Race:St. Jude Memphis Marathon
Location: Memphis, TN
Time/Temp: 8:00 am / 50° – 64° at finish
Official Time: 5:42:27 Chip timed
Overall: 2115 out of 2357
Gender: 1207 out of 1284
Age: 243 out of 256
Results by Place
Age Group Results
My Mile Splits
As most of the people reading this already know; Yesterday I ran the St. Jude Memphis Marathon. I’ve been training for this for months. If you count the time building up a solid running base, training has actually been almost two years. After my first half marathon in April, I felt good afterwards and figured I had it in me to try the full distance. I wanted the feeling of not being sure I could finish the race. The Half Marathon never made me feel like that. I was told the Marathon would deliver. I was told correctly.
It was not an easy task, it was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. But, as a friend of mine put it. “Hey, it was a learning game right?” It might be a game I never play again.
This is a race recap, it is long. It is written just as much for my benefit as it is yours.
The first part of this post is a recap of my situation. At the end of the post I’ll sum up the lessons I learned, perhaps so I won’t make the same mistakes if I do this again.
I took off work on Friday in order to have a relaxed day before the race to go up and pick up my race bib, maybe walk around the expo for a bit. I left fairly early on Friday and got to the expo at around 11:30. It went quickly, and I perused the vendors for about 30-45 minutes or so before leaving to go get some lunch.
Afterwards, I went to go check into my hotel and just laid down for a bit randomly napping, and watching Spongebob on the TV. At around 4:30 or so, I dropped by Target to pick up a gift for a friend CO who wanted me to come over to visit for dinner. (Qwirkle)
Afterwards I headed out to Midtown to CO’s house. Sat down to chat with CO and his family for a bit, and then we headed to Cooper Young to some italian restaurant. (I do not know the name). I chose a sensible dinner. Not too heavy, just some pasta, with tomato sauce and a piece of grilled chicken. It was excellent, a little large. I ate a good bit of it, but left a lot on the plate.
We sat and chatted for a bit, before we left, he drove me around the Marathon Course for the next day a good bit and we chatted some about the race, and where the hills are, and thinking about what I would feel like when I got to this point, etc. After a bit of wonderful chat I went back to the hotel to try to call it an early night.
I got back to the hotel at about 9:00 to get ready for bed. First, I had to prepare everything for the race though.
I started getting all my stuff laid out and ready for the race. I had spent a week prior constantly checking on the weather over and over, and I had brought two different running attire to wear on Saturday depending upon the weather. At the beginning of the week, it was supposed to be quite cold. By the end of the week, the forecast had changed. 40 at the time of the start, moving up to 60 by the time I finished. I laid out both longsleeve tee and tights, as well as shortsleeve tee and shorts.
I tossed and turned all night, waking up, going back to sleep, etc. Not a very good nights sleep, nerves, turning on tv to look at weather, etc.
I finally woke up at 5:00 am and took a shower and ate a Clif Bar. I decided to go with the shorts and shortsleeve tee. I had a throwaway sweatshirt that I put on as well to stay warm till the start.
Around 5:45 I headed in. Even though the race is not till 8:00 I was nervous about parking, etc. I got to the start line at about 6:00. I packed a bag with some clothes for after the race, as well as a towel and soap for the after race showers that they provide. I went over to bag check, and stuck my phone and keys in the bag and checked it. Then I went and sat in the bleachers of Autozone for about 40 minutes or so bored. I was thinking now I should have kept my keys so I could go sit in my warm car for a while waiting for the start. That would have been better.
I’m more of a wake up and run kind of guy, waiting around for the start was a little bit brutal. Finally I walked over to the start line and sat around there for a bit. I was walking around the corrals and noticed the 4:25 pace group.
For your first Marathon, they say your only goal is to finish. Well, I still thought I could do it in 4:30ish because my long run paces were all at 10:20-11:00 or so per mile. So, I jumped into the corral with this group and waited for the start.
I spent mostly 20-30 minutes standing in a corral shivering in tight shorts and a shortsleeve tee with a lightish sweatshirt on. It was not enough. I was freezing, shivering, etc. I still thought once I started running I would be okay.
