Monday, November 14, 2005

Huntington Marathon

The Tahoe Triple a month and half ago caused me to get into pretty good shape. Of course those times were slow as expected due to the elevation, hills and overall distance. Would I be able to rest, train myself back into shape and then taper in five weeks time in order to run one decently fast single thon?

More importantly, a year and a half ago I ran a 3:10 in Cleveland, but I haven’t faired as well in several tries since then. Would I be able to get back to that level this time?

And most importantly, what kind of nut would drive nearly 5 hours alone to Huntington, WV, run their little race, and then hop right into the car and drive home?

Yes, folks, these and other questions would be answered at the Huntington Marathon, also known as the HealthyHuntington dot Org Marathon, also known as the Marshall University Marathon. I had seen all three names at different times over the weekend. I decided I’d just call it the Huntington Marathon for brevity.

The ride down was fairly uneventful, but brought back a few memories. Debbie and I lived in southern Ohio for several years, and for part of that time I worked in Huntington. I also earned my masters degree from what is now Marshall U. We moved away almost twenty years ago, but parts of it looked familiar. After checking into the Roof, I went to the expo/pasta dinner. As expected, it was pretty small: I counted one vendor. The pasta dinner was actually pretty good, although the atmosphere left something to be desired. The friendly folks doing the serving were happy to inform me that the pasta was “Dean Ormish”. I didn’t know what I was supposed to make of that, but it really did taste good on that plastic plate (using the plastic fork). And speaking of friendly, I had forgotten how genuinely nice everyone was in this part of the country. From the race director (who was all over the place) to the race volunteers to the people at the hotel to the girls at McDonalds, it was service with warmth, and a smile. Made me want to puke.

The field was about the size I had expected: about 350 in the thon, with more in the half, the relay and the walk. Not bad for such a small town. The weather was acceptable: upper 50s at the start and 60s at the finish, with just a bit of on-and-off rain and some wind. The course was flat. How they managed to find 26 flat miles in West by-God Virginia was quite a feat. It did involve a bit of repetition, especially the parts around Ritter Park. The Park itself was as nice as I remembered it from my 25-year ago runs there. Most of the rest of the course was not especially noteworthy, but that was ok. So I’d have no excuses.

I got to my desired 7:15 or so pace right away, and quickly found myself running with a guy named Chuck from somewhere in Lake County OH, and a guy from Chicago. We got to the 10-mile mark whilst in the park at 1:12:30, and then the half-way point on some deserted road at 1:35:30. I was feeling great, and had to keep telling myself to be patient. Even so, I left Chuck and the other guy behind. At mile 20, I would let myself go; I’d unleash the beast. But until then I’d bide my time and run an even pace. 14 and 15 were into the wind and rain, so they required a bit more effort, but I stayed on pace. Miles 16-18 were with the wind, and I wanted to go faster, but I still held back. Even though I still felt strong, I mile 19 went by in a 7:38. It was possible that it was off, but this was a bit disconcerting after all the steady miles. Mile 20 (in the park once again) was back where it should be: 7:16. And I was back where I should be: 2:25:29.

Now it was time: Time to pick up the pace; time to become a madman. 7:10 miles the rest of the way would do it, but I wanted to run even faster. There was only one minor problem: my ole legs were a tad tired. 21 was still on pace, but 22 and 23 were in the 7:20’s, and then the last couple were even slower. I passed several people during those last few miles, but Chuck, who had caught up to me a few other times, passed my in the last mile. The Chicago guy was a minute behind.

The finish was in the Marshall U. stadium, on the field. Some volunteers tried to hand me a football to carry those last 100 yards, but I waved them off. That final sprint couldn’t erase the last couple slow miles, but it felt good. I finished in 3:12:39.

I got my age group award (first!) instantly. I got a massage after waiting less than five minutes. I got a couple pieces of pizza as I was walking out of the stadium and the pizza delivery gal was walking in (service with a smile). I drove home. I’ve had more painful long car rides, but not many.

So the answers were yes, no, and duh. And I’ll take the 3:12. But next year, I’m really going to unleash that beast.

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