The Delaware Marathon is a smaller race than most I typically run with about 750 full marathon finishers this year. I ran it last year and remember enjoying the two loops because after one loop, I could run the second time more strategically. But when you’re in pain, that fun strategy thing kind of goes out the window.
I got to the elite tent (!) around 6:35 a.m. The people in the tent ranged from looking quite intense to quite cheery. I mingled a bit and then headed to the secret elite Porta Potty. I went once and then went back to the tent. Then I started feeling guilty and weird at the thought of racing with my iPod shuffle. I’ve foregone it for several half marathons but never for a full. I could actually see ditching the music for many of the Rock ‘n’ Roll races, provided the course music is scattered enough. Or I could (and probably will) go without music for Boston some time. So anyway, I put away my headphones this time.
I didn’t get to go to the Porta Potty again right before the race, though I stood in line for about five minutes. I just gave up and decided to start anyway. Luckily, I didn’t have any GI issues, so skipping another go at the toilet probably didn’t hurt me.
I’ll write about this race in phases. I ran a 3:26:15, officially, and I’m not too happy about it. That’s 7 minutes slower than I ran the same course last year. The first phase was pretty great. My first miles were a little fast, but they felt fine. I wasn’t struggling, even going up the major hill. Once I clocked my first mile split at sub-7:00, I wisely decided to slow down a bit. My legs just felt like they were going exactly like they should go. I was probably looking at a time close to everything I’ve run so far this season. My first half split was 1:35, which is nothing to sneeze at and a few minutes faster than my half split on this same course last year. So yay!
The race’s second phase started around mile 15 when a niggling bit of plantar fasciitis pain got the better of me. I felt my legs start to slow as pain from my heels — pain that I’m used to running through — cropped up and then changed quickly to pain in my lower butt. I can’t describe exactly where it was, but something wasn’t right. I stopped to stretch. I stopped a few times. I walked through water stations. I considered veering off to go back to the start line, but then giant “DNF” letters flashed in my head, and I realized I couldn’t do that. Plus at that point the pain was coming in waves, and when I was near the finish area, the pain was not awful. I decided to make the most of it, and I vowed to not feel sorry for myself. Once I let go of the idea that I needed to be fast (since that clearly wasn’t going to happen) and once I just focused on finishing, I let go of a lot of the stress in my shoulders. I could feel that speed goal go away and could feel my form come back as the pain subsided. My alternate universe run/walk thing lasted until I crested the hill. You can see it in my splits below. When I was walking and at my worst, I certainly could have used some music. So maybe ditching it was a mistake in hindsight.
The third phase is what I’ll call a redemption phase. Miles 21 through 26 were fine. I’ll even say they were normal. In the final five miles I passed a lot of the people who’d flown by me when I stopped or walked.
This race is hard to shake. Am I running too many marathons? Am I not resting long enough? Did the humidity, hilly course or wind have anything to do with it? The answer to all of these questions is, “Yes, probably.” I’m going to reevaluate my Wineglass Marathon plan in the next week.
After the race I had fish tacos and promptly got quite tipsy from a cold beer. I staggered to the train station and headed home. I have two more races in the next week, and I’m trying to approach them with the kind of upbeat, not-feeling-sorry-for-myself outlook I talked myself into around mile 17.
Weather. The race organizers can’t do anything about wind and humidity, but both certainly were a factor.
Crowd support. The fans are great. Problem is there aren’t many of them. I’ve been spoiled by big-city races with tons of fans lining the streets and huge cheering sections. In Delaware, I felt like I could go miles without seeing a spectator. Maybe that’s an overstatement.
Hills over and over again. Full marathon runners pound the same major hill four times. Yikes. I like the hill, but I could do it once and be done. The nature of the two-loop course makes doing it twice a necessity. Then we all had to come down the same hill again. Twice.
Facebook race time updates. I had one automated post from MYLAPS Sports Flash by Nova at the start and one at the finish a long time after I’d finished. I think they were supposed to come more often than that. Oops.
Clear course markers and marshals. Because this is a small race and maybe because I was far ahead of the main pack at times, I had to yell to people things like, “Please tell me which way to go?!” several times. I was misdirected around mile 15 and ended up running about 30 feet before I turned around to rejoin the course. Also, cars were on the course for a few stretches downtown. I understand the organizers can’t shut down every street completely, but one of the cars cut in line and came in to the runners’ lane.
Michelob Ultra. I actually would have partaken in a beer right after this race. But all they had was Michelob Ultra, which is not beer.
Organization. I know a listed a bunch of cons, but I can forgive a lot if your race is organized well. Organization is one thing for which the Delaware Marathon earns major points. Aside from the course marshal confusion, all the other race information was communicated clearly, and the instructional emails were spot on.
SWAG. The shirt and bag are pretty sweet. I actually train in last year’s shirt, which is more than I can say for most race shirts. The bag has a handy external pocket. They were giving out beer glasses and refrigerator magnets at the expo, too, apparently, but I missed that part. We got beer glasses last year, though, and they’ve held up well for a year.
A few fans and all the volunteers. The most awesome part of the course was a guy manning the corner around Lincoln Ave. He was a heavy set, likely ex-football player. He was just repeating, “Puddle. Puddle. Puddle.” Because the course was two loops, I passed him twice, so I got a double dose of that. The fuel stations were better manned than last year. All my Gatorade handoffs were successful. I did notice that the Gatorade flavors varied among stations, which might throw some people, but it doesn’t bother me.
Free entry. I almost forgot! The best part about this race was that someone was awesome and paid for my entry fee. Thank you, again, kind person!
- Course: two loops and out and backs in the middle
- Terrain: roads, a few small potholes, a few minor obstacles such as curbs and parking lots
- Website: Delaware Marathon