Monday, October 12, 2015

Steamtown Marathon 2015 Race Recap

I ran a marathon!

I still can't quite wrap my head around it, but my body is quick to remind me that something extreme happened yesterday. Stairs and I are not friends today.

This recap got long, sorry!

Saturday morning we dropped Buddy off to be boarded for the night and hit the road. Scranton, Pennsylvania is only two hours from our house, so it was an easy drive to the expo. The expo itself was fairly small but really well organized. Packet pickup was a breeze, and they had a spot to check your bib to make sure your timing chip was working correctly.

I used my birthday money from my grandma to get a snazzy marathon jacket and pint glass. I only get one first marathon, so I definitely wanted some extra goodies to commemorate the event.

They had a panel with the race director Bill King, and runners Jon Sinclair and Kim Jones (who are both crazy fast!). They talked about race strategy for the course and answered questions. The course advice boiled down to this: hold back and take it easy for the first half of the race. The first half, especially the first 6 miles, is mostly downhill, and it will absolutely kill your legs if you go out too fast. They all recommended running an even split rather than trying to bank time in the first half.

Tom came up with the catch phrase, "It's better to have gas in the tank than time in the bank." It popped into my head several times on Sunday, and brought a smile to my face while I was counting down the miles.

We tried to go to a pub for dinner, but they were having some big fall festival thing and had a cover charge just to get in. Since I wasn't planning on even having beer with dinner, it didn't make sense to spend extra money just so we could get something to eat.

The second place we tried was closed (seriously?).

By this point I just wanted to eat something, and since we had already paid to park, we found a pizza place that was in walking distance. Then it was off to the hotel to get organized and get to sleep. We somehow both forgot to pack our phone chargers, so we took a field trip to CVS to pick a couple of cords up. On the bright side, that was the only thing I forgot to pack, and it was easily fixed.

On Sunday morning we woke up bright dark and early and made a quick stop at Dunkin Donuts for coffee and a bagel. Then we were off to the start at Forest City High School. The starting area was great! They had the high school open so we had a warm place to hang out until the start (which was nice because it was 38 degrees out), handed out water to the runners, and had a totally reasonable number of porta potties.

I don't have a mile-by-mile recap for you, because that's not how my mind was working on Sunday, but here are things I do remember:

The race starts with a civil war cannon! They warn you several times that the cannon is real, and it will be loud. Apparently it has startled people in the past.

There are a lot more rolling hills in the beginning of the race than the elevation chart would have you believe. We set off through the first of many little towns, and already there were tons of people out to cheer the runners on. The high school band was playing Thriller as we ran through Forest City.

I had GUs all over, creating really attractive lumps.

I did a really good job of keeping my pace reasonable at the beginning of the race. Even as early as mile 4 there were people breathing really heavy around me, while my breathing was even and I was feeling strong.

There were a couple of viewpoints where I got to see Tom. The first was around mile 8, he jogged along side me a little ways and told me I was doing a good job at not going out too fast.

Spectators were plentiful on the course, especially considering the size of some of the towns we ran through. Their signs were hilarious, and had me smiling and laughing, even into the later miles. There were a lot of unofficial aid stations set up too, offering everything from water and sugar to ice pops, gummi bears, orange slices, and even beer! There's a bit of a hill around mile 23, but you hardly notice because there is a huge block party going on! They had a hose misting over the street (heaven!), water, snacks and music - they were having a great time and it was a nice boost toward the end when we were struggling.

There is one quiet stretch of paved trail that a lot of people were complaining about ("here's the boring part," I heard one girl say), but it made up for the lack of spectators with absolutely gorgeous scenery. We ran alongside a stream and were surrounded by some serious fall foliage. I really enjoyed it! We hit the halfway point out on the trail a little after the 2 hour mark. I had not so secretly hoped to finish around the 4 hours mark, but at that point (with the hills ahead of me) I figured that wasn't going to happen.

