On 10/10/10 I ran my 12th marathon (10th state): the Mohawk-Hudson River Marathon in the Albany area of New York. I usually travel to marathons alone, but this time my friend Jen was running the marathon as well and was accompanied by her husband Chris. They were kind enough to allow me to travel with them, and it was a great experience.
It was significant that it was my 10th state, as that earned me membership in the 50 States Marathon Club. A couple of months before the marathon I emailed the race director to ask if my race number could have the number “10” somewhere in it. She said she would do her best. When we arrived at the Expo the day before the race, I was flabbergasted to discover that not only did they give me a race bib # with “10” in it, but they gave me number 1010!!! To run in my 10th state on 10/10/10 with bib # 1010 was so exciting. To top it all off, they wrote a nice note on my race packet thanking me for including their small marathon in my journey to pursue the 50 states. It was so touching.
Jen was kind enough to find us a great restaurant for our carbo loading dinner, so we headed to the restaurant soon after the Expo. Luckily we both preferred an early dinner so our reservation was at 4:30. It’s nice when marathoners’ schedules/routines match up when traveling!
I was in bed by around 8:30 the night before the marathon. I couldn’t fall asleep right away, but as Hal Higdon says, as long as you are horizontal you are getting the rest you need! I had to be up by 6:30 the next morning to meet Jen and Chris at 7:00 to depart for the starting line.
We arrived at the starting area with plenty of time to spare. It was COLD! I had bought throw-away clothes and was wearing fleece pants, a long sleeved shirt, a fleece sweatshirt, a hat, and gloves. Our one mistake was waiting to go to the bathroom until after the buses arrived with the majority of runners. We stood in line to use the port-a-potty for 35 minutes, and barely made it to the start on time. I also needed to drop of my bag at the baggage bus, and had to run to the start.
It was a beautiful day, and I shed all of my extra clothes (except for the gloves) within the first half a mile. The sun was shining and it got up to the mid 50s. I would have preferred some clouds, but was just grateful that it wasn’t too hot out. It was a small marathon, with about 800 runners. I was never running alone, but it was never crowded. There weren’t that many spectators along the route, but the ones who were there were very enthusiastic. The majority of the route is on a paved path that runs along the river, and that made for a very scenic route. The only not-so-scenic part was in downtown Albany around the 18 to 21 mile mark.
I talked to several runners along the way. I met a woman from Texas who said that 31 Texans traveled together for the race! Fun! I asked her what was the best marathon to run in Texas and she said “hands down” it was Houston. I met a man who told me he was from Amsterdam. I thought that was so cool! Then about 10 minutes later I discovered that he meant Amsterdam, New York which was only about 20 minutes away! LOL. I also met some women who were running their first marathon. They asked me about my tattoos. I usually wear several temporary tattoos on marathon day, most of them saying “26.2.” I get them from marathontattoo.com. I also have a permanent tattoo that says “26.2” on my upper back but you usually can’t see it even with a tank top.
I was feeling good the whole race but wasn’t so worried or concerned about my pace. I was just trying to enjoy the scenery and the whole race experience. I always hope to finish in less than 5 hours, but otherwise I was unconcerned with my time. I kept telling myself to just run as fast as I could but still be comfortable. I noticed at the half way mark that my time was 2:21-something. Since I normally run pretty even splits (same time for each half of the marathon) I realized that I might be able to run a PR (personal record; fastest marathon time). At the time my PR was 4:53:41, which I had run in Tampa at the Gasparilla Marathon in February of 2010.
Knowing I had a PR in my sights, I decided to keep running as fast as I could without pushing myself too hard. I knew that if I kept my pace under 11 minutes per mile that I would definitely get a PR. I wear a Garmin watch that tells me my pace at every moment, and in the second half of the race I looked at it quite often. This is not a practice I normally engage in, and it’s not something I would recommend to most marathoners. But for some reason this strategy worked well for me at the time. I think perhaps knowing that I was trying to reach a certain goal, and having the data to help me get to that goal, really pushed me forward. It was not until mile 23-ish that I stopped to walk for a short while. I normally take short walk breaks throughout my marathons, but not this time. Knowing I had a PR on the horizon kept me running. But at mile 23-ish I knew that even if I walked for a bit I would still have a PR. In retrospect, I wish I hadn’t taken that walk break. I don’t think I really needed it; however, since I knew a walk break wouldn’t affect my PR I guess I just decided to take it.
In the last couple of miles, I knew I was going to run a PR. At that point it was just a matter of by how many minutes. I told myself I was going to take one more electrolyte capsule at the final water stop as one last boost to the finish. Unfortunately that stop was only about .6 mile from the finish. But I stopped anyway as I was mentally counting on it. I probably didn’t need it, and it took about 30 seconds off my time, but I didn’t really care. As I approached the finish line I gave it all I had and ran as fast as I could. I heard my friend Jen cheering for me and I also heard the announcer call my name. I was absolutely jubilant as I looked at my watch and saw that I ran a 4:44:37 (a 9:04 PR). I was also thrilled that I had completed my 10th state and that I was now a member of the 50 States Marathon Club. I was smiling excitedly for such a long time.
After a few pictures and consuming some food and beverages, we headed to the hotel so I could take a shower. Then we were on the road for our journey home. We stopped at Applebee’s for a post-race meal and I had my favorite post-marathon meal: a burger and fries! YUM! There was not much time to rest when I got home, though. I had 5 weeks until my next marathon and training began again on Monday!