Real quick, have you heard why I’m running the Marine Corps Marathon in October? I’m raising money for TAPS, a wonderful organization that provides support to the families of our fallen soldiers. Thank you so much to everyone who has donated already. If you can, please click here to make a donation to TAPS. No amount is too small, even a few bucks is a tremendous help and greatly appreciated.
This Saturday, I ran the Mayor’s Midnight Sun Marathon here in Anchorage. This was my 2nd full marathon, after running the Rock n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon back in December. I finished that first marathon in 4:25:42, and in the back of my mind, I was really hoping to be able to go sub-4 this 2nd time around. But I knew that was going to be a bit of a long shot, between my ITBS issues earlier this year that put a bit of a crimp in my training, and the simple fact that this was a much hillier course than Vegas. At the end of the day, I finished in 4:16:51, a nearly 9 minute PR, which I was very happy with.
When I woke up the morning of the race, I knew it was going to be a good day to run a marathon. At just before 6am, the sun was already shining, and the sky was clear. And one of the upsides of living in Alaska is that we can have a beautiful sunny day like that, with the temperature never getting above 65. The race started in the parking lot of a local high school, but we almost immediately got funneled onto a bike path along the highway, which made running pretty cramped for the first few miles. But soon enough we transitioned onto a road, and we were able to spread out much more.
Around mile 7, we turned onto a gravel road that lasted for 6 or 7 miles. At first this was a nice change of pace, but there were some areas that had some pretty large rocks that were actually starting to hurt my feet a bit. I saw a girl in front of me wearing Vibrams, which I imagine must have been pretty rough through this section. This was also the section where most of the hills of the course were. Next, we moved onto about 1 or 2 miles of single track trail, which was a really nice change of pace for my feet – I just wish this section had been longer! Around mile 14, I knew I was going to be reaching the point where a family friend was going to be out cheering. I had asked her ahead of time to bring me a banana, because I know from my long training runs how much better I do with some real food in my stomach, instead of all gels and Shot Bloks. When I reached her, I stopped for a quick minute, gave a sweaty hug, posed for a photo, and took off again with banana in hand.
Once we left the single-track trail, pretty much the rest of the course was on paved trails through Anchorage. My family came out to cheer me on around mile 19 (and then quickly jumped in the car to head over to the finish). At my first marathon in Vegas, these last miles were very mentally tough on me. Partly because it was near the end of the race and I was tired, but also because that part of the course in Vegas was pretty boring, winding through industrial areas off the strip. At this race, however, these last miles were on beautiful wooded trails through Anchorage. And they’re trails that I’m very familiar with, that I’ve run on many many times before, so I had a very good idea of exactly how much farther I had to go. Yes, physically I was pretty tired at this point, but mentally, this felt much easier than my first marathon.
Even though my legs were feeling pretty heavy at this point, the last few miles clicked by fairly quickly. Around mile 22 I saw a guy sitting on the side of the trail with several medics giving him oxygen. Hopefully he was alright. Then, around mile 25, came the part of the course I was “looking forward to” all day long: the really big hill right before the end. I knew it was coming, so it was no big surprise, but that certainly didn’t make it any easier. There was one last aid station right at the bottom of the hill, and as soon as I came around the corner, I could see literally everyone walking up the hill. The first section of the hill was quite steep, and being right at the end of the course like this, we were all pretty much spent. I saw one guy off to the side retching pretty loudly – he must have been the one guy who actually tried running up this last hill. Then, as the hill started to get less steep and even out a little better, I picked up the pace again to bring it in for the home stretch.
The race finished on the track of a different high school, and for a race with only about 1400 runners, there was a pretty good crowd of spectators at the end. I saw my family cheering and waving as I neared the finish line. I kicked it up a notch to bring it in strong, and smiled widely as I crossed the finished line, knowing that I was a marathoner…again.
The race medals we got I thought were very nice, or if nothing else, huge! The two-sided design was a nice touch, though I guess it doesn’t really leave any room for engraving if you’re into that sort of thing.
There was tons of great food at the finish line. They even had little kiddie pools setup for doing mini ice baths, and an area where they were giving free massages. Too bad I had to head out of there pretty quickly after finishing the race, because I had a cousin’s wedding to go to.
One last thing, I just want to give a big shout-out to the awesome race support along the course. The volunteers at the aid stations were great – most were also handing out orange slices and pretzels, instead of just the usual water and sports drink. A few had sprinklers set out, because at least by Alaska standards, it was a pretty hot day 🙂
This was a very enjoyable and memorable race for me, one that I’ll definitely be doing again next year.