Well… it turns out that I am the “Nutmeg State Marathon” Champion. Haha!! Did not see that coming!
We pulled our sleepy crew of kids out of bed around 4:50am and drove to the start line of the marathon, where they were having the packet pickup. We also wanted to get a decent parking spot.
My plan going in to this race was simple. I had injured myself about a year ago in the Kentucky Derby Marathon and missed my goal by about 10 minutes. I am still in what I would call “recovery” mode (mostly because I was far too stubborn to admit I was actually injured to begin with -which led to a far worse injury). For the Nutmeg State Marathon, I just wanted to finish feeling good. I wanted to work hard, but not potential-injury hard. I wanted to maintain roughly an 8 minute per mile pace, and finish in 3 hours and 30 minutes, or less.
After collecting my race packet, we began to look around at the other runners showing up. We soon realized that this was a pretty cool event. Technically, the Nutmeg State Marathon is a part of a 6 day, 6 state “New England Challenge” series. Many of the runners had been competing in the series since Wednesday.
There was a super fun festival / reunion vibe to the marathon. The people were incredibly friendly. Though they had been traveling from state to state together, meeting each other again every day at each of the marathons, they were also welcoming to us “outsiders”.
Jodi turned to me and said, “You may win this thing…”
I laughed at her comment and said, “The fast people always show up right before the stop.” (Which was definitely not us!)
There were quite a few fast looking runners at the marathon, but I didn’t care. I had no thoughts of winning. A win for me was simply doing my best and sticking to my plan.
When the race started, I was in last place. I did not want to push my way to the front. Being in the back, I had a very hard time getting going at all. I had to weave in and out of runners until I could actually start running. I was around a half mile into the race before I could actually start running, and my first mile ended up clicking over at 8 minutes and 14 seconds on my watch.
“Oh no!” I thought. “That’s not good.“
Then I thought, “Actually, it’s not a big deal.”
One thing I did not want to do is freak out. I have done that in my past two marathons. The moment something goes slightly awry, I panic -making the situation even worse. I did not want to do that today.
So I just ran.
“There is plenty of race left!”
From that point on, I just found my groove. I settled in to a pretty decent pace. I was passing people pretty consistently, and eventually I had the race leader in my sights.
“I could pass him!” I thought. My first response was to start running faster, but then I remembered that my goal was not to win this race, it was to run my race. So I just stayed in my groove.
I trailed the race leader for probably 8 miles. He was just out of reach, and then I noticed that he wasn’t running quite as strong as he was in earlier miles. I still felt great. He was fading. I was not.
“Just run your race, Jeff.”
So I just ran my race. At about the halfway point, I was right beside the race leader. I tried to strike up a conversation, but he was not very talkative. He was struggling. I gave him a quick encouragement and kept moving. From that point on, I was leading the race.
This course was a 2+ mile loop… for 12 laps. Some would say, “That sounds miserable!” I actually liked it. My family set up camp by the start / finish line, and I ran by them on every lap. That part of the race was AWESOME!
The first half of the 2 mile loop was easy running. The second half of the loop was not so easy. There was a long uphill climb to get back to the start line. The breakdown of my miles reflect which was the “easy” half, and which was a “hard” half.
One nice thing about the course was that I ran the hill early on in the race (and every lap afterwards), so I knew what I was capable of. In the later miles, when I was slowing down quite a bit, I knew that it was actually me slowing down. It wasn’t that this particular hill was harder than any others… because it was the exact same hill. That was helpful to me. It took away my excuses, and caused me to focus on just doing as well as I could.
Being out on the course mostly by myself for so long gave me time to just be with Jesus and pray. I spent a lot of miles praying for the people who are participating in #5kMay2019. It has been an awesome journey so far, and we still have 2 weeks to go! I love the encouragement and accountability that comes from a great group of people committed to a common goal. We can do this!
I began to count down the hills from mile 18 on. “Only 5 more hills to climb…” It was hard work, but I kept reminding myself that this is exactly what I was training for. When I came up over the hill for the last time, I felt like the king of the world! I ran through the finish, hugged and gave high fives to my family, ate a pickle, and then jumped into the van for our epic 12 hour drive home.
The Nutmeg State Marathon was #3 of my “50 by 50” goal. I want to run a marathon in each of the 50 United States by the time I am fifty. I have quite a few marathons (and quite a few years) to go, but just like with #5kMay2019, I believe that I will get there.