2018 Jacob Wells 3 Bridges Marathon
After twelve weeks of race-specific training (even though I feel like I’ve been training for this race all year), and two days of wind and torrential downpours, I woke up on Saturday, December 15, 2018, feeling optimistic and ready to take on my first marathon since 2015. Three years ago, I ran the same race and set a new personal best time of 4:22; my big goals for this year have been to stay healthy through marathon training, finish the marathon in under four hours, and run the second half of the race faster than the first half.
For those of you who prefer the short version, the rain stopped just before the race started and I succeeded in accomplishing all three of my goals for this year: I felt great throughout my marathon training cycle; I finished the race in 3:50:47 (good for second place in my age group); I ran the first half of the race in 1:55:57 and the second half in 1:54:50. If you’re interested in more detail, keep reading!
When it comes to race goals, and race plans, I’m very stubborn; some might say determined or disciplined, but I think I’m just stubborn. This can be an advantage, but it can also be a disadvantage; I’m cautious when I choose goals because I only feel comfortable and confident if I believe they are achievable. My goal of a sub-four hour marathon attempt didn’t really materialize until late summer, once I convinced myself it could be attainable; however, as the weeks ticked by, the temperature continued to rise, the workouts became tougher and tougher, I certainly had my doubts.
During conversations months ago, my friend Chris, with whom my husband and I triathlon train (and all kinds of other shenanigans), assured me that I’d finish in under four hours; he has run this race every year since its inception, has run several sub-4 hour marathons, was already registered, and offered to run with me at goal pace. In addition, a couple of other running friends, Mindy and Val, offered to run the stretch of the race that gets really tough, those last 8-9 miles, with Chris and I to provide us with an injection of fresh energy and motivation.
As a seasoned (aka old) runner, I’ve heard the adage “trust the process” many times, including during discussions with my coach; however, it’s tough to stay focused in the days leading up to a big goal race and all week long I found myself questioning everything, nursing what were probably phantom pains, and wondering how I would ever run 26.2 miles at a pace that sounded really scary.
Thankfully, all of that changed on race morning; I woke up feeling confident and ready to take on the challenge. I distinctly remember telling Chris, sometime within the first 3 miles of the race, “Damn, dude, I feel so good today.” I think that perfectly sums up my race experience!
One of the best things about the Jacob Wells 3 Bridges Marathon is that there are great ways to break up the race, thanks to aid stations that are manned by local running clubs and plenty of opportunities for spectators to cheer. I knew that I would see my husband and friends just after the 4 mile mark, around the 10 mile mark, and again at about 15.5; my friend Mindy would meet up with me at about 17 and I’d see more friends and get more cheers at 19. After 19 miles, well, if you’ve ever run a marathon you know that it’s all kind of blur until the finish.
The miles ticked off really smoothly through the turnaround, over the pedestrian bridge at the Clinton Presidential Library, and then we ran STRAIGHT INTO THE WIND for the next several miles and whew! That was a challenge, friends, both mentally and physically. My body still felt good and I thought about the work I’d put in during my long training run days, in similar weather, and focused on staying relaxed.
As I approached the half marathon timing mat, I pulled out my phone (I wore Oiselle pocket jogger shorts that have amazing pockets on the sides of both legs) and typed a quick message of “half” to my best friend, Kelly; I hit send as soon as I crossed the mat and then slid my phone back into my pocket. That sort of marked the moment, reminded me that I was halfway to my goal, and, sorry to be super cheesy, I felt like I’d picked her up at that point and I kept her with me through the finish. Once I met up with Mindy at around mile 17, I knew that I only had a few more miles of steady rhythm and then, per my race plan from my coach, I’d get into full on race mode at mile 21.
Years ago, a running friend commented that I had “horse to the barn syndrome;” I had no idea what she was talking about. She explained, “every time we go for a run, you run the same pace, and I can stay with you, until we start getting close to the parking lot and then you take off, like a horse heading for the barn!” After years of training and racing, I’ve discovered that this is a good problem to have.
When I hit the 21 mile mark, I knew it was time to get this race done, get back to the finish line, and start the celebration. I told Mindy and Val that “I could run these last few miles at a 10 minute pace and still make it;” Val laughed and replied, “Tara, I don’t see you running a ten minute pace, so I don’t think you have to worry about that right now.” She was right and, even though it was tough, my legs felt much better than they did during this section of the race than they had three years before and I kept pushing.
The last mile of the race takes runners back over the Two Rivers Bridge, and it felt like THE TOUGHEST CLIMB EVER, but the downhill to the finish was glorious; I could hardly believe the time on the clock when I approached the finish line. As soon as I crossed, I received a text message with my official results; I furiously forwarded it along to my coach (even though he was already following the results) and Kelly and then the celebration began.
Everything came together beautifully on race morning and I could not be happier with the result; the 3:30am wake up calls during my high mileage weeks, my early bed times, all of the ancillary work (SO MUCH FOAM ROLLING) and cross training…all worth it. Marathon training, and racing, is hard work and it is definitely not for everyone; most of the time, it’s not for me! I love shorter races, building strength and speed, and that’s what I’ll focus on for most of the next year; however, next November I’ll be trying to achieve another, bigger goal - a Boston Marathon qualifying time.
For now, you’ll find me lazing about in my reading chair, enjoying quiet mornings without having to watch the clock to get ready for a training run; but I’ll be ready to work again when the time comes. Thank you all for the encouragement, support and cheers throughout my training and racing this year; I carry y’all with me on this journey!