3 Bridges Marathon 2017- PR’s & Pacing!

3 Bridges Marathon 2017- PR’s & Pacing!

Where to begin?! It’s been a while since I’ve posted and I am a few race recaps behind. I will catch up at some point but first things first!  Two days ago I ran my 21st marathon. I went into it unlike any other marathon I’ve ever raced.

I registered for 3B26 at the beginning of June. At the time I was in the thick of dealing with plantar fasciitis but I was optimistic that by December I would be ready for a decent marathon. I have a long history with 3B26 and as far as I was concerned not running it wasn’t an option. When I finally started training again in August it took a while to see progress and just when things were starting to click I had another small setback. At the beginning of November I tested positive for the flu. Long story short(er) I had to take over a week off and when I did start running again it felt like I was starting from scratch. The flu kicked my butt and the whole ordeal was at least a 3 week setback in training. I managed one desperate 18 mile long run three weeks before the marathon and decided then I would have to defer since I wasn’t ready. I found out I missed the deferment deadline so I still had a race bib.

In the weeks leading up to the marathon I was feeling much better and started building mileage for my spring marathon. When I realized I had a 19-20 mile run scheduled the day of the marathon I immediately thought about running with my good friend and training partner Natalie. Natalie had been training for the 3 Bridges Marathon for months. She never missed a run and trained harder than ever before. My goal long run pace was 7:10-7:20 which was right around her goal marathon pace. So I mentioned the idea to Natalie to see if she would want some company or if it would throw off her game plan. Everyone is different and I did not want to mess up her racing strategy at all. After all, this was HER race and just a long run for me. Natalie immediately said yes so the plan was set. I would run 20 miles with her and when the race passed through the starting line/ finish area I could easily drop out. In the back of my mind I knew I could keep going but I didn’t want to think about that and wouldn’t make that decision until mid race. I’ve never DNF’d any race in my life but would this count since I was just using it as a training run?

We stayed in Little Rock Friday night at our friend Amy’s house. My girls also came because they love girls trips and Amy said they could hang out with her and cheer during the race.

Saturday morning Natalie and I were up well before 5. Race temps were going to be in the mid 30’s so we planned to keep on our winter gear as long as possible before checking our bags.

The Race
Our plan was to run the first mile just under a 7:30 pace and then stick around 7:15- 7:20 for a while. From the start we were third and fourth female. I’ll admit it was hard and felt almost wrong to run back like this and not race. I knew the first and second place females were running right around a 7 min pace and it was a little tempting to want to jump up there with them. But this was early on in a marathon. This was a TRAINING run. My job was to PACE Natalie. This is what I was repeating to myself in my head.

Pacing a race adds a new level of responsibility and requires a different mindset. I’ve paced family members a few times but I’ve never paced a marathon for someone. I tried to be conscience of letting Natalie have the inside anytime there was a turn or asking if she needed a drink when there was an aid station ahead. Natalie stayed focused and on top of her fueling plan like a champ.

One of the biggest lessons I learned from Natalie was patience. As the miles passed we were slowly gaining on the females in front of us and it was very tempting to pass them right then and there but the goal was to run Natalie’s race (not mine). We stayed steady and kept our game plan. We passed one around mile 10 and the other around mile 12. We went through the half marathon split around 1:36. This was my first time to really do the math and figure out she was on pace for a sub 3:15. Her initial goal was a sub 3:20. I knew based off her goal pace she would be faster if she could maintain it.

