Sunday, March 27, 2016

Race Report: Publix Georgia Marathon

Liberty is the right of every man to be honest, to think and to speak without hypocrisy.--Jose Marti

I live in Atlanta so I thought I had a pretty good handle on the course for the Publix Georgia Marathon last Sunday. I know that I can't go North, South, East, or West outside of my door without hitting some hill within the first 1/4 mile. I have at least 100 runs since I moved down here from New Jersey and by definition, 100 runs, makes you very well versed.

Okay, now for the reality of my third marathon of 2016. The week or so before this marathon I felt as if I hadn't done enough work to be where I was at my last marathon. I had a  34 day lay off and I only had run about 32 miles in March when race day arrived. All of that said, I figured that I had home field advantage. The first marathon I drove race morning about hour and change. My second marathon I drove with traffic, the other commodity native to Atlanta, for 6 hours with enough time to shove a bowl of pasta into my pie hole and guzzle some Gatorade before I had to stretch and sleep. This one was great as far as location. I drove 5 minutes. I was familiar with every turn and every hill.

Unfortunately my home field advantage was ineffective on this day. I arrived right before my wave start and I didn't have to rush or wait forever. The start line was amazing in that it was the Centennial Olympic Park. It was over 9,000 people running through the streets of Atlanta to a pretty big crowd. It was dark when the race started so you really appreciate the volunteers, family members, and other supporters. As amazing as the race start was it wasn't long before I had to gallup over the first hill. Maybe at the first mile we ran into a hill.

The hills rolled consistently throughout the race and mile 7 was a the very top of a relatively steep hill. Mile 7 is where the Half-Marathon and Full Marathon split. The funny part is although experienced runners, like myself, will not get caught up in the pacing of others, you still look at your fellow runners and marvel at their pace so early in a marathon. Little do you know that those speedsters only had to run half of your distance. That was the reason that they all looked like gazelles and I looked like an aardvark.

I had two forms of relief after the split. Every uphill must go down and I ran into an area that I have run no less than 15 times before. Familiarity allows my body to just do what it is trained to do. Just days prior I had taken a little run past the birth home of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the marathon course passed it as well. I didn't want to be demonstrative or pepper in unnecessary histrionics. I stared quietly and deliberately until it was out of sight but there is no way I could just past it sans acknowledgement.

Despite the hills I moved faster than I had in the previous marathon. My 10k, 10-mile, half-marathon and 18-mile times were better. None of these times were faster than my first marathon but I crapped out at mile 17 of that one so I was more than okay with being a little slower. I started to feel my hamstring twinge as my heel kicked. I had to alter my stride so my kick wouldn't cause further discomfort. My times began to rise mile after mile. By mile 21 the wheels had officially come off.

If it wasn't for the endorphins or whatever it is that is the cause of my love for the sport I would have been massively depressed. I knew that I had conceded a PR and resigned myself to simply another finish. Earlier in the race, I saw my wife and kids at mile 16 or so. My wife asked me how I felt and I gave her the hand gesture for so-so. I knew early on that my body would not be able to maintain the pace.

The hills continued and so did I. I walked the major uphills with hopes of stalling the inevitable cramp up. It worked but my time really suffered. That defeatist attitude disappeared when I saw my family again at the finish. No one knows that I suffered through half of the race. They only know that daddy finished another race and as long as they know that I started and they saw me finish the lesson here is taught.

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