Sunday, April 22nd was the day of my fourth marathon – the Glass City Marathon in Toledo, Ohio. 18 weeks of preparation lead up to one big day and it’s never guaranteed that things will go as planned. I became very aware of that when it was 70°F and humid to start my third marathon – 2016’s Bayshore Marathon in Traverse City, Michigan. Although I still had a relatively good experience, that marathon was kind of a bust for me. I do not cope well with heat or humidity and I ran 20 minutes slower than planned. Fortunately, I can put that race behind me now that I’ve run another successful marathon. It’s a really good feeling when 18 weeks of hard work comes together and pays off, and that’s what happened in Toledo.
I ran the Glass City Half Marathon in 2015 (recap here) and it still stands as my current PR for that distance. Obviously, I had a great race. That was a big deciding factor in choosing to run the full marathon in Toledo. The course is flat and fast and the weather has been great both times. The conditions were so ideal this year that several course records were broken!
Toledo is an hour and a half from home, so I chose to stay at a hotel in town the night before the race. I went to the expo first, which took place at the University of Toledo’s Savage Hall Arena.
Dave’s Running Shop had some nice merchandise, so I bought a cotton shirt from them.
I probably prefer the cotton one over the official race shirt, which is pretty thin and a brand I’ve never heard of. At least it fits and I do like the design.
I brought dinner back to the hotel where I settled in for the night. I debated what to wear as I re-watched the Boston Marathon that had taken place earlier in the week. It provided great inspiration and got me fired up for my own race.
As expected, I didn’t sleep very well. At first, my mind wouldn’t shut down. Eventually I fell asleep, but then I was constantly jolted awake by doors slamming in the hallway. Apparently my neighbors weren’t aware or didn’t care how loud the doors were because it seemed to happen all night long. Part of me was tempted to return the favor when I woke up at 4:30am.
I had a 15-minute drive to the University of Toledo campus and got there by 5:45 for a 7:00 start. It was a breeze parking in a huge lot about five minutes south of the starting line. It was in the mid-30s, so I stayed warm in the car for a bit before venturing out to the bathroom line. It only took a few minutes, so then I hung out near the gear check area until I was ready to hand off my warm clothing and head to the corral.
I had read an article about two guys who were hoping to break a world record for two people running tandem in a costume, so I was very entertained when I came across them in the starting corral.
As if running a marathon isn’t hard enough without that additional challenge! Their goal time of 3:30 was the same as mine, so I was lucky enough to see them a few times on the course. I couldn’t find any info about whether they were successful. The results show that one guy finished just under the record time but it looks like the other guy didn’t finish the race. I’m not sure what happened, but I saw them at one point more than halfway through the race and I give them credit for making it however far they went!
I found a few friends in the starting corral and lined up behind the 3:30 pacer. Throughout training I’ve run my marathon pace runs a bit faster than my intended 8:00 pace, so I thought staying behind the pacer would keep me under control. In the madness and congestion of the start, the pacer took off and I never saw him again. My first mile was 8:17, which was probably a good way to ease into the race. I realized as long as I didn’t catch up and pass the pacer, things would be fine because it meant that I wasn’t going too fast.
For as much time as I spent worrying about running too fast, somehow I naturally ended up right where I wanted to be. I had a few 7:57 miles in a row, then I spent a good chunk of the race hovering just above an 8:00 pace. I was very happy that halfway through the race my average was around 8:03. Although I trained to run a 3:30 marathon, my biggest goal was to qualify for Boston. My BQ time is 3:40, so I knew I needed to run at least 3:36-3:37 to actually get into the race. I spent plenty of time trying to do math in my head to assure myself that I’d make the cut even if I slowed down.
Although my feet were semi-numb for the first few miles, I warmed up and the conditions were perfect. It was probably in the 40s for most of the race and clear. The wind picked up a bit as the race went on but it didn’t bother me much, aside from the occasional strong gust. It was cool enough that I actually kept my arm warmers and gloves on through the first 20 miles.
I enjoyed running through the pretty neighborhoods, through a metropark, and along a paved trail. There were a couple spots with slight hills, but nothing too major. There was some entertainment scattered along the course, and the aid stations and relay handoff areas were full of excitement. This isn’t a spectator-heavy race, but a good number of people came out to cheer for the runners. I really appreciated the people who brought their dogs because they always made me smile.
At one point I heard a guy comment to his buddy that he was starting to feel it. I didn’t want to hear it and decided at that point that I wasn’t going to acknowledge negative thoughts. I was going to stay positive and kept telling myself, “I’ve got this. I’m killing it. I’m going to BQ.” At one point when I told myself I was a badass for doing a marathon, I passed a sign a minute later that said the same thing. It made me smile and helped reinforce the positivity.