Finally, the Race started. I was in Corral #9, and each wave was 2 minutes or so, so I wasn’t going to be going off for a little bit. It was at this time I dropped my sweatshirt (The instructions said that the pad could not read my chip if I had my sweatshirt on. I question this and wish I would have tried to keep it a bit longer).
Finally our corral moved up and I started. I kept with the 4:25 pace group about 150 yards ahead of me or so at the start. But the starting miles were pretty crowded, and there was a lot of starting and stopping as people would cut across or back and forth etc to toss clothes and stuff.
I tried to keep my focus and run. I figured because of my long run paces that the 4:25 pace was doable the whole way. I finally started to feel okay and warm up a little bit at about 4 miles or so. I saw a friend at Mile 4 on the sidelines and waved (SA) She waved back and issued some encouragement.
Around this time I grabbed one packet of Sport Beans and ate it. I didn’t particularly feel all that hungry, but it’s a marathon right. I need to replace nutrients and carbs, etc. I also drank from my bottle filled with water and a Nunn tablet pretty liberally.
Mile 4-5 also ran through the St. Jude Campus. This was a neat portion of the race, with lots of kids tougher than me battling their own situations. It was also a fairly crowded portion of the race. A lot of the kids come out to watch and high five the runners. I and a lot of people were lining up down the sides of the streets to give a few of these high fives. They really help us along. (I could have used some more)
So after going through the campus at St. Jude, the course turned out toward midtown and Overton Park. This whole time I tried to keep steady, although with the crowds there was still a lot of start/stop etc. Especially around the Water Stops. Still I kept pretty steady and felt pretty good.
As we headed out toward and passed the Zoo at Mile 7 or so. I kept looking up at the 4:25 pace group which was still about 150-200 yards ahead of me, which meant I was still doing alright. A few times prior to this, I would get stuck behind some people or groups and see the pace group going away, I would kick the pace in gear a bit to catch back up over time.
Finally at the Mile 8 Water Stop, I noticed that I had caught up with the pace group again. I figured if I stayed in front of it, I wouldn’t get caught behind a crowd and have to make pace changes to keep them in sight like I had too a couple of times early. I actually at this point still felt really good and decided to go on ahead of them a bit.
I grabbed another pack of Sport Beans and ate them between Mile 8 and 9. I also drank some Powerade at the Mile 9 water stop. Up to this point I had only used my bottle, but fairly liberally. It was nearly empty at this point.
Still, I found myself pretty strong going into Mile 10.
I started feeling a little bit fatigued here, I figured this was not a good place to start feeling fatigued as I still had 16 more miles to run, so I decided I’d try to slow up a bit. It was about then that I saw the 4:25 pace group coming up behind me again and decided to just stick with them the rest of the way as best I could.
At Mile 12, the Half Marathoners split off, I looked at them all happy as they turned toward the finish. Sorta jealous, but I didn’t come here to run a half. I continued on. With the 4:25 pace group up ahead a bit, I tried to stay even, and conserve my energy best I could.
The course came back around onto Beale Street. It wasn’t as crowded through there this time as a full 2/3 of the field peeled off for their half marathon finishes. Although there were still lots of people around, it was a lot more sparse on the course at this time. This was both good, and bad. There was more room and less chances of getting cut off, but here is also where I started to feel and notice the wind a lot more. It was pretty heavy as the crowd thinned.
My friend CO from the Night before had warned me about this stretch the night before while driving the course. He said that it’s doesn’t have fans, the half marathoners are gone, it’s basically all uphill, and it’s through a fairly boring part of town. Couple this with the fact that my mind was beginning to tell me that I thought I might have run the first half too fast, as well as drinking and eating way to much. It was cool, and I was less dressed than my typical runs, yet I was drinking more fluids and had eaten two packs of jelly beans all before the half as well as taken Powerade at Mile 9 and I don’t think that was a good idea.
You see, I trained with the water/nuun. I drink Powerade, but it was always after my run was over, or I was in a cooldown walk on the way home stopping by the gas station. I had never drank it on the run before. It was not sitting well and I began to feel a bit nauseated at the 14-15 mile area.
