I haven’t run a marathon where I was trying to do my best in over a year. And the last time I tried, Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth in 2016 the high rose to 78F and I had a horrible experience, crawling over the finish line in 6:18 and ending up in the medical tent.
I knew this race was hilly. But I was also hopeful that a November race would have temperatures more to my liking. And it was only 20 minutes away so no traveling, no hotel, and a reasonable race fee. It seemed like a good choice.
I used my coach’s training plan from Grandma’s, BUT I modified it to have a less ambitious time goal, one that I felt was more attainable. I also added a couple of breaks for the sailing cruises we did this summer. After the second break in September I did lose a little fitness and that worried me at first. But I quickly made it back up. I also had a small setback attempting to do a marathon pace run in Missouri in October when it was extremely warm and humid but my final marathon pace run a couple of weeks ago went great so I was able to put that worry behind me.
On Saturday Lee and I drove up to Manchester to the SNHU campus so I could pick up my race bib and t shirt and check out the expo. The expo was small, but that’s to be expected for a small race. It looked like there were about 1800 people signed up for the marathon, half and relay, but most of those people were signed up for the half. There were only about 450 people signed up for the marathon.
We met Paula and Rich at the expo. Paula was running the marathon too, but this time were weren’t running together. It was really fun running with her at Dopey but she is a little slower than I am and I wanted to try and see how good I could do. So we could hang out at the start and see each out at the finish line!
Sunday morning I woke up at 5 AM. I didn’t really need to get up that early; the race didn’t start until 8:50. But I wanted to eat at least 3 hours before the start. It was pretty cold, as predicted. It was supposed to be around 25F at the start, climbing into the upper 30’s by 3 pm. For the first time in my marathon history I decided to wear tights. I figured my legs wouldn’t get too sweaty no matter what, and I had read a little about cold weather marathons and some people said it was better to wear tights in cold races because then your muscles would be warmer.
I had on 3 shirts, sweats on top of the tights, a beanie, gloves and my sparkly visor from Disney. I also had a coat and more hats and gloves in the car for after. I opted to park in the garage connected to the Radisson Hotel, right on Elm Street close to the start. That way I could stay in the hotel lobby and stay warm and use their bathrooms instead of the portapotties!
I stayed in the hotel until about 10 minutes before the start. Then I walked the 2 blocks to the start, put myself in the back with Paula, removed the sweats and the outer shirt. I wasn’t sure if the 2nd shirt would ever come off for this race!
|The Start - Photo by Paula Adams|
Ready! I set my watch and started. The first few miles were not that hilly, but I kept my pace conservative. I was determined to have something left at the end, and the only way to do that is to save it at the start. There’s no banking fast miles, as much as your body might want to GO! at the beginning.
We wound through a nice neighborhood and then down to the river and on to the first of several trails. It was pretty running along the river. We emerged from the trail and ran up Granite Street, our first big hill. Hmmm not too bad I thought to myself, but I did walk part of it. We went down Elm Street which is Manchester’s main street for the first of 4 times. We passed the 13.1 mile split for the marathon (we were at mile 5 or so) and someone joked about “the fastest 13 miles ever”. Then we headed down to the dreaded River Road. While River was still flat I stopped and removed my second shirt. Now I was down to arm warmers and a pink short sleeved shirt. I kept on my beanie the entire race, but took my gloves off periodically. My hands would get sweaty and then get cold and then get hot again, all through the race.
The actual hill on River Road wasn’t that bad. But even when we turned off of River onto the side streets the hills just went on and on and on. I continued to walk up most of them and made up time on the downhills. I tried to run the downhills with good form, not braking too much, not pounding. Its not easy to run downhill correctly!
There were plenty of spectators here and there. People had music, drinks and snacks. For such a small race I was impressed by the show of support.
We dipped onto a trail along Dorrs Pond and I found my first pee tree. It was only around mile 6 but the cold weather makes me have to pee more. Really, its a thing. I was glad to discover it wasn’t just in my head. Down Belmont and into Derryfield Park. This is the park where we have gone in the past to do dog training. It looked familiar, and unfamiliar at the same time.
I had mixed feelings about the trails. It was nice to have things changed up, getting off the streets and into the woods. But it wasn’t much fun to have to suddenly deal with different terrain, rocks and roots, and even sand at one point. I have a dread of falling and doing myself some serious damage so I slowed down and tried to really concentrate on where I put my feet.
