Last Sunday’s Columbus Marathon finish was the completely exhausted but 100% over-the-moon kind. As I scrounged up whatever energy my legs had left for the last ¼-mile “sprint,” I felt like I was in one of those motivational Pinterest images with the words “Dig deep” across it in bold lettering. I spotted my mom and dad cheering for me from the sidelines and thought, this is IT. When you cross that finish line you get to sit on your bum and eat brunch with the nicest parents ever. And they’re probably treating. When all was run and done, I clocked in at 3:45:09, shaving 11 whole minutes off my time at the Chicago Marathon last year. IT FELT AWESOME.
When I started training for marathon #3 back in June, my goal was to break 3 hours and 50 minutes. I finished my first two marathons in the same amount of time (3:56, give or take a handful of seconds), but they were also spaced apart three years, so I felt like I was starting from scratch with #2. This year I followed a break-3:45 training plan from Runner’s World because there was no 3:50 available, so why not? Now I know the training paid off, and it was a hot day to boot. I wasn’t even that sore the next day—no hobbling like last year!—which tells me that I not only trained right, but am ready to push myself even harder for my next marathon. You can bet I’m gunning for a BQ (runnerspeak for Boston Qualifying time) soon.
All right, so race deets. Ready?
First off, I was a lot smarter about preparation this year, as in, I actually read a few articles to make sure I wasn’t screwing myself over. Rather than eat out for dinner the night before my race, I stopped at a grocery store and made butternut squash and goat cheese pasta to eat with my sister and brother-in-law (who deserve a shoutout for driving me downtown at an ungodly hour and also for letting me use their toilet way too much). My sister also made the most delicious snickerdoodle apple cobbler for dessert Saturday, and I think everyone should experience its majesty so here’s the recipe. Race morning I ate my standard graham crackers with peanut butter (dipped in coffee), plus a banana. And to prevent having to pee at the beginning of the race like at Chicago last year, I stopped drinking water 45 minutes before the start—yay for zero bathroom struggles along the course!
Props to the organizers of this race for making the start super fun with FIREWORKS. (Clearly, it doesn’t take much to excite me.) The half-marathoners started at the same time as the marathoners, so it was a nice, full field to begin. Despite my adrenaline I knew I needed to keep my pace in check, so early on I found a 1:50 half marathon pace group that I stuck with for the first 12ish miles before they split off for the finish. The first 13.1 miles of a marathon generally feel wonderful: You’ve run this distance a million times, and it’s still cool out if it’s a hot day, as this one came to be. The Columbus half is also a really fun course that winds around downtown and through the Bexley, Olde Towne East and German Village neighborhoods. There are tons of spectators and plenty of bands to keep a no-headphones racer like me entertained. But then came the…
Second Half (dun-dun-dun!)
Once the half-marathoners split, it got a lot lonelier on the course—and not just because the pack was thinner. There were fewer spectators lining the course, barely any live entertainment, and Ohio State campus (O-H!) was a ghost town because it was early on a Sunday morning after a night football game. Hangovers galore, I’m sure. On top of that, the course headed into less scenic neighborhoods like Upper Arlington and Grandview, there were some gentle hills, and, oh yeah, the temperature kept rising. The high on Sunday was around 80, and after about 16 miles, upper 70s and no shade felt a little like hell. Especially because my morning runs dipped into the 40s and even upper 30s the past week or two. I was surprised by the number of runners I saw walking before even hitting mile 18, and the heat was definitely to blame.
For the first time ever, I also experienced a weird “Oh shit! My entire calf is clenching!” sensation, starting around mile 21 or 22. But then a pacer passed by me with a 3:45 sign, complete with balloons, and I knew I had to forge onward and follow those magical orbs. I remembered my new fave mantra and followed closely behind until my sweaty but oh-so-glorious sprint to the finish, hooray! (Because I neglected to mention during-race fueling: I had three Honey Stinger gels throughout the race on each hour, and I took a slice of orange from a nice kid on the sidelines who was wearing gloves, thankfully. As for hydration, I stopped at about every other fluid station, but more frequently in the heat at the end.)
Have you ever been on cloud 9? Because I’m pretty sure eating Hot Chicken Takeover at North Market after finishing a marathon with a PR is it. And I even got free banana pudding for my athletic feat. I’m miserable at stretching after racing, but I walked a couple miles to our lunch destination, which I think helped prevent my legs from cramping too much. I spent the night at a friend’s house, and come Monday morning I celebrated my finish and an extra day off work with my favorite-ever huevos rancheros. Seriously, better than a participant medal.
YOUR TURN: Tell me about your latest athletic feat! Or about your favorite place to order huevos, please and thanks.