burning out energy, but it felt good to know that at that point I was easily in the podium of the race.
A few hills were between mile 10 and 14, but nothing that was overbearing. I began to start passing the people from My Team Triumph, which is a charity group that pushes kids in wheelchairs who are disabled, for the entire race. I cheered on the kids in the wheelchairs along the way. It puts a huge smile on my face to see these volunteers making such a big difference in these kids lives.
The scenery of the race was perfect. The leaves are just about to start falling, and the trees are all fire red. The lake park we ran through was gently foggy with glassy water, and the river was blue, and normally is a light brown color. It really couldn’t have been more beautiful.
After that, I found myself running alone, nobody in sight. It was mentally testing for a couple of miles, especially since I was beginning to feel the lactic acid (or PH if you are a science geek) build up in my legs. On top of that, my ankles were getting sore as well. I pressed on, asking myself “how bad do you want it? what are you made of? look how far you’ve come” and just around the corner was a huge aid station and tons of people cheering. This, as always, was a big mental and physical boost. This also began a new section of the course, an out and back for 6 miles right on the Grand River. People were constantly cheering, and the worries of any pain quickly faded.
I saw a relay team, each person doing 6 miles on legit, 4 foot tall stilts. Random. Just throwing it out there. Made me laugh.
at mile 20 I was still averaging 5:57/mi pace, which is undoubtedly a PR pace for me. I was looking at going 2:39 today, which averages at 6:03/mi. With 6 miles to go, I knew it was going to be a close call, and I was burning out pretty fast. I took some Gu and pickle juice at the aid station, and started counting down the last 10k.
Being my hometown race, I know all the strategy and mile markers like the back of my hand, which helped me tremendously in those final miles. I was able to make surges in the right places. Also, I noticed a guy catching up behind me, so I made sure to keep running efficiently. I took blind corners quickly to try to get enough ahead where he couldn’t keep sight of me any longer… kind of playing a head game with him. With 2 miles left, I could see the building on the horizon where we finish. I threw on the afterburners and kicked it up to everything I had left for those final two. I hit my pain threshold for the first time in these two miles, but wouldn’t let that take over my mind. I found my legs soon to be numb, or me hallucinating slightly, one or the other.
The final straight away took me right by my classroom building for business classes, and marked the .8 miles left point. I could see the crowd and the finish timer. It was the seemingly longest .8 miles I’ve ever ran, but before I knew it, I was raising my fist over my head, smiling big, and crossing that finish line.
I got a picture with Don Kern, the race director, who is one heck of an awesome guy, and knows how to put on exceptional races. A medal was placed over my head, and I grabbed some food on my way out of the chute, congratulating people along the way.
I went to the official times tent to check my time and placement. They didn’t have the marathon results at the time, so I took my foil blanket they handed out at the finish line, wrapped myself up, and took a nap on the asphalt for a good 20 minutes before waking up. I went back to the tent, saw that the results for the marathon were up, and made my way through the crowd. I saw my result and nearly cried. 3rd overall, 2:43. I had no idea I was in third. It was an overwhelming surprise, one I am incredibly thankful to be able to accomplish.
This concludes my “official” marathon season. I am sure I will register for something last minute out of impulse, but for now, I have nothing planned until February 2nd. However, I will be competing in Nationals for the 8K distance for my collegiate running club during November.
All in all, It was a great season. So many blessings came my way that were completely unexpected, and I can’t be thankful enough for all of them. I was able to meet some incredible people along the way too!
Now… I will eat lots of pizza and donuts.
Best to all, and never stop believing in yourself!