I could not remember where the second viewpoint was. Mile 9? 15? I kept waiting for a large group of people, because I knew Tom would be there. It was mile 17. I was still feeling good (though obviously tired) and it was a nice boost to have my own personal cheering section tell me I was looking strong and keeping a good pace.

I kept some of the most even splits I have ever run until about mile 19. There was a gravel trail that I didn't know was coming, and everyone around me slowed down. It seemed to throw everyone off.

I completely forgot to stop my watch until long after I finished.

My left big toe started hurting somewhere around mile 20, and my right hip flexor started cramping up shortly after. Both were manageable, but annoying.

The hills really aren't that bad, it's just that they're at the end of the race. I had a huge grin on my face when I read "last turn" spray painted on the road. Unfortunately, the biggest and longest hill is around that turn. The first half is steep, but even when you get past the steep part, you're still going uphill. The spectators are amazing on that hill - they definitely kept me going! That, and the knowledge that once you get to the top of the hill there's a quarter mile of downhill, and then: the finish line.

As much as I was exhausted, I wanted to finish strong, so I picked up the pace on the downhill and finished with a smile on my face. I excitedly received my space blanket (I was weirdly excited about getting one of these because I've never gotten one before) and told the woman who put my medal over my head, "I've been looking for you all day!"

I finished with a chip time of 4:11:23!

I tried really hard not to curse at the runners in the food tent who had come to a complete stop. Couldn't they feel their muscles locking up? All I wanted was to get through the tent so I could keep walking. Tom met me outside the food tent and we walked around a bit before heading back to the car. I was tired and done with the crowds around the finish.

We drove home, picked up the pooch, had Chinese food for dinner, and I fell asleep on the couch around 9:45.

I didn't open it until lunch today, but this was seriously my fortune. No joke!

Tom was the best marathon buddy ever this weekend. He drove all over the place to see me at the viewpoints and at the finish, and put up with my moody nervousness like a champ. He even sat through the expo panel with me and hung out in a cafeteria full of runners doing strange pre-race things at the start. Plus he met me at the finish with this magnet:

He's kind of the best.


  1. Aww, Tom was such a sweet fan club of one! Love all of the things he did along the way. Your jacket is awesome!! You are right--you'll never get another first marathon. Excellent choice on the gear. And the race--you did amazing!! Congrats on such a strong race.

    1. Thanks Jan! I love my jacket and have been drinking out of my glass since we brought it home!

  2. Congrats again! Your splits really showed you were keeping a good steady pace for the bulk of it. Nice job!
    I bought a jacket after my first marathon too and I wear it ALL the time.
    So know what you mean about the complete halt and muscle lockup at the end of the race. The NYC Marathon is the worst because we get to go about 10 blocks up in Central Park before they will let us exit. So all of a sudden you cross the finish line and come to a complete dead stop and there's just crowds of people and it lasts for 20-30 minutes or more. Some people have passed out. It's scary. Tom sounds like he was the perfect teammate for you yesterday. You'll be walking up stairs pain free in no time....and then the question will come.....which marathon will you do next?! ;)

    1. Thanks Sally! I might freak out if I had to stand around for 20+ minutes after running a marathon! I'm currently looking forward to taking a break from being in training, but I'm sure I'll be race shopping before too long!

  3. Congrats again Becky! WOW you spanked that race! So strong. That is a very snazzy jacket. Well earned!

    1. Thanks Marcia! I'm still wrapping my head around the whole thing! :)

  4. congrats on your first marathon! Super impressive! I love the jacket you picked up and your cheer squad of one sounds like he did a perfect job! Bask in your glory, enjoy it!

  5. You rocked it! That's a great time and awesome fortune cookie! haha

    1. Thanks Jess! I was cracking up when I opened that fortune cookie.

  6. Congratulations on a great race.

  7. Congratulations!!!!! You're a marathoner!!!! You're time is awesome too! I did my first marathon in January in 5:48. Enjoy the lib wrong post accomplishment high!

    1. Thank you! It's still a little difficult to wrap my head around running 26.2 miles, even though I did it! :)


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