Ever try to catch a falling leaf? While running? It’s not nearly as easy as it seems. I did today on my first try. This was during the first mile of the Towpath Marathon, one of the most beautiful marathon courses in this part of the solar system. I thought it was a good sign.
Another good sign was the weather. I had some trepidation when I heard the forecast high of upper 70s. This would be too hot, but the good news was that nights in the Cuyahoga valley are often very cool. This morning’s temperatures were in the upper 40s for the bright and sunny 8am start. If only they’ll stay this nice for a while, I said to everyone around me. Many agreed, but others couldn’t wait for the inevitable warm-up.
So things were boding quite well with the cool start, the gorgeous foliage and my ability to pluck that leaf out of the air. The towpath is my home turf; I run on it weekly and love it to death. In mid-October, the leaves are at their prettiest, and the entire valley is ablaze in glory. I’ve done this marathon several times and I never get over the wonders of it. It’s as different from other marathons as night is from day. With all this good boding going on, I decided this would be a good solid race performance for me. I’m in 3:15 shape, but I just haven’t done a 3:15 since last November. At least that’s what I’ve been telling anyone who will listen. Now, unlike my last couple thons, I’d have no excuses.
A 7:30 pace it would be. The whole way. Maybe I’d even be able to pick it up for the last few. Wouldn’t that be grand? The early and middle miles felt pretty darn easy. We went south for 8 miles to Ira and then turned back north. I hit half-way in 1:37. Perfect. I think we went by the Boston start/finish area at about 16 or so, and things were still going quite well.
It was not long after this that things did become more difficult, however. I was working harder to keep the same pace, and that pace started to slip towards 8-minute miles anyway. Things were warming up fast, but that wasn’t a factor. Yet. I hit the 20-mile mark at exactly 2:30, which is still 7:30 pace. But I’d been slowing already, and this trend would continue.
That 20-mile area was just north of Station Road, where I usually start and finish my Saturday runs with my training partners. So this was really home turf now. Too bad I wasn’t feeling so strong at the moment. Between 20 and 21, we turned and headed south, back past Station Road, Red Lock and toward the finish at the Boston Store. The sun was now directly in my face (I suppose we must have been headed a bit southeast, and not due south for much of this part), and it was getting quite hot.
Even though the miles were taking their toll, I continued to pass a few folks. Two passed me the final, painful mile. The finish in Boston doesn’t match the finish in that other Boston, but this one was exciting for me.
I finished in 3:21. I’m not sure if I placed anywhere in the geezer division. I wish I knew why I slowed down. Maybe I never recovered enough from Erie? Didn’t taper enough? I refuse to believe that I’m not in 3:15 shape. Now I’ve got to decide whether to do another one in a couple weeks (Inland Trail). We’ll see how I feel by Tuesday or so.
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