As far as running opportunities go, this past weekend in Savannah was an opportunity that I have been both looking forward to and dreading all at once. As you know, I had been going out and training on running slower than I am used to and that little experience certainly paid off during the marathon itself. I am not going to bore you with mundane details so I am going to just fast forward to race day.
Saturday morning got up bright and early at around 3:30 AM eastern time and started going through my normal pre-race routine. Drinking coffee, eating a good solid breakfast, ripping open about 30 bandaids to apply on various parts of my body, body gliding up and then finally getting dressed and out the door. Got on the shuttle to the start line. After checking in my gear bag I was able to make my way through the thousands upon thousands of people to my corral. In case anyone is wondering, corrals are used in bigger races to allow everyone to have an enjoyable starting experience. The faster you are the closer to the starting line you get. It also known as a wave start. There is about a 1 to 2 minute gap in between waves.
Anyways, let me move on here. Got to my corral and started to meet all the many runners who would be a part of my pace group. Lots of questions were being asked about how I was going to run the group, would be walking through water stops, what about bathroom breaks (I think I probably gave that guy a stupid look…) and about what time we were going to finish. Well, our finish time would be no more than 4 Hours and 15 Minutes since that is the group I am leading and we will finish no quicker than 4 Hours and 13 Minutes.
All questions had been asked (to that point anyways) and after the National Anthem was played, everyone started moving forward. I would say that it was about 10 minutes till we got to the starting line and then off we went!
Everything was going pretty well. Lots of talking back and forth, lots of people laughing and having a grand old time. Lots of first timers and a quite a few runners who were trying to run the fastest marathon of their lives. Before we knew it, we were on top of the 5K marker. The great thing about these big races is that they have check points all over so when your done you can take a look at what your splits were.
5K time was 30:22 or a 9:46 pace. Pace was just a little on the slow side but I was totally ok with where we were at.
10K time was 1:00:31 which was right on the 9:44 pace that I needed to maintain for the race. Still a lot of talking and bantering back and forth going on. Next marker was the 10 Mile mark.
10 Mile time was 1:37:37 and our pace was back up to a 9:45 per mile. Starting to see some of my runners falter just a little bit. Some have been really trying hard to maintain the pace but I can sense that a lot are about to fall off 😦
We are now reaching the half way point in the race. For a lot of my runners, they have never raced beyond this point. Most if not all have been on training runs longer than a half but this is a pretty big moment in a first time marathoners life. For the first time ever, they don’t break off to finish the with the Half Marathoners, they are going to continue on.
Half Marathon time was 2:07:41 and our pace was back to a 9:44. Most everyone got pretty excited for the next few miles at least. They were in virgin territory. The excitement was short lived however.
From about the 15th or 16th mile things started to take the turn that I have seen 16 times previous. The only difference was that this time, I am feeling very responsible to all my runners. Miles 16 to 20 were challenging for me as the pacer and for the runners themselves. They were pushing themselves harder and faster than they ever have before. I was using every tool I had to keep everyone motivated and in tune with the event, their bodies and their minds.
Mile 20 marker came upon us and we crossed the marker in 3:14:18. Our pace had improved to 9:42 which was a bit on the faster side but it was needed to make up the few seconds we lost over the first 13 miles.
The final 6.22 miles were far and away the hardest miles of the race. As is the case most often. We pretty much got on the Expressway and ran back to Savannah on it. We were heading back into a very defined headwind and going up and down the gradual hills. Finally got back into the city and the last mile was just a very long climb. Finish line was in sight and I had everyone that was left push and push hard to cross the finish line strong.
All in all, it was a great experience. I am happy to have helped a great number of people either finish their very first marathon or run the fastest marathon of their lives. It was very rewarding to see the smiles, the tears and the sheer agony that each of them was in. They pushed and pushed and gave everything they had all the way to the finish line. I have said it before, but the marathon is the absolute truest test of human willpower and spirit. It was on display all around Savannah this past weekend and I am damn proud to have been a small part of it.