The course profile looks like this:
This is the reason that I don’t think that net downhill, point-to-point courses should count for world records. If it did, I’m sure someone would have run a 2 hour marathon by now!
My fellow Whippet teammates T & Kino also registered for the run – T wanted to shave 3 minutes off his ridiculously awesome 2:51 PR and Kino wanted to continue his recent streak of PRs. It was nice that the little town of Shroudsburg, PA was only a couple hours away from NYC, making for hassle-free race logistics. T drove us there on Saturday and we picked up the our bibs at the expo. The expo was definitely the smallest one that I’ve ever been to, barely filling up half of the conference room at the Quality Inn. There were some essentials for sale there like gels and BodyGlide, as well a few pairs of shoes and shirts emblazoned with names of local running clubs.
Marathon registration also entitled runners to a free buffet pasta dinner at the host hotel, and we chowed down after bib pickup. The fare was very simple – pasta with marinara sauce, salad, bread, chocolate cake, and water – but it was free and plentiful. I found that the pasta was actually above average, considering that they had cooked it in bulk, it was al dente and not stuck together and the sauce was decent. I ate an adequate amount and could’ve eaten more but I didn’t want to risk stomach issues the next day.
Despite the fast course and low entry price ($65), only about 700 people choose to run Pocono every year. I think that it’s probably due to the lack of publicity surrounding the event. Oh well – this just means that I get to start closer to the front!
After our early dinner, we drove to our hotel (the classy local Howard Johnson) and tried to sleep at 8:30pm – the race started at 8am and we had to get in line for the shuttle to start by 6am. It was still light out when we hit the sack. I was awoken in the middle of the night by screaming children in the hallway and their equally obnoxious adult chaperones yelling at them to STFU. We might have inadvertently booked rooms next door to children on a school trip. I laid awake listening to children racing each other down the hallways, doors slamming, and other youth-associated ruckus. It was horrible.
My alarm went off at 4:30 and I stumbled out of bed to make myself coffee and eat my breakfast. I always wake up hours ahead of my race time so I can have enough time to eat and go to the bathroom. It was raining pretty hard when I woke up and it continued to rain for the next couple of hours. It looked like my fear of marathoning in the rain was going to be realized. I hate running in the rain because I hate the feeling of wet, wrinkly feet. My awesome race shoes, the Saucony Grid Fastwitch 4s, have no water resistance and there are parts of the bottom of the shoe that are just mesh, so even stepping in a dewy patch of grass will make my foot wet. Ugh. Well, there was nothing I could do but complain. The three of us got ready and headed to the race start, resisting the urge to kick every door in the hallway as we left.
We got on the buses and drove to the start of the race. It was a long drive and all during the ride I kept remarking to my friend B how I couldn’t believe that I had to run all the way back. In the rain.
Once we got to the start, we were hustled into a school gymnasium to wait for go time. We met up with fellow teammate K, who would later go on to blow the female team marathon record out of the water. Anyway, time flew by and we were lining up before I knew it. Somehow, the rain stopped right when the race started and the gods blessed us with perfect marathon conditions – overcast and 50s.
|Dashing Whippets at the start|
I started with the 3:40 pacer but quickly pulled ahead of her in the early miles. I knew that I had started too fast, with mile splits in the very low 8s, but I also knew that I needed to bank as many minutes in the first half as possible. I had heard that the second half of the race had “rolling hills” which would be hard on runners after the downhill first half.
The first few miles flew by pretty quickly as I warmed up. The scenery was really nice, very lush and green, and the morning rain had left the area with a sort of misty gleam. It was early, but there were occasional cheerers throughout the course. There were also all sorts of assorted roadkill. Pocono runners are a self-selecting and very fast crowd, and I felt like I was in the bottom 50%. I think that all the fast people passing me also contributed to faster than desired splits the first half. The early miles felt flat and fast, and before I knew it, I was flying down the steep downhill portion around mile 8. I tried not to get ahead of myself and pursue an even effort but it was impossible to not race down them. At some point near mile 11, I caught the 3:30 pace group, but it was also around that point that I knew I was in for trouble and lost sight of them very quickly afterwards.
Course support was excellent, with water and Gatorade every two miles. The cool temperatures also prevented us from overheating. There was also one gel stop around Mile 20 but I just took my own Espresso Love GUs every five miles or so.
I passed the halfway mark in 1:45 and it was all went figuratively downhill for me from there. The second half was brutal! There were lots of big and little hills that my shot quads couldn’t run. The thing about point-to-point courses with very few turns in a rural area is that you can see very far ahead of you, so when a hill is coming up, you see it looming half a mile away. It’s a bit disheartening since I don’t like challenges in the last half of the marathon. The little hills that looks like blips on the course map seemed giant in real life. Around mile 18 I felt like I was going nowhere, and around mile 20, I started walking up all the uphills. I slowly felt the BQ slip from my grasp.
LUCKILY, I had banked enough minutes in the early miles to allow for a much slower second half. The last painful miles seemed to slowly peel off (even though all my later miles were under 9 minutes, they felt like11 minute miles) and mile 25 could not come a moment too soon. With half a mile left, we entered the grounds of the high school and with a quarter mile left, I “sprinted” the victory lap around the track. I knew I had it.
|Sprinting to the finish|
Photo courtesy of T
My official time was 3:35:36 and I had BQ’ed! I texted E immediately. Afterward the race, I met up with T who had finished 45 minutes ahead of me (and was 13th overall), and waited a few minutes for Kino to come in. He also flew in around 3:48, besting his previous PR by at least 4 minutes. My friend B had also BQ’ed and my new friend F had shaved 35 minutes off her previous PR. My teammate K ran a 3:07 marathon and placed 3rd in her age group.
Despite how well-run the race was, I don’t think that I want to run the race again. I felt miserable the second half of the race. I also enjoy much larger races when there are more people cheering and more things to look at. When I ran NYC (my favorite marathon ever), I felt like a rockstar for all 26 miles since there were so many people cheering and yelling. Pocono felt eerily quiet, more like a long run than a marathon. There was one point in the final half where I had to ask someone which way to turn because I had lost sight of the person in front of me. I’m not strong enough to turn my focus inwards or I start thinking about what hurts and how I can’t do it so I much prefer to turn my focus outwards and just try to enjoy the ride. This wasn’t possible in Pocono because there was so much of the same.
Anyway, I now have my BQ! I don’t think that my time will be good enough to get me into Boston next year since they have the new stringent rolling requirements, but I am happy just getting the BQ. Whether or not I actually run Boston isn’t as important to me as qualifying for it.
I’m taking a break from racing the next couple of months. I’m moving to Seattle and will need some time off to get used to my new surroundings. I hope to continue my running on the West Coast. I’m very sad to be leaving my best friends behind, but I’m looking forward to the next stage in my life.
3:35:36 (8:13 pace)200 / 726 overall
29 / 219 females
14 / 49 age group
Links: Garmin Results Race Site