I had a very strong marathon on March 12th in Washington DC. I was able to finish about 5 minutes ahead of my previous best. Plus, I was able to stop and take several stretch breaks during the race.
Some of my post-race thoughts:
a) I was able to finish with some power. In fact, my average pace the last three miles was the fastest of the race. It hurt like hell, but there's no better feeling than finishing a marathon and being the one that is passing others instead of being passed. A big shout out goes to Hanson Coaching for their training plan. They promised that their approach prepares you to finish with some power and they were right.
b) The race sponsors did a much better job than they did in Savannah last year. I had no problem with getting water, gatorade, or finding a rest area during the race. Post-race support, sustinance, and aid was flawless as well.
c) The two big hills in this race were just unmerciful. The first was a ~200 foot climb over a third of a mile up to Calvert Street from Rock Creek Trail, starting at mile 7. The second was a ~100 foot climb over a half mile as you enter Fort Dupont Park, starting halfway through mile 23. Other than that, there were modest rolling hills the first 12 miles and the last 4 miles of the course. Most of the middle was flat.
d) Access to the DC Metro made getting to and from the race an afterthought. It was much better than having to walk a mile and a half from the finish line to my hotel in Savannah.
e) The Morton's Neuroma in my right foot continues to be a challenge. I have found that it is related more to the constant pounding of a run as opposed to tighter shoes. It's doesn't flare up at all on 10 mile recovery runs, but any tempo run will trigger it after 6 to 8 miles. That's what happened during this race. My toes started tingling after 5 miles and the intermittent shooting pain started around mile 9. But (and thank goodness) it became totally numb starting around mile 18 and I was able to finish without any more problems. I'm headed back to doctor this week.
There's no doubt that the age-old adages about marathon running rang true for me. As the race begins, the pre-race excitement will cause you to start at a much faster pace than you had planned. Half-way through the race, you're beginning to wonder why you're doing this. Five miles later, you're thinking that there is no way you will be able to finish without walking it in. After toughing it out, starting around mile 22 or so you start feeling like it's possible to have a strong finish. The last three miles, if you are pushing the pace a bit, are excruciating but you feel some relief once you can see the finish line. Then, five minutes after finishing, you're thinking lessons learned and applying them during the next one.
For me, it's time for a eight to ten weeks of well-deserved downtime starting after the annual Chick-fil-a Half Marathon on April 9th. Then, it's on to the NYC Marathon this fall.