Sunday March 22nd 2009
I nervously pace back and forth on Atlantic avenue wonder what lied ahead of me. I feel pretty confident, but still, I have never run a road marathon before. I have no idea what the next several hours of pavement will bring. The sun is shining, the projected temperature is the low 60s, I don’t think I could have picked a better day for my first Marathon. With only 4000 runners in this race I’m a lot closer to the starting gate at least. The gun pops and the race is on. I’m again surprised at the costumes. An 8k or ½ marathon sure, but a full 26.2 miles in tights, a tutu and a 2’ fuzzy hat just doesn’t seem fun. On the other hand, I’m running this race with a full water belt and a digital camera in my hand to capture the run in picture form.
Similar to the 8k course we run Atlantic to the south end, but rather going out onto the boardwalk we turn and go up and over the bridge south onto General Booth Blvd. for the next 4 miles. The pack, while thinning is still shoulder to shoulder 5 or 6 people wide when we reach the 3 mile water stop
At mile 8 we turn into Camp Pendleton State Military Reserve. As we loop through the barracks we are greeted with a row of soldiers cheering us on. They gave a group “HHHHUUUUUURRAAAA” as only men in uniform could give. It was pretty intense and the energy they exuded carried me for the next mile or two.
Back over the bridge I settle in pace with a woman from a few cities over. We talk about marathons and I find out that she’s more into off road sprint triathlons, and this is her second marathon. We chat about how the cross training that you need for those events really pays off when it comes to marathons. It was nice to be able to talk to someone that was having a good time. It helped the miles pass. At mile 10 we came upon the next water stop. I snagged a Gatorade and have to do a spin-o-rama around another runner who had stopped to drink her water. A few people caught the fancy foot work and cheered which gave me another emotional boost that I needed.
As I close in at the half marathon mark I find myself running north on Atlantic Ave yet again. Spectators line the street cheering the marathoners heading north and the half marathoners finishing. I snap a photo of a spectator cheering us on dressed up as Lady Liberty. She happily posed when she saw my camera
We now follow the same course that the half marathoners ran and where I saw Loni off 3 hours earlier. I cross the chip timer at the half way point at 2:07and change. My feet are hot from the pavement, but I feel like I didn’t go out too fast and I was pretty much spot on for my 10 min mile pace. In the big scheme of things my spirits were still pretty high. Heading north the lead runners of the marathon are flying back at me already completing the 13 mile loop I’m just starting. It’s what I expected but still a kick in the teeth. A huge sign hangs between a pair of pines in someone’s front yard, couldn’t help but make me smile.
At mile 15 at the south entrance of Fort Story there is a HUGE aid station. One tent featured just what the doctor ordered…BEER! I snap a photo and graciously accept a Dixie cup filed with refreshing brew. Grab a cup of water at the next table and quickly continue my journey.
The next two miles seem to drag on forever but as I approach the north entrance to Fort Story I hear a band playing in the distance. The Havers (http://www.myspace.com/greengrassrock)a local irish/celtic band is rocking out. I sing along with a familiar tune as I run by. It’s just what I needed; I know at this point it’s a cake walk. I’ve made the last turn and it’s just a 6 mile trot in along the ocean front. 22 Miles in we run past the well known Cape Henry Lighthouse. I snap a photo of the camera guy as he snaps a photo of me. I tell him “right back at you!” His response cracked me up “yeah, but mines bigger!”
It’s around here that a local ultra trail runner Penny Matel catches up to me. It’s great to run into a fellow NH runner 700 miles from home. We share tales of our favorite New England Ultra’s and how we both made our way down to VA to run a road marathon. It’s here where we return to the Fort Story aid station where I snag the last beer filled cup on the table. Penny tells me she doesn’t know how I can drink beer while still running at our steady 10 min/mile pace. I joking tell her that if the college guys with the 30 rack of PBR are still playing ladder golf around 45th street I’m going to see if I can snag some from them too. As promised at 45th street I find the guys offering beer to runners and I accept willingly. “I pour, you drink,” he states, and tips the can over my salt crystallized mouth. I catch back up to Penny a block later and she tells me I’m crazy and that if she did that she’d be puking right now. I reply that even though I did it, it’s still not totally out of the question.
Penny tells me to run ahead because it looks like I’ve still got a ton of energy. It’s true, I still feel amazing. The pavement has been rough, but not as bad as what everyone always states. I tell her that we’ve run together this far and it only seems appropriate to finish side by side. We stroll across the finish line at 4:21:34 both with huge smiles on our faces. Grab our metals, goodie bags, and wish each other a safe trip home before we go our own way into the thousands celebrating their own accomplishments
I find Loni next to the awesome sand sculpture, she’s pumped. She finished her ½ marathon with minimal issues a few hours earlier in 2:48:25. Not to far off of her goal of 2:30, especially with the race the day prior. All in all, it’s been a great trip, two fantastic races and the weather couldn’t have been better. We lay on the beach, watch the band, enjoy the spicy stew and proceed to drink ourselves quite happy on the Yuengling Beer.
Marathon time - 4:21:34
50k - combined time - 5:16:31
We were treated to a perfect weekend of races. The races were top notch, to goodie bags and water stops well stocked, the volunteers were all amazing, and the copious amount of beer tickets certainly helped. I'm not typically a road runner but the whole experience of a St Patties Day Party surrounding two races has sold me on this event to say the least.
There has already been talks to our return to King Neptune in '10 to better our times and welcome another spring. Who else is in??