It wasn’t always easy though. Things became noticeably more difficult by the time I made it through 20 miles. I had run a few miles here and there that were in the 8:10s, but by mile 20 I started to run some 8:20s and 8:30s. It was around that time that I passed my buddy Kurt. I really felt for him and wished there was some way I could pull him along, but he was struggling with some pains. At one point I became aware of my left knee, which is where I feel it when my IT band gets angry. Luckily it didn’t become a real issue. I felt a spot rubbing under my left arch, but that didn’t get too bad either. My stomach was a little bothered in the later miles, but somehow I was able to run through it without having to stop. Tired legs became the biggest issue, combined with the long, isolated stretch of the University Parks Trail that I had heard would be a mentally tough spot. It was several miles of a straightaway with few spectators or distractions. I came across people who were walking and told myself that I was going to keep fighting and keep pushing. I’ve had races where I’ve felt so miserable that I had to incorporate a run/walk method to get through the end, but somehow I was able to keep going this time. Although 20 miles was the point when I started to hit a wall, I never hit it hard enough to really crash. I kept monitoring my overall time and average pace, but avoided looking at my current pace after 20 miles. I knew that I had slowed down but I wanted to maintain a positive mindset. I kept counting down the minutes and the miles to convince myself that I was getting there as I struggled through the last few miles.
Eventually I got close enough to see the football stadium where we’d finish and had a couple of brief emotional moments. I pushed them aside so I wouldn’t get overwhelmed, but I knew that I was going to pull it off and got excited. Even though I could see the stadium, we still had a little ways to go. I wasn’t running with anyone, but there was a sense of camaraderie in my mind. It was kind of comforting to be surrounded by people who I knew were feeling it as much as I was. We were all in the same boat and we were almost there. As we got closer to the entrance to the stadium, the crowds of people lining the streets grew. They gave me a boost of energy, and I smiled and pumped my arms as I ran across the finish line. Usually it’s a semi-fake smile as I suffer in pain, but this time it was a genuine smile. I had gotten that BQ by over five and half minutes, giving me plenty of buffer to ensure that I should make it to Boston.
I was 24 seconds off of my best time, so although it wasn’t a PR, I was in the same neighborhood. For three out of my four marathons I’ve found that my final times tend to average about 10 seconds per mile slower than my goal pace. I’m fine with that though!
Here’s how my splits broke down:
A friend had finished about 15 minutes before me and he spotted me in the finisher’s chute. We chatted as I attempted to stretch a bit. I didn’t have anything left in me, but I didn’t feel completely shot or miserable either. I collected my medal and paced around the football field for a bit.
Since Toledo is the “Glass City,” finishers received glass mugs on the way to the post-race celebration.
The wind had picked up and I started to freeze, so I went to the gear check for my warm clothes before getting some food. They had fruit, granola bars, cookies, pizza, pasta, breadsticks, and more in the food tent. They also gave us a couple of beer tickets. After I ate I went to the massage tent and waited for a while. I’ve never had a massage at a race, but thought I should try it because the knee/IT band pain got noticeably worse as time went on. I don’t think the massage helped much, but it was worth a try. Eventually I started the long trek back to my car. My car was on the other side of campus, but I figured I could use a good walk to keep my legs from stiffening up anyway. I was surprised to find that I felt fine walking and even going upstairs.
I stopped for a smoothie during my drive, then was greeted by chocolate cream pie, a cookie cake, and a nice card from Matt when I got home. Knowing what a long and boring day of waiting it would have been for him, I had told him not to bother going with me to the race. He had been very understanding and provided plenty of support over the last 18 weeks of my crazy training schedule, and I didn’t feel the need to make him sit there for a good five hours just waiting for me to come across the finish line.
A headache kicked in later that evening, I found a couple of blisters on one foot, and my knee made stairs difficult. I moved slowly whenever I got up from sitting on Monday, but I didn’t have a noticeable limp and survived my day at work. The knee problem faded and I had some general leg soreness on Tuesday, but felt normal again by Wednesday.
It feels kind of weird to be done after spending the last four and half months working toward this race. The ultimate goal was to get to Boston and it looks like I’ve achieved that goal. This is actually my second time qualifying for Boston, but injury kept me from signing up for the 2017 race. At that point I actually wasn’t convinced that I was ready to go yet. I was a bit freaked out by all of the logistics, like spending a fortune between flying and a hotel room, having to wait around for hours in the athletes’ village before the start of the race, dealing with the potentially challenging weather that seems to hit that race so often, etc. I’ve come around over the last year though. I’ve tried to convince myself to go with the flow more and not to worry so much about the logistics. It seems like everyone who does the race raves about it and somehow they manage to deal with the inconveniences. Surely I can too. I’ve realized that it’s a privilege to have the opportunity to go to Boston and I should take advantage of that opportunity at least once.
I should probably take a break from doing another full marathon until Boston in hopes that I’ll be injury-free this time around. I’ve taken this week off of running so far and will ease back into things. I’ll keep celebrating this successful race and my Boston qualification for a little bit longer, knowing that triathlon season is looming next on my radar.