This is it, the race I’ve been training for, albeit for only 7 weeks, but this is the race where I will break 5:00 and get my much anticipated marathon finisher jacket!
Spoiler alert: as most of you may have heard by now, the race was black flagged around 9:45am which diverted the marathon runners at various stages of the race due to heat and humidity. Unfortunately, I was one of those runners. But, let’s back up a little.
I was running this race with my friend Beth, and we headed out of Charlotte early Friday morning to get down to Savannah (about a 4 hour drive) early enough to hit the expo before we ran into major Friday afternoon traffic. The expo was really easy to get to, though the parking situation was a little tight, especially for a convention center, and we grabbed our bibs, made sure we were in the same corral and then wandered around the expo to check out what the vendors were offering. We found one booth where the people were calling out asking who was running the marathon, so we went over and they had us make signs that their school would be waving during the second half of the marathon the next day – an awesome way to recognize all the runners!
We didn’t spend too much time at the expo and instead headed to the hotel to get off our feet and figure out our dinner plans. As expected, most places were already completely booked with over 20,000 runners in town for the race. Since we were south of the city, we were able to find something fairly easily, with only a 30 minute wait for a table. After dinner, we headed to Wal-Mart to pick up some last-minute supplies and we clearly were a little delirious as we tried on little kids monster slippers (Beth) and got really excited about find an 18-pack of Twix for $10 (me). It was a great distraction and once we found what we actually needed, we went back to the hotel for an early bedtime and an even earlier wakeup call.
We got up at 4:30, grabbed our gear and headed to the parking garage we had pre-paid for. There was a lot of traffic to get into the garage, but it was definitely a lot easier than trying to find a random location to park in a city we didn’t know anything about. We had about a half mile walk to both the start and finish (this was a point to point race), so it ended up being an ideal location to park.
It was hot and humid as we walked to the start line and we knew it was only going to get worse once the sun came up. The moss-covered trees were a great backdrop for the start of the race and we got there about half an hour before the race started. There were a ton of people in the start area, with spectators and runners mingling about. The best advice we got all morning was from another runner who told us to head to the portapotties near the last corral – the lines there were so much shorter that it was easily worth the short walk to find them. We had about 30 minutes after the official race start before our corral started and we positioned ourselves near the front of our corral. For this race, there were two full corrals with people expecting to finish at the 5:00 mark and the two others on the bookends also having 5:00 finishers too, so we were definitely in the thick of runners, though as we realized later, most of these people were doing the half, just at the pace we were going for in the marathon.
One of Beth’s running club friends, Jennifer, joined us in the corral and as we were talking, we realized that each of us was doing our second marathon and none of us felt great about the first one. Jennifer was telling us about the hills in Savannah since she had done this race last year and I mentioned the hills in the Pittsburgh Marathon and she immediately asked me if I had done the Galloway training group last year, which I had and then she said, “You’ve been my unnamed hero! I’ve been talking about you for a year and a half and never knew your name. I couldn’t believe you were going to go run by yourself – you’re a total badass!” Last spring, since the training group was only gearing up to the half marathon distance, I would go run a few miles before meeting up with the group to do the official training runs and apparently I made an impression. That definitely made my morning!
Since there were so many people, we opted to skip the first two walk cycles and try to get to an area that was more spread out before we walked. We ended up catching up to the corral in front of us, so unfortunately, this never really happened on the half marathon course – there were a ton of people everywhere!
- Mile 1 – 10:20
- Mile 2 – 10:18
- Mile 3 – 10:47
- Mile 4 – 10:20
- Mile 5 – 10:41
- Mile 6 – 10:03
- Mile 7 – 11:32
- Mile 8 – 10:19
- Mile 9 – 11:50
- Mile 10 – 11:21
- Mile 11 – 11:44
- Mile 12 – 11:16
- Mile 13 – 11:09
Around the 13.5 mile marker, I was told to turn around. Beth had called me just a minute or so before that and let me know she was waiting for me next to a bunch of cops who were turning people around and there was another guy ahead of where she was who was turning people around, so I called her back and told her to come to me. While I was waiting for her, I found Jennifer and we both waited until Beth came to meet us.
Overall, I’m disappointed that I wasn’t able to do the race I wanted on Saturday, but I’m also glad that I didn’t have to make the decision of whether or not to continue racing. There had already been times were I would forget to eat during my walk break and while I still felt pretty good, I was definitely overheating. Around mile 6, I started grabbing a water at each stop to dump on my head / wrists / neck to try to cool myself down a little bit. That did work for awhile, but before I would get to the next water stop, it was like I had never done that. I was able to get some ice cubes from a couple of the water stops which was amazing! By the time I hit the split of the half and the full (around 12 miles), I had already gone through my 2 litre hydration pack and this was the time when I was starting to contemplate what it would really take for me to finish the race. I’m surprised my time didn’t suffer as much as I thought it had, but I knew I was going to struggle through the rest of the race.
We ended up walking the entire way back to the finish line because we decided that we should just use this race as a long training run and not exhaust ourselves any more because we may still be able to salvage another marathon this fall, so we walked for about 3 miles and jogged into the finish line, got our mostly unearned medals and made our way through the finishers chute.
Rock ‘n’ Roll allowed all marathoners to pick up their finishers jacket and we joked about adding an asterisk to the jacket because no one really felt like they earned it. Affected runners have also received a coupon code good for a free Rock ‘n’ Roll race any time within the next year, so Beth and I are definitely going to find a fun one to go to next year. I understand why people are upset about this race and there are other factors that, if true, are certainly unacceptable (running out of water within the first 6 miles, volunteers giving away medals to kids / family members instead of just runners, etc.), but I’m glad that Rock ‘n’ Roll made the decision when they did and didn’t rely on runners to make the right decision based on the weather. I know I wasn’t going to quit unless I absolutely had to and that’s not a good thing when you’re talking about heat-related health issues.