At this point, I could no longer see the 4:25 pace group guy. I didn’t care, I had given up that dream. I was thinking 5 hours would still be respectable.
I kept steady though. My friend CO said he was going to be around the Mile 16 mark and would run with me for a bit. I was looking forward to it, though my pace was starting to slow some because of my stomach.
Uh oh. I felt a twinge in my left hamstring. I’ve never had this pain before while running. It was cramping up. Was this from a lack of fluids despite the fact that fluids were pretty heavy in my stomach. I can’t possibly force myself to drink more if that’s the problem (Can you get cramps from having too many fluids?)
As I hit the Mile 16 Water stop, with the twinge in my hamstring not letting up, I decided to walk for the first time, only through the water stop. So I stopped grab some water, and walked through. Afterwards, I started to trot again, but still had the cramp, when I saw CO and his family.
It felt really good to see a familiar face, but I felt bad walking toward him. He came up to me and greeted me, and said he’d run a few miles with me. I think he saw the concern on my face, and wanted to help me work through it.
He had his phone with him, and was reading emails and text messages from some of my friends who were watching my progress online. This gave me some motivation, but it still hurt. CO kept after me, got me started running again, but I’d only be able to go a quarter or half a mile before my hamstring would start complaining again. The run intervals kept getting slower and slower. Also any uphills were killer at this point.
As I crossed the 18 mile mark entering the Cooper Young Neighborhood I told CO that I only wanted this to be over. At this point. I thought that this was the stupidest thing I’ve ever done.
CO kept after me though. This second loop was brutal, and unfortunately, we were still going away from downtown, that did not help the motivation much. It was also at this point I felt a lot of shame. I had run 16-20 mile long runs at home and didn’t walk those at all with no problems, what was the difference here? (Obviously it was hydration, a later part of the day, and too much food, but I couldn’t do anything about that now, and I still had over six miles to go.)
This portion of the course went down Parkway, the farthest distance you get from downtown, but it runs parallel the whole time, so you don’t feel like you’re making any progress back toward the finish. CO was still with me at this point, he knew I was in a bad way, and his encouragement at this point was very helpful. I told him I had to stop and stretch my hamstring out. We did so for a half a minute or so, and continued on.
He would issue orders to me, Let’s run to the light, then we can take a walk break, etc. Over and over. Trying to keep me running, if only for a little bit. I would feel alright and run for a bit, then my hamstring would twinge and I’d have to start walking. We continued this up to the 21 mile mark, where we finally turned for downtown.
This is a long stretch of road that runs straight toward downtown, It’s actually the same stretch that we ran going out in Mile 5, 6, and 7, needless to say, it took a lot longer coming back. I stopped again to stretch out the hamstring at Mile 21. This time for a bit longer. CO was right there with me. He has run a couple of marathons, and new the place I was in. He was helping me through it, I will be forever grateful for that.
Sometime in Mile 21, I noticed the 4:55 pace group pass me. It was at this point, my 5 hour goal was out the window and I knew it. In my heart at this point, time goals were completely out, finishing was really my only goal.
So Mile 21-24 began a slow walk/run toward the finish. Coming in at 24, I could begin to see the Pyramid, and knew that it had to be getting close. CO kept shouting at me encouragement, telling me I’ve run 2 miles lots of times, I don’t even think about 2 miles as a real run usually, a quick warmup. Why was this 2 sound so hard both mentally and physically. It made no sense.
At this point not a whole lot was going through my mind except the task at hand. We came around the St. Jude campus again, but it was much more sparse at this point Mile 23-24 was probably the hardest part. It was a lot of uphill at a very late portion of the race, You couldn’t really see the downtown landmarks that let you know you were close, it was brutal.
I noticed in Mile 25 the 5:40 pace guy passing me. I didn’t care about the time at this point, but I had not realized how far I had fallen off. CO was wishing me encouragement and trying to get me to run a bit more. Wanting me to finish strong. I was really giving him the best I could. But every part of my body hurt.
Finally seeing Autozone Park, CO and I set forward toward the longest mile I’d ever run.
