The journey to my 20th marathon started early Saturday morning. I had to work late on Friday night so the 5 am departure from home didn’t come easy. The drive to Atlanta is fairly easy so Brooklyn & I took advantage of passing through Birmingham and called our favorite Bama girls for breakfast. If you don’t follow @Bamagirlruns & @MsPrincessLeigh you are missing out on great things in your life. After spending over 2 hours at Waffle House talking running, Disney, and life we were back on the road heading east to Atlanta.
Once we arrived in town the first stop was the race expo. It was well organized and spread out with plenty of room between booths to allow people to move easily. This was way better than the last time I ran in this event. Since I was leading a pace group for the race I worked a table at the expo meeting runners and talking to them about the pace teams during the race. A lot of runners came by looking to set new PRs came by to meet the team. This is a great opportunity to get a little face time with the runners who approach the table. Usually these are new runners and in their first handful of races. Most of them were concerned with how the weather would affect their race strategy. The rain was coming.
After the expo Brooklyn & I, along with 2 other pacers, loaded the car and made our way to a dinner that I had organized for the pace team and other Marathon Maniacs. It was a quite place just outside of downtown and less than a mile from the expo center. I had a pretty incredible lasagna and an even more incredible chocolate peanut butter porter.
We stayed with a couple F3 friends about 40 minutes outside of town, Amanda and Tony. Amanda & I were out the door early Sunday morning (another 5 am departure) while Brooklyn and Tony took not running to their advantage and slept in while we started the race. The rain had already started by the time we started driving into the city. After battling a little downtown traffic we were parked and heading to the start line. The biggest perk of being a pacer so far was easily the free parking right at the start line. We made our way to the start line and found the right spot in the corrals for the 4:15 pace group. I ran into my Maniac friend Brian who I travel with pretty often. He usually runs between 3:55-4:15 so I encouraged him to hang with me for the race.
The corrals were pretty packed and I was surprised that there wasn’t a wave start. There were more than 10 corrals & 1 mass start. This created a very packed first 5 miles. Dodging and moving through hoards of runners/walkers moving through tightly packed city streets of Atlanta. A group of about 5 runners had come together behind me with a 4:15 goal in mind, including 2 first time marathoners. After the first few miles we were out of the city and heading east toward the suburbs, I was able to catch a pretty great shot of the city skyline from a bridge we were crossing around mile 5.
This course is known for its hills. They start early and come often so it makes balancing pace a little difficult. Knowing that I wanted to come across the line as close to 4:15:00 as I could I had to be strict to the 9:45/mile pace while still allowing some room to climb up and down the hills. I decided to hang closer to 10:00/mile on the up hill stretches and more on the 9:35/mile side on the downs. The hardest part of this course is not letting yourself roll down the hills full speed.
One guy that was running in my pace group told me that he just lifts his legs up and lets gravity pull him down the hill, I don’t recommend this strategy. I knew that I wanted to ease the impact on my knees as much as I could so shortened my stride and tried to keep a steady cadence. Some of those climbs were rough. One of the problems of running a hilly course in the pouring rain was how much space we had to run on. We were already pushed to the side of the residential roads and were only able to use one lane. Well half of that lane had a full river flowing downhill as the runners were drudging uphill. Being in a crowd running uphill on half a lane of asphalt was not a fun experience.
Just after the half marathon mark I lost sight of Brian and never saw him again, he always has trouble starting a marathon too fast and having a rough ending so starting with me was a good way to keep him feeling good for the back half. My pace group pushed ahead running the streets of Decatur and Druid Hills. We passed through the campuses of Emory College and as we came back in to the downtown area we went through the Georgia Tech campus. I’ve studied the elevation chart extensively so I knew what the final 2 miles of the race looked like, I remembered struggling with them so much in 2013. As I approached the final mile of the course I was working hard to pull along the runners around me and push them to the finish. It’s always incredible to see the look of determination on someone’s face.
I came around the last turn and saw the finish line just ahead, there was no Mile marker for 26 so I wasn’t completely sure where I was in relation to the race clock. But I ran in to the chute and crossed the line at 4:14:45! Judging out a 26.2 mile run and coming in within a 15 second plus or minus window is pretty good I’d say! This was my first experience pacing a full marathon and I must admit I was a bit nervous heading into it. I spent a lot of time in the week leading up to the race working on getting my pace right and putting my head into what I was doing. I believe that Pace groups are an important part of the marathon experience, especially for new runners. They can make a runner feel better about the entire experience and be the reason that they continue running marathons.
After the finish we waited for Amanda to come through then we made our way to my favorite restaurant in Atlanta, Dakota Blue. I found it a few years ago after a 5k I ran, they hosted the post race brunch, and have visited during every trip ever since. Delicious food happened, goodbyes to Tony and Amanda happened, then sleeping almost all the way back to Mississippi happened. I caught up on rest from the weekend while Brooklyn handled the thunderstorm driving.
|Overall||448 / 1,280|
|Male||343 / 808|
|Division||45 / 92|