Miles 1-13

Mile 1- 7:27

Mile 2- 7:16

Mile 3- 7:20

Mile 4- 7:27

Mile 5- 7:13

Mile 6- 7:25

Mile 7- 7:16

Mile 8- 7:15

Mile 9- 7:17

Mile 10- 7:19

Mile 11- 7:11

Mile 12- 7:15

Mile 13- 7:17

Mile 13.1- 1:36:22

After the half way point I focused on getting her up and over the Big Dam Bridge.  This is the toughest section of the 3 Bridges Marathon- right around mile 18.  Natalie powered up the bridge and we were able to maintain a steady pace.  We passed through the finish / start area and headed over the Two Rivers Park bridge. Before the race she knew I might drop out at mile 20 or pick up the pace in the last 5 or 10k but during the race the timing never seemed right.  I needed to get Natalie through the Two Rivers Park loop.  In my experience the Two Rivers Park loop is the second hardest section of the race.  It’s not physically challenging the way the Big Dam Bridge is but it is mentally challenging.  It’s a long loop that at this point in the marathon feels never ending.  The first time I ran 3B26 in 2013 I was following elite runner Leah Thorvilson who basically pulled me through until I just couldn’t keep up any longer. (She was dropping 6:30’s/ 6:40’s and I was hanging on by a thread!) To this day that is still my best 3B26 time and I know having Leah pace me for much of the race was a huge reason why I ran a sub 3. In 2015 and 2016 I was alone for the Two Rivers Park section and my pace fell apart both times.  I do not have the best memories of this back loop.  My mind immediately goes to total pain and desperation to finish.  I didn’t want to leave Natalie to fend for herself here. It really helped seeing Amy and the girls around mile 22 when we started the loop.

Mile 22-ish

Anna loves Amy’s dog Bentley

We kept going and I tried to break this section in little segments for Natalie. It really helped running this in some practice long runs this fall.  I could tell Natalie was ready to be done and she did a great job of pushing through the pain.  She stayed focused and committed.  As we were starting to head out of the loop we saw her husband and her girls.  I’m so glad we saw them when we did because the pace was starting to become more of a struggle.  We needed 2 more miles! Right around this time our friend and Searcy Rush teammate Beverly rode up on her bike.  She stayed right behind us and encouraged Natalie.  When we hit the mile 25 marker Natalie told me to go on.  I asked her if she was sure and she said she was since she had Beverly.  We never talked during the race about when / if I would leave her but when she told me this I knew she was ready.  She was ready to finish the last mile so I went on.  For the first time in over 3 hours I was running on my own and it felt strange and new.  I had held myself back for 25 miles so when I let myself go it was pretty exhilarating.  I tried to picture myself feeling this good in the last mile of the Little Rock Marathon.

I had no idea (or really even cared) what my time was but I felt amazing crossing the finish line.  I knew Natalie wasn’t too far behind me and she was going to have a huge PR.  She finished in 3:14:06- a 12+ min PR!!

Second half splits:

Mile 14- 7:20

Mile 15- 7:23

Mile 16-7:14

Mile 17- 7:14

Mile 18- 7:28

Mile 19- 7:12

Mile 20- 7:22

Mile 21- 7:20

Mile 22- 7:25

Mile 23- 7:28

Mile 24- 7:25

Mile 25- 7:37

Mile 26- 6:44

Mile 26.3- 6:32

Official Finish Time- 3:12:31

There was a lot of celebrating after this one.  Even though this was not my PR or my big moment it was so rewarding watching my friend reach her goal.  I’ve never experienced a marathon in this way and I can see why people enjoy being pacers.  There is definitely a sense of pride and satisfaction in knowing you’ve done your job and helped someone else reach their goal.

Photo credit @ Beverly Smith

Since I wasn’t all out racing my recovery has been similar to a long run which is pretty nice!  My legs are tired but nothing is achy or hurting.  I took yesterday off and ran an easy 6 today.  I’m moving right along into week 4 of my Little Rock / Boston Marathon cycle so hopefully by later in the week I will feel fully recovered.  This race was definitely a confidence booster.  Little Rock Marathon- I’ll be ready for you!


  1. How fun to pace her to a PR! I’ve paced before (informally, not as a pace team) and it’s stressful! Especially if the pace falls off. Then what? Do you slow down with your pacee? Maintain pace?! So much to fret about! But also, enjoyable to have a buddy to run with at the same time!
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  2. I’m a Minneapolis Minnesota runner who came down to run 3 Bridges; I’ve been following your blog for awhile so it was really cool to see you on the course! Though I didn’t have a chance to introduce myself, I’m guessing you had already left by the time I finished 🙂

    My race recap is here if you want to check it out:

    Congratulations on yet another amazing finish! I had a great time at this race and will definitely be spreading the word to Minnesota runners to check it out!

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