Around mile 11 we left the park and turned onto Hanover Street. Suddenly I saw a sign. “Go Lynn…” huh I thought someone else named Lynn is running. Then I read further. “Go Paula….” wait, what? I looked at who was holding the sign. STEPHANIE!!!! And Rich, Paula’s husband! I literally screamed, “Stephanie! OMG!” I was so surprised and delighted to see her! I gave her a big hug. It was SUCH a boost! Thank you Steph!!!!
|Rich and Stephanie! - Photo by Paula Adams|
A few more hills and then a big big downhill back to downtown Manchester. At the corner of Hanover and Elm the half marathoners went left and the marathoners went right. It was clearly marked, no confusion. But it was so weird once the half runners were gone. When I turned the corner onto Elm there were no other runners around. I couldn’t see anyone in front of me, OR behind. It was like I was running all by myself. I honestly worried for a moment that I had somehow gotten off course. It was a really unsettling feeling.
The faster full marathoners were just approaching the finish line as I was heading toward mile 14. They could run a full in less time that it took me to run half of a marathon! Definitely awe-inspiring.
Lee was going to try to meet me around mile 13 but he was nowhere to be seen. I sent him a text and continued on. Oh well! Turns out he had trouble getting downtown because of all the road closures. We would try to meet up at mile 25.
Right before we crossed the river I jumped behind a retaining wall and peed again. I hoped this would be the last time but you never know. Once over the river there were more neighborhoods, and more hills. Dang I thought the hills were just in the first half! Nope there were hills all the way up to the entrance to the Piscataquog and Goffstown rail trails. Miles 17 through 24 of this race are all run on trails. Parts of this were really neat, except for the footing issues again. Its an out and back part of the race, so it was fun seeing the faster runners heading back to town as us slower runners headed toward the turnaround at mile 19. And one other thing. You can’t see it on the trail, but miles 16-19 are a gradual uphill. My times slowed and there was no way to make it up. I had to make a decision whether to keep trying or save my strength. I decided to let my times slide for awhile and hope I would be strong by mile 23. I’m grateful to Paula for warning me about this because otherwise it would have been very discouraging.
At the mile 19 turnaround they had a timing mat set up with snacks and an announcer cheering us on by name. It was encouraging and energizing, AND there were orange slices and bananas too. Yay!
After the turn around I could speed up a bit. I was tired, of course, but I still felt strong. I knew from experience that the wall can hit suddenly, but I’d been eating my gels and drinking at least a little water at each aid station. I started holding back less and seeing what would happen. I also started muttering to myself “no wall, no wall, no wall”. Ha, I’m sure it didn’t hurt! I’d been using a 45/30 run/walk ratio for most of the race but at mile 23 I changed to 60/30 and was able to speed up a little more.
I saw Paula when she was at around mile 17 and I was at 22. She was tired and her legs hurt but she was determinedly trucking on. She’s one tough woman. Love you Paula!
|Caught me during a walk break!|
At mile 24 we crossed the river and headed back to Granite Street. Damn that Granite Street hill! I walked it but I hated it at that moment. When I turned onto Elm, there was Lee with a hug and encouraging words. He thought I was doing good. I thought I was too, but didn’t want to get too excited yet. Two miles is a long long time at the end of a marathon. Down Elm, and back across the river on Bridge street. There was a slight downhill but I knew that meant there would be a slight uphill on the way back. Now my mantra changed to “Meb, Meb Shalane, Meb, Meb, Shalane”. I just kept thinking about those two inspiring runners and how they never ever give up. Our goals may be wildly different, but if they could keep trying then so could I!
There weren’t very many runners around me but there was one old guy ahead of me on the bridge. I was able to pass him and he said I was looking good. I waved and smiled at him but really couldn’t talk by then.
I saw Lee again right before mile 26. At mile 26 I was ready to run all out to the finish line. It wasn’t fast but I made it! Boy was I glad to be finished with that race! It was really hard, but I ran smart which was my main goal.
|Charging Toward the Finish Line!|
I grabbed a powerade and a water and wrapped myself in a heat blanket. Then I headed to the timing tent. Holy smokes! I came in 2nd in my division, women 60-69! And I PR’d, beating my time from NYC in 2014 by 30 seconds. 5:31:44. I literally burst into tears and hugged Lee hard. I work so hard at this running thing, I just couldn’t believe I’d managed to run a PR at 65 years old. After the disaster of Duluth and the fun of Dopey it was a very satisfying feeling.
I went to the car and got my coat, went back to the finish line area and got some chicken noodle soup. Boy did that taste wonderful. I wanted to wait and see Paula at the finish line and then head home.
This was a great, challenging race. It was fun to run a little marathon, fun to have a good race plan and be able to stick to it for the most part. I was very happy with my time of course. I would still love to break 5:30 someday but whether it ever happens or not I’m happy that I can still run. I’m going to keep at it as long as I can.
Today (the Monday after) I’m really really sore, more than usual after a marathon. It must be all those hills. I’m going to do some walking this week but no running. I’ll start back running slowly and decide on a new marathon goal soon.
|At the Finish Line with Paula and Our Medals!|