Alena Runs Her REAL Marathon!
Here I am, five months later, finally writing about the “REAL” marathon that I ran!
Ever since I time trialed a marathon back in April, I have been itching to find a real marathon where I could get a Boston Qualifying time. I knew the chances of real races returning in 2020 were slim, but I decided to keep running and maintain a strong base. I spent all of the spring and the first half of the summer building a strong aerobic base with just long, easy miles. In June, Heather called me and told me to check out a fall marathon. We signed up for several small marathons, but they were canceled one by one. Eventually, we found the Holland Haven Marathon, which claimed the race would happen.
Ultimately, for the marathon to happen, the race director had to make many changes to how a typical race is run. The race was capped to 300 runners which was divided into three waves with three corrals of 33 runners each. Runners had to wear a mask while they were not running. The water stations did not have people handing runners water; instead, water cups were set on small tables. While these did not affect me that much, there was one rule that really bothered me: absolutely NO SPITTING on the course. I can hardly go an easy three miles without spitting—how was I supposed to last a hard 26.2 miles without spitting?
I gave a seed time of 2:58 (I REALLLLYYY wanted to break 3 hours this time), which placed me in Wave 1, Corral 1. I was the ONLY girl starting at 6 AM, so I was hoping that meant I could win the race for females. I felt so weird being surrounded by so many male runners, but I knew I could keep up with the guys and deserved to be in the first corral. It was in the 60s, but the air was very humid and sticky. I knew I would need to take in a lot of electrolytes and water, so I would not crash early in the race.
When the clock struck 6, we were off. I wanted to start the race on the more conservative side and not run faster than a 6:50 mile. It was hard to not go out faster as everyone around me went out hard, but I remained calm since a marathon is a long grind. The first 11 miles were in the pitch black, so I had to focus on the course and make sure I did not fall off the path and twist my ankle. Thankfully, I had a bright light on my shorts and there were runners behind me with powerful headlamps. I ran through the half marathon in 1:29:30, putting me on pace for a sub 3, and I was really hoping I could negative split the race.
Throughout the race, I tried to run with others and talk with them to pass the time. I met people from Oklahoma and Texas who flew up just to run a real marathon—runners are dedicated! I was fortunate to have lead bikers with me who carried conversation with me when the miles got tough. They were shocked when I told them this was my first official marathon, and they kept cheering me on throughout the race. I was able to pass about 8 runners in the last 8 miles of the race, which helped me focus on picking runners off.
Unfortunately, a negative split is VERY challenging in a marathon. I was averaging 6:45/6:50 all through mile 22, and then the quads decided they could not maintain that pace anymore. The last four miles were BRUTAL, and it felt like the race would not end. Ultimately, I took the final turn in Holland and saw 3:01:xx. I was shy of my goal time by one minute, but I was the first female finisher. This was such a bittersweet race—I was SOOO close to meeting my goal, but I did end up winning my first official marathon!