New Hampshire Marathon
Saturday, October 3, 2009
Bristol, New Hampshire
8th place of 297
1st Half: 1:33:55 (7:10 pace)
2nd Half: 1:29:39 (6:50 pace)
With the forecast showing rain for the weekend here in the northeast, I decided rather than running 20 miles by myself in the pouring rain, I would instead run the NH Marathon as a training run for marathon #51. Why stop at 50, right? Right!
The NH Marathon, starting in the quaint town of Bristol, covers the beautiful rolling hills around Newfound Lake. With an extra out and back in the middle miles, it covers much of the same route as the Mooseman Bike Course, a race I have done many times. So I knew the route, and I knew it would be a tougher marathon with several very long climbs, none of which are too steep, but most of which run for a half mile to more than double that. It’s a course that is on the slow side. The stronger you are in running hills, the closer you can make it to be not too slow; but the weaker you are, the tougher this course gets.
Amid spectacular splashes of the reds, yellows and oranges of peak foliage, and among a falling, chilly rain that would last and last, a gun sounded to start the race.
In the early miles I hooked up with a group of 10 that dwindled to 8 at the turnaround for the adjoining 10K race. The five of us chatted the miles away through mile 10. None of us seemed too hell bent on racing, as it was too tough a course, and we were all mostly using it as a stepping stone to another race later in the fall. We made up, I estimated, places 25 to 30. It was a surprisingly fast crowd for such a small race. With the lead woman making up one of our five, we tackled the hills together.
By the halfway point, which came in 1:33:55, our group dwindled to two — me and a guy from Birmingham, AL who grew up in the area. Steadily but very slowly we picked off runners one by one. Nobody but us seemed to be working together, but what my buddy and I had was special, because we both knew that it is always easier to have another person to run with when the pace gets charged. Which is exactly what we did.
Mile 14 and the turnaround, the tail end of a 4 mile out and back over some tough ground, came. Over the last mile I was able to estimate that we had now climbed down to, maybe, 20th place.
To that point my friend and I were steadily increasing effort. We were running very fast, and now with some long climbs ahead of us and many long down hills as well, we put the hammer down in a controlled way. We cruised a fast stretch of road through mile 16 and then worked the hills from 17 to 19. Over the last of the long, tough climbs, we punched on, keeping effort steadily increasing to the point where we were now hanging on, sometimes running as fast as 6:10 miles.
There was no more chatter between us. We knew it was game on. We were slowly passing fallen soldiers. The rain kept falling as we kept pushing, with us in lockstep stride, sometimes me getting ahead by a few paces.
At mile 22, my running buddy made a move while I grabbed water at an aid station. I had been trying to pull away since mile 20, and I was making ground, but as I grabbed water, he made a burst, and he did it on a hill. Working up the hill trying to close the gap was when I realized that now that we were no longer working together, chatting about the course, using each other to bridge the miles toward the end, we were now competitors, looking to edge the other. I had tried to make my move earlier, only to have it not stick. He now was making a move, and although we were running the same pace, and both of us all out, his move was sticking. I could not close the gap.
To mile 24, we picked off another few runners, with me running the same pace as him but back, maybe, 15 seconds. I still couldn’t close the gap.
Up a hill just past mile 24, one that brought us both to a near crawl, I was back on pace, laying down 6:30’s or under, knowing I would bring this puppy home, much like the “old days” of finishing strong with an exclamation point, even if this was a training run gone fast.
Just then the sky suddenly exploded with white out down pour. Cars splashed tidal waves as they went by, a white wall of water. Feet and legs were completely soaked. I passed another runner.
As I cruised by mile marker 25, still pounding away at pace, I could see two runners sandwiching my pacer friend way up the road. I knew I passed enough runners to this point to possibly climb to Top 10. But I wasn’t sure. I wanted Top 10. So I remained strong, pushed out the pain, and made a steady increase in focused efficiency in hopes I could catch them. I had no more effort to give, as I was all out, so I hoped that I could gain speed by focusing of proper form. This last mile would hurt, but it would entirely suck, I reminded myself, to hit the finish line, having not passed them, only to find out I came in 12th place. So I gave it all I had. And one by one, I got both by mile 26, but not my pacer, who was still a steady 20 seconds up.
Still pushing hard over the last 200 yards, around a cone and into the finish line chute, I was surprised to see the time on clock. I knew I went through half in 1:33:55, and now seeing 3:03:30… :31… :32 on the clock meant that I just ripped off a blistering 1:29 and change for the second half. I couldn’t help but smile. I was back, punching this son of a marathon with a wild negative split on a very, very tough course.
Finish time: 3:03:34, good for 8th place overall of 300.
It was a lovely day for a marathon.
1 – 7:00
2 – 6:59 (13:59)
3 – 7:30
4 – 7:35 (15:05)
5 – 7:08
6 – 7:08 (14:16)
7 – 7:12
8 – 7:18
9 – 7:02
10 – 7:22
11 – 6:45
12 – 7:00
13 – 7:00
13.1 – 1st Half – 1:33:55
14 – 7:46
15 – 6:39
16 – 6:55
17 – 7:43
18 – 6:15
19 – 6:53
20 – 6:53 (13:46)
21 – 6:40
22 – 6:23
23 – 7:05
24 – 6:41
25 – 6:41 (13:22)
26 – 6:28
26.2 – (1:25) – 2nd Half – 1:29:3