On Saturday morning two things happened when I crossed the finish line in Wynne, Arkansas. First, I won my first marathon. Second, my marathon PR streak came to an end. I decided I’m going to celebrate the first and not dwell on the second. Running marathons less than a month apart is tough but I gave it my best shot. What made the morning unbelievably special to me was having my family there.
So what would possess me to run a marathon 27 days after Chicago? I’d like to blame it on a little something called the Arkansas Grand Prix. It’s brought out the team competitor in me that hasn’t been around since college. Not only did I register for the Midsouth Marathon but I managed to convince a few of my friends to join me! This was the only marathon on the Grand Prix schedule this year and we needed a complete team if we wanted to win any team points. Our club’s ladies team has been working hard all year to get the lead and a marathon win would help seal the deal. So I asked all the ladies in our club and three agreed to join me. None of them had ever run a marathon before so this was going to be a whole new experience!
I ran the Midsouth Half Marathon in 2011 and 2014 so I guess you could say I knew 50% of what to expect from this out and back course. The half is fairly flat. My logic was how much harder could the full be? My pace plan was simple. I wanted to stick to 6:40-6:45. I thought this would be realistic given my Chicago average was 6:43. In Chicago I started out in the 6:30’s (which was a little too aggressive) so I thought this pace change would make for a more comfortable last 10k. Not so much…
We live just over an hour from Wynne, AR so we left our house around 6 am Saturday morning. On the way there I ate a piece of toast with peanut butter and a banana, my usual pre-marathon meal. (I also drank 8 oz. of water and 8 oz. of Spark.) Packet pickup and registration was located at Wynne High School. I had plenty of time to get ready and settled. I saw several runners from the Arkansas Grand Prix and many within our own running club. While this race has the full and half marathon options you only earn Grand Prix points individually and for your team by running the full.
Weather was in the mid 50’s. Last year it was freezing so this was much more bearable. I knew there would be a strong headwind the first half but the second half should be better.
The start was fairly calm and relaxed. From the very beginning I found myself in third place overall and followed the two guys in front of me. Mile one clocked in at 6:47 which was much more conservative than my 6:21 start of Chicago. I saw John and the kids around the half way turnaround point. I was feeling strong and focused. Just 20 more miles to go!
I continued on the full course which was new territory. It had some rolling hills but I focused on the guy in front of me and trying to catch him. I also tried to take advantage of the straight sections when there wasn’t such a strong headwind. I finally caught the 2nd place runner in front of me around mile 11 and he stayed with me for about a mile until he fell back. After mile 12 I saw the lead runner headed back. I was getting close to the turnaround point! This meant I’d get to see John and the kids again. (Yes, this course is very spectator friendly!)
I crossed the half in 1:27:39 which again, was slower than Chicago so I thought I had a better chance of maintaining my pace. Once I started heading back something happened. I started getting more and more distracted. The runners in the other direction, the water stations, side traffic- anything and everything seemed to throw me off my pace game. I had planned to get an electrolyte drink from John around mile 17 but when he saw me there was too much going on. It was like sensory overload. I just yelled, “Mile 19!” Thankfully he is very understanding when I’m in crazy race mode. He gave me my drink at mile 19 and then I saw him and the kids one more time at 22. He could tell I was starting to lose it. They were all so sweet and encouraging.
I held on as long as I could but there were a couple miles in the last 10k that were plain ugly. (Specifically miles 23, 24, & 25.) It was during this point in the race I realized a sub 3 was out of the question. I just couldn’t maintain a 6:50 overall pace. Somehow I pulled it together a little in the last mile but I think that’s because there was some slight downhill. To be honest I was very shocked that no one passed me in the second half- especially in the last 5k. Once I made it to the track I smiled because it was over. I was so happy to see John and the kids.
Official Finish: 3:01:42 (1st Female / 2nd Overall). Official Results can be found here.
My three friends/ teammates who were running their first marathon did great! Two of them qualified for Boston (3:27 & 3:29) and our ladies team won the marathon based off placement/ points. Now there are only two Grand Prix races left for the year!
By the Numbers
I was just going to list my splits from Wynne below but it helped me seeing them next to Chicago.
|26.2||6:45 pace||7:32 pace|
There was definitely a different tone to the race this year. Last year a well known and loved runner in the Arkansas running community collapsed during mile 19 of this marathon and had to be airlifted to the nearest hospital. He died a few days later. During the race, every time I saw a runner wearing a 3 Bridges Marathon shirt (the race he directed) I smiled.
I’d recommend this race to anyone around the Arkansas / Tennessee area. The price is very reasonable (around $50) and it was very organized. Personally, I like the half course better than the full but maybe the full wouldn’t have been so tough if I’d not gone all out in Chicago. I’ll have to run this one again sometime when it’s my “A” race. My only suggestion would be to have gu/ gel available at some point during the race. I had carried 3 gels with me, thinking I could grab one later at some point during the race. I took my last gel around mile 18 and that was it. I definitely could have fueled a little better during the race. After the race was no problem- the post race food was the best! The awards and post race-meal are located in the high school cafeteria. There was a huge barbecue pulled pork spread as well as chicken, pizza and sides.
This was the second time all the kids have come to a marathon. It meant so much to me to have them there and to know I would see them every few miles down the road. It really gave me something to look forward to with each passing mile. John was amazing-as always with managing the kids, taking pictures (Abi too!), and encouraging me.
And now for some other marathon pictures from the weekend…
Thanks for the Facebook & Instagram messages after Saturday’s race! I really appreciate it!!