I went into Sunday’s Cleveland Marathon really wanting to run a good race. Beyond the fact that I’ve put together some decent efforts lately, this was the home course for a couple of loyal Operation Jack supporters and I really wanted to turn in a solid effort. I felt I owed it to them.
The loyal supporters are Erin Fortin, a grad student at the University of Colorado, and Jamie and Jenn Fellrath of Columbus, Ohio. Erin grew up in the Cleveland area and Columbus is relatively close to Cleveland. Erin flew back to visit her family and run the marathon, only her second. Jenn was going to run the half marathon, but she got injured and couldn’t. The Fellraths still came down to support me though. I was pretty excited about this race all week, and really wanted to run well. Like I said, I felt like I owed that to them.
Unfortunately, I had some issues with my luggage. Long story short, I didn’t have my running shoes until 10:45 p.m. the night before the race (no, I don’t check luggage when I travel). And between the time I woke up on Friday and the time I ran the race on Sunday, I had 3 hours sleep on a plane, a 2 1/2 hour nap in my hotel, and 4 1/2 hours of sleep at night in my hotel. In addition, go-time was 7 a.m. Eastern, so I was up at 4:30 a.m., which was 1:30 a.m. body time. I had a few things working against me. But that didn’t take away from the fact that I still owed them a good race!
A little before the start, Erin told me she thought I was going to run a 3:08. Since she was running with her phone, I told her to text me at the three-hour mark. Her one prior marathon was in the five-hour range, and while it was a trail marathon at elevation, she didn’t have a ton of confidence and she planned on starting between the 4:00 and 4:20 pacers. She was also having knee problems and got a cortisone shot last week. She had no idea if she was going to be closer to four hours or five hours, and if it was the latter, with my flight schedule, I needed to head back to my hotel to shower and pack and then get back to the finish.
Anyways, we parted ways before the start and got rolling. I started between the 3:00 and 3:10 pace groups and tucked in a little bit behind the 3:00 group pretty quickly. To keep it under control, I stayed a touch back the first couple of miles and then went by heart rate, keeping it between 170 and 173 or so. I felt pretty good early and was turning quite a few miles in the 6:40-6:50 range. I had some early burning in my shins and calves, which always happens when I’m running quick. And, like always, it went away by mile 6 and I get into a zone.
I ran my own race, but fluctuated between 15 and 30 seconds behind the 3:00 group for the first 10 or so miles. I started to feel the pain I’ve been having in my right hip and glute at about mile 8, but it didn’t really slow me down. At mile 10, though, we started facing a pretty stiff headwind. That slowed me down. My 6:50s turned into 7:20s in a hurry. I saw the Fellraths and their two children at about mile 12 and they knew I was pretty close to the 3:00 group, but they didn’t know I knew I could feel the struggle coming on.
I went through the half at 1:31:42 on my Garmin, which I was pretty happy with. I figured I had a good shot at sub-3:05, and a very good shot at sub-3:10. However, the headwinds didn’t let up and my pace started to slip. I was struggling a little bit to find power in my stride and the sub-3:10 was starting to look a little questionable.
I think the wind went away after mile 17 or 18, but I wasn’t moving too well, registering miles up close to 7:45 or so. At about 21, I caught a second wind and started to move, dropping about 30 seconds a mile off my pace and locking into a groove. I wasn’t really kicking, but I was moving pretty well. Starting with about 5 miles to go, I started doing the math in my head each mile to calculate how fast I needed to average to get at least a 3:09. It started at about 7:30/mile I would need, but as I started ticking off 7:00 miles, that got better and better and I started thinking about that 3:08 Erin predicted.
That seemed like a longshot with three to go, but I powered through the 24th and 25th miles and all of a sudden, all I needed was about a 7:30 or so for the last mile. Barring a total collapse, it that was easy. A 3:09 was a given. But I still put the hammer down as well as I could with about a 6:45 and finished in 3:08:32. I was pretty happy. I ran well, did a fairly good job of fighting through, and I made it happen when I needed to. It was my fourth-fastest run of the year, my 11th-fastest ever. I was pretty happy, especially considering how tired I was heading into the race.
The course was pretty decent. I was expecting it to be pretty ugly, because Cleveland has a stereotype of being kind of blah. But it was actually a pretty good course. We ran through their downtown area, which was one of the nicer downtowns I’ve seen in a big city, plus we went by the NFL stadium, through several neighborhoods that seemed decent, along Lake Erie for quite a while, through a nice park, and then back into the city to finish it up with downtown as the backdrop. Course support was very good and the volunteers did a great job.
But what I’ll really remember from this race was what happened after I finished. I went to get my phone to see if Erin texted me. I needed to know if she was going to be closer to 4:00 or 5:00.
You better be done by now 🙂 ipm ahead of the 340 group!!
Yeah, she had a typo with that apostrophe, but I’m just telling the story as accurately as possible. No big deal, right? Anyways, I was crazy excited to see that. I was with the Fellraths and I was jumping up and down (figuratively, not literally — my hip hurt like I had just run a marathon or something). We scooted back over to the finish area and there was 3:32 on the clock. We started watching and I was looking for her. She was wearing all black.
But every time somebody in all black came by, it wasn’t her. I was really hoping she’d hit 3:40:59 or better and qualify for Boston. That would have been amazing. But then I saw the 3:40 pace leader go through. And I kept looking for her, and looking for her. And I didn’t see her. I was totally bummed. At about 3:45, I texted her and asked her if she was OK.
She texted me back that she was at the end of the finishers chute! Silly me, she was wearing green! She went 3:40:29 and qualified for Boston. I was so excited for her. I’ve seen people do better than they expect to do, but never like this. For the life of me, I don’t know how anybody starts out aiming for a 4:15 or so and ends up with a 3:40. That’s more than a minute per mile quicker than she set out to do, and at that speed, that’s not easy. I was amazed, excited, happy for her … it was awesome and it made my weekend. That will probably be my memory of the race.
So, 25 down, 35 to go. And next year, when I run Boston, I’ll see Erin!
The Fellraths, me, Erin and her brother Will. Cleveland was Will’s first marathon and he went 3:29 … not bad!