The Columbus Marathon is the race of my PR dreams. First, for my half marathon PR, and now, (drumroll, please) my full marathon PR.
I was a little worried since I’d never run the full 26.2, but I had no reason to be. The course was challenging enough to hold my focus, and fun enough to keep me entertained. The flat, fast course, the awesome crowd support, the fireworks and AC/DC blaring at the start — this race will forever be my favorite.
As I’ve said before, this year has been one of celebration and personal trial — am I still me, now that I’m 40? It’s such a milestone birthday, ask anyone. Some people quit smoking, some people decide to lose weight, some change careers, but very few let 40 pass them by without some form of self-reflection. For me, it was the marathon. Can I still do it? Will it break me? Can I keep up? Are my knees wrinkly?
Going into this race, I was very conservative in my goal: just break four hours. I knew I could do that. I worked hard for three and a half months to get to the starting line injury-free. My training went well, and adding Body Pump 1-2 times a week was undoubtedly the key to my PR. For the first time, maybe ever, I was strong all over, not just my calves and quads. (“You have abs, Muffin!” Yes, husband, because I worked my ass off!)
But still. I’m 40 now. I hadn’t run a marathon in three years. Everyone — including the voices in my head — knows that as you age, you slow down. Things get harder.
Several people have asked me if a PR was my “secret goal.” What does that even mean? That I have an ulterior motive? Sheesh. No, my goal wasn’t to PR, it was to have a great race. My mantra was to run comfortably, maintain the effort. Uphill, downhill, flats, turns — no matter what, I was not going to elevate my heart rate or burn out before 20 miles.
Mile 6 came and went. No issues, feeling great.
Mile 11, came and went. Nothing, still feeling great.
Mile 15, awesome (what the hell, I feel amazing!).
Mile 19, good, but starting to fatigue.
Mile 22, no pain, only fatigue.
Mile 24, a glance at the time, HOLY CRAP, IF I JUST KEEP MOVING I COULD PR!
Miles 25-26.2, a blur of exhaustion.
I checked my pace three times in the beginning: 9:38, 8:07 and 10:16. I decided to stop doing that because it wasn’t telling me anything, it was just making me nervous. I started between the 3:45 and 4:00 pace bunnies, and I pulled back whenever the 3:45s got close. At mile 17, I lost the 3:45s but the 4:00s never passed me, so I just kept shuffling. Run comfortably, maintain the effort. I walked my water stops, every three miles. I walked an extra stop between 22-24 because I really needed it.
In the start corral, I was talking to an older man, who wanted to do a 3:45. It was his first marathon. His only other race, a half marathon, was a 1:55. Not totally impossible, but I had my doubts. He was wearing cotton knee socks and a sweatband, and I questioned his judgment. I lost him in the first mile, and then at mile 25, there he was. Wearing his cotton knee socks and sweatband — running his heart out. I caught up to him, ran beside him and told him he was awesome. Together, somehow, we closed in on the 3:45 group, and we finished with matching 3:43s. I learned my lesson: Don’t ever judge a book by its cover.
All Jacked Up – Gretchen Wilson
Enter Sandman – Metallica
Dixieland Delight – Alabama
“If Britney Spears can survive 2007, you can finish this race!”
When I ask my husband if he knew my official time, he said, “Around a 3:50, based on where you were at mile 24. The 3:45 pace group was out ahead.” I guess my watch was wrong after all. A minute later, Shannon texted me my results, and you woulda thought I won the lottery.
- The start is first-class. Fireworks!
- There were TONS of port-o-potties at the start, yes!
- There seemed to be music and crowds the entire way
- The Corny Field, a half-mile stretch of bike path that ran right through a cornfield. It had the potential to be horribly boring, but some freakin’ geniuses put up speakers, blared Bon Jovi and lined the path with cheesy inspirational signs like, “Stay classy, Columbus Marathon!” featuring Ron Burgundy, of course.
- Running through Ohio Stadium.
- The Children’s Champion miles, especially mile 11, the “Angel Mile.”
- The “Fluid Ahead” signs that alerted you to the water stops, so no more surprise dodging and weaving.
- The guy who ran near me for most of the race, wearing a Dingle Marathon jacket.
- The PR gong! There was a huge line because this race is so badass.
If you need a fun, fast fall marathon, I highly recommend Columbus. The weather is almost always perfect, and the race itself is fantastic. (Although, my toes would disagree as they are livid pissed about this whole experience, but they’ll forget soon enough.)
Most of all, I found that turning 40 doesn’t really change anything. I did keep up, I smashed my own expectations. I not only PR’d at 3:43, I qualified for Boston again — something I never thought I’d be able to do — and this time I did it by myself, I didn’t have a pacer.
And you know what else? My knees aren’t wrinkly! I’m still me, except maybe now I’m a little bit smarter, a little more patient and a lot more humble — Amie