Comes back around on itself down a bit of a big road, and parallel to the stadium you are going to finish in. I was discouraged a bit running parallel to it instead of toward it. That’s when CO (Still running with me to help me out) started pushing me harder. I was a hot mess at that point, and didn’t have much in me, but I mustered up what I could and walked up an overpass and up the road that would take me toward the stadium finish. When we hit the Mile 26 mark, he told me I could run the last quarter mile into the finish. So I did, went down the side street and into the outfield entrance of the stadium. I heard them calling my name on the PA system, but honestly, I was a bit delirious and only had finishing on my mind. I came across the finish and immediately looked for a blanket as they gave me a medal.
The blanket was more important to me than the medal. Most of the last 5-6 miles I had been very cold, so cold I almost felt ill, at least, I think that’s part of it. At least I hope it is. I think I typically like to be warmer than others on my runs. I wear fairly warm clothes when I run usually, though I do run very early in the morning. But I grabbed the blanket and did my best to try to warm up.
CO was awesome, he knew I was in a bad way when he saw me, and decided to help me out by working me all the way through the finish. Always saying something positive, and having some good conversation about different subjects as well. He also took a couple of pictures of me, which I’ll link to.
Although I do feel some disappointment in myself for the difference in my performance in the long runs as opposed to this race, I know I made some mistakes with eating and drinking too much, as well as I believe being underdressed for the race. Not to mention running a first half that was probably way too ambitious. I am pleased I could finish no matter the time. I’m not so sure I could have done so without support and encouragement from my friend.
WHAT I LEARNED (in no particular order)
- Marathons are hard. Contrary to the way you might think they are not twice as Hard as Half Marathons, they are 10 times as hard as Half Marathons. Why in the hell would anybody ever do this twice or more?
- Race the way you practiced. I drank way more than I ever did on any long run, and my stomach paid for it, starting at around mile 14. Also those long runs that I ran at a slow pace, I started off properly worried about the distance and ran slow on purpose. Because of this, I never felt too bad or had problems on my long runs. I didn’t start this marathon with the same mindset. I started it with the 4:25 pace group mindset. Clearly way harder than I had the skills for despite my average paces.
- My nano’s battery is a lot better when you listen to music rather than the radio. Don’t be worried about listening early while waiting. I was pretty bored sitting around for a couple of hours before it started but didn’t want to listen to podcasts or music because I was afraid my nano might die from battery in the last couple of miles
- Don’t go so early. Stay at a Start Line hotel. It’s worth the cost I think. I’m a wake up and run kind of guy. I think if I want to run my best, I need to make it more like when I wake up at home and walk out of the house and start my long run first thing in the morning.
- I shouldn’t worry about my watch battery. As long as it’s full before I start, it will last the whole time. I guess they are made for marathons at least.
- For your first Marathon. Finishing is a perfectly good goal. They don’t tell you this because they are trying to hold you back. They tell you this so that you can respect the distance and start off slow and conserve your energy. No running pain has ever compared to my feelings in those last few miles. I have a new respect for the distance and anybody that traverses it.
- More long runs and more miles per week. I peaked at only about 35 miles per week training for this one. I also really only had three ‘really long runs’ one 16, one 18, and one 20. I would like to have a couple more at each of those, plus perhaps a 22, and maybe 24 miler as well.
- I need to learn to run in a crowd a little better. There are no crowded Races in my home town. Most races are lucky to have 200 people at them at most. The biggest race of the year here might be 500 people max. Doing these marathons with 16,000 at St. Jude (and 35,000 at Country Music Marathon) crowds is a whole different beast. Even with the wave start. I am surprised at how much energy gets wasted adjusting my pace. I get frustrated and weave or look for holes and sprint through them. I need to have more patience, let the holes come to me and take them then.
- I like to be warmer than most people when I run. I guess it’s the Mississippi Heat I’ve been conditioned to endure. A nice day for some is cold for me.
- I think I could do this better. Had I done fairly well I’m not sure I would do another. But I feel like I could minimize those mistakes, and now I have a more healthy respect. Amnesia is starting to set in already.
The album links to a few of the pictures that CO took of me. I’ll update it later with some official Marathon photos if I end up buying any of them. I like them, but they are always so expensive, and I’m pretty sure I look pretty bad in most of em