As the date was approaching for the Cleveland Marathon, I was getting nervous. For two years in a row I have had my best marathon times in this race: 3:26 in 2008 and 3:22 in 2009. For some reason my body likes this race. So the question now was: Will I be able to PR again?
I had a bad feeling about a PR. First, my training this year has not been very good. Even though I have run a lot of races, I have not done any long distance training runs and no long distance tempo runs (other than the races, up to ½ Marathon). Plus, I have gained a couple of pounds from this time last year.
The last two days before the marathon I did not run, but ate a lot and felt lethargic. In addition to sleeping 8 hours a night (unusual for me) I was taking a couple of naps during the day and I could not concentrate on my work. I also felt like I could not run (sounds familiar?) But on Saturday evening I put on my newer shoes (the ones I had for the Hermes 10 miler) and they felt really good.
I went to bed at 9:30 pm last night and woke up at 3:30 am (the alarm was for 5:00). I took a shower, shaved, put on my light running clothes (the theme this year was “black”), ate a good breakfast, and, with my wife and daughter, headed downtown at 6:00 am.
The temperature at home was 50F. It went up by a few degrees. The forecast for the day was cool (50s to low 60s) and cloudy. It ended up being sunny and beautiful with a nice cooling breeze, really great weather for running.
I decided to join the 3:20 pace group, which was close to the start line. Took a few 3d pictures before the start and at 7:00 exactly, the race was on!
Right from the start I saw Michele and ran together with Dan Horvath for a while but they are both faster runners so I let them go ahead.
My first 10 miles were surprisingly fast:
--- 10K Split = 45:01 (7:15 pace!)
My pace was clearly faster than planned (I never saw the 3:20 pace group, left behind in the “dust”). I had some doubts that maybe I was going faster than I should and will “crash and burn” later, but decided to trust my body and ran with the pace that felt comfortable at the time.
The first 10 miles were touring the West side of Cleveland and they were nice and flat. But then we hit the Shoreway with a long uphill (mile 11 and partially 12), and then downhill by the Rock & Roll museum. The half point split was about there. My times:
-- 13.1 (Half Marathon) Split = 1:36:44 (7:23 pace)
It is interesting that my 5K and 13.1 time splits would have been PRs for these distances just a few years ago. Also, 1:36:44 x 2 = 3:13:28, way too fast. I was expecting to slow down at the 2nd half, but how much?
Miles 14-17 are along a flat & rather boring stretch on Marginal road by Burke Airport, next to the lake. I could tell that I had slowed down, and my time splits show it too:
Somewhere on mile 17 I got passed by a 46 year old lady, Eileen Meisler. She is a good runner and I have seen her in other races too (I finished ahead of her in the Celebrate Nursing 10K recently). She started the marathon ahead of me but I caught up and passed her around mile 7, and now she is passing me. This was a bit of a “wake up call” to increase my pace. I ran with her for while but then she pulled ahead and finished ahead of me.
The next 4 miles are touring Rockefeller Park, a nice area on East Cleveland. My splits:
At mile 21 we exited the park and for two miles we ran along St. Clair Avenue towards downtown. These were my best miles in the entire race. I felt really rejuvenated and was running fast and full of energy, maybe seeing downtown Cleveland and knowing that the end was near. It felt as if these were 7 min/miles but they were slower:
But I could not keep up this pace. The final 3 miles were a bit of a torture. I had to dig deep into my reserves, but the thought that I was “almost there” gave me the strength I needed to finish. The last mile felt particularly long:
Last 0.2: 7:23
My clock time was 3:20:09 and my chip time was 3:19:45.
I am ecstatic!
I did not think I would ever be able to run faster than 3:20. Now I am thinking, with more training and minus 10 lbs, I might be able to do 3:15 one day.
In all respects, this was the PERFECT RACE. Everything went well. I cannot find anything to complain about:
- The weather was perfect
- I was well-rested
- I was dressed appropriately (not too warm, not too cold)
- I ate well and only had Gatorade and water during the race
- I did not stop for anything (no need to)
- The shoes felt great
- No pains or problems of any kind
- I like the course and I ran it with confidence
- I slowed down but did not crash in the 2nd half
This was definitely a day for a PR and I am glad I made it!
PS. Liz was a bit disappointed with 2:07:01 for this (her third) half marathon. She felt crowded and could not find her pace. She mentally quit after mile 8 and even walked a bit. With 20,000 people in the roads, it is time for Cleveland to adopt Corals like Boston and other large races have.