Yes, this is a marathon recap (the NCR Trail Marathon Recap, to be exact). Yes, I ran a marathon two weeks after running Richmond. Yes, it was a trail marathon. Yes, two marathons in 14 days means I’m now a Marathon Maniac. And yes, I know I said I would NEVER run another trail marathon. Turns out I lied to myself! Here’s the story…
After Richmond, I was really torn. I loved (seriously, LOVED) running with my husband and crossing the finish line with him was something I will always remember. But, I felt impatient. I KNEW I was a better runner than a year ago and my marathon time didn’t show it. I know that the cramps I experienced in Richmond were just one of those things and I’ll never really know why they occurred (although I do have my suspicions) and that I had to just chalk it up to one of those things. But I wanted another go at it. I wanted to try again. I didn’t want to wait for another training cycle to have another date with the marathon. So as I’m apt to do, I searched for upcoming marathons and found the NCR Trail Marathon – the Northern Central Rail Trail Marathon- in Sparks, MD (just about an hour from me outside Baltimore).
Since I was running another 26.2 just 14 days after Richmond, I came up with just two goals: my A goal was to come in sub 5. My B goal was to PR. That was it – no other goals, just getting the job done. I knew the cold and the trail element (even though the trail was flat, it’s not as smooth as a road) would add some time, but I thought I just might be able to hit both goals if all went well. I came in just over 5 hours (and I stopped to use the bathroom, which added about two minutes, plus a few walking breaks) and feel FANTASTIC about that. I PR’ed by about 21 minutes, which I’m pretty proud of.
Miles 1-6 (10:04, 10:29, 10:41, 10:40, 10:50, 11:06) I made a friend before the start, Andrea, who had similar race goals and so we started together. The first few miles ticked off, especially since we started with about a 1.5 mile downhill (that I knew would be brutal at the finish). We hopped on the trail right before mile two and that was where we’d stay until mile 24.5. It was beautiful and reminded me how much I enjoy the quiet of trail running.
Miles 7-12 (10:40, 11:06, 10:55, 11:13, 11:23, 10:48) I lost Andrea somewhere around mile 7 or 8 (I felt good so pushed on and did see her again after the turnaround) and was running with a few different people around me. I felt strong and like I would definitely have a decent day, as long as I could just keep going at the pace I was running. The trail got a little loose at this point and you had to watch for footing, which I didn’t love. However, I knew I’d see K at mile 11ish so I was looking forward to that. There were a few points (coinciding with aid stations / water stops) where spectators could drive, hop out of their car and cheer you on. I met K at one of these, stopped to tell him I felt good, take a shot blok and then kept it moving. I told him to go to the mile 21 aid station / water stop next and that I’d see him there.
Miles 13-18 (10:49, 11:09, 11:15, 11:19, 10:52, 11:33) Shortly after seeing K, I heard a runner behind me congratulating every single runner who was coming our way on the trail. Eventually, we started chatting and I learned that this lovely woman (Brita) was running her first full. She was so encouraging and we ran together until I needed to stop and fill my handheld up at mile 17. So delightful.
Miles 19-24 (11:54, 11:33, 11:54, 12:48, 12:44, 12:23) After splitting with Brita, I had a bathroom stop and knew I wouldn’t quite catch her again (she finished 4 minutes before I did) so settled in to run alone. I was starting to really fatigue as you can see and I started to question why I did this. I wasn’t cramping or anything (thank goodness!), but I just hurt. I just kept telling myself to make it to 21. Finally, I did and saw K again – I was happy to see him but not happy when he complained about the cold. I’m pretty sure I gave him quite the “are you serious?” face. After leaving K, I pulled out my phone and started listening to the latest Serial podcast. I didn’t listen to the last episode and planned to pull it out during the end of the race. It helped, but not much. I took some stretch/walk breaks and vowed to never run two marathons in two weeks again.
Miles 25-26.2 (13:01, 13:15, 11:56) I was just so done at this point. What made it worse was that the last 1.5 miles were up a pretty steep hill. UGH. Torture. I thought the finish would never come! But, FINALLY! There it was…and there was K about 100 yards from the finish. I tossed my water bottle to him and booked it (haha, except not really – I was running SO slow but it felt fast!) across the finish line. I think I told K “I’ve never been happier to see a finish line.” I’m not sure if that’s true but I was pretty happy.
My take on the race: This race was small, with only about 400 participants. We started and ended at a school, which was nice because we had a warm place to rest until the race and bathrooms! It was COLD on race day and I felt like the temperature actually dropped while we were running. I never felt warm enough to take my gloves off and my thighs were frozen. I was pleased with my outfit choice, though – even with the cold thighs. One couple I passed a couple times on the trail (and chatted a bit with after the race) called me their spring time girl and I loved it. The trail was beautiful, flat except right before the turn around and the last 1.5 miles and pretty stable – although there was some loose gravel and a few muddy parts. The swag was amazing: a huge medal, a half zip jacket, and gloves. All for $100 – such a deal! There was hot soup, bagels, chips and doughnuts at the finish and we could hang out in the warm school for as long as we wanted. Score!
I have more thoughts to come on racing two marathons so close together and some final thoughts on both Richmond and NCR Trail but I will say this: I really liked this race and it’s one that I would definitely run in the future.
Have you ever raced back to back marathons?