If you’re from Georgia, you know that’s not “All-bany,” it’s “AL-binney.” Formerly the Snickers Marathon, the Albany Marathon has been around for-evah, and from what I understand, it is about the biggest thing that happens in this sweet, sleepy little southern Georgia town.
Runners know it as a top BQ course – super flat (except for the hills, of course) and good prize money that attracts fast runners. The 3:25 pace group, for example, easily had 20 runners in it, and was the second fastest pace group. That seems a bit unusual, especially for a relatively small race (caps at 2K runners).
The whole point of driving 3 hours to Albany by myself, to run a marathon by myself and then drive home right afterward (ouch & yawn) by myself was simply that – to do it, get it done, and have some time by myself. This was a low pressure event, and I wanted it that way.
I wanted to see what would happen if I just showed up and just ran without pushing. That meant being able to talk at any point, having gas in the tank for a strong finish and not requiring a lot of recovery time afterward. That also meant no time goal. I knew, based on Chicago, what I probably could do if the stars aligned but there was no pressure. No chasing the podium, no worries about a BQ (though I turn markedly older this summer, so a BQ just got 5 minutes easier). Just run and have fun.
The point of that was to know that, with about seven weeks until the 2014 Boston Marathon, I have the distance handled and now I can focus on hills, speed and endurance. Not so I can go blaze any trails – there is no chance, in any universe, of placing decently at Boston – that’s not why human runners do it. No, the hills, endurance and natural speed are so you can let your body run and your whole mind, heart and soul can engage with the event. At least, that’s my plan.
I’m not going to bore anybody with splits. Average pace was 7:49, which should have been a 3:25 finish but the course was .2 miles longer (26.4) so it was 3:26. Don’t think that matters? Run a marathon.
Instead, I will detail a few learnings… most of these are ‘duh’ learnings but good to put down for hindsight reference next time around.
- Talking takes energy. You don’t have any to spare in a marathon. (I talked with a sweet new friend for the first 14 miles, and loved it but realized I probably lost at least a minute’s worth of energy, so in a race where you care about your time, zip it.)
- Flat and fast can be translated into, “sort of rolling hills that will end up feeling like mountains, and competition from crazy fast runners who are built like sinewy arachnids.”
- Guys spit. A lot. And by the second half, a lot of them literally are throwing sweat. (I knew this, but it’s worth the reminder so you can be on the lookout because, seriously, eew.)
- Be careful with your gel. If you put a gel in your mouth and digest it slowly while you’re running, there’s a good chance you’ll cut the corners of your mouth. It’s like a paper cut or whatever freaky thing the Joker has going on.
- Crowd support and a power song will do more for you than caffeine, steroids or a jet pack.
- Smiling makes pain diminish. (It also might make you look like a crazy, grinning idiot but who cares.)
- Pick up your feet when you see the photographer. This one comes from my pals Jessica and David – apparently, even though you feel like you’re RUNNING, you’re shuffling and many a race photo confirms this. If you want that elusive ‘floater’ pix, be silly and pick up your feet as you pass the photog. In truth, I don’t know that I actually managed this, but I was thinking about them when I saw the photographer, and it gave me a laugh (so maybe I’m shuffling and smiling).
- To that end, change your gait every once in a while (like every 6-8 miles). Altering your turnover for about 20 seconds will give your muscles a break and feel so good. SOOO good.
- Run up hills with your elbows, not your legs.
- Run down hills with your arms loose. Gravity is our friend.
- Enjoy the strip tease. If you’re behind the guy who keeps trying to cool off by pulling up his shirt and pulling down his shorts, resist the urge to tell him to just take them off. It’s pretty entertaining watching the semi-strip run and honestly, nobody would want to see that guy running in those old dude tighty-whities.
- THANK the volunteers – especially the water station people. They have a really, really long (wet) day.
- Be kind to your nose. If you wipe your drippy allergy nose with your arm warmers throughout the whole race, chances are, it’s gonna bleed. (Not that you’ll know it because you’ll be sweating/drying/sweating/drying/etc and it all feels the same but man oh man, your photos will be funky.)
- If you’re a praying type, pray before you start. Give it to God. Mid-way, do it again. If you give it to God, He’s going to give it to you.
- Enjoy the race you’re running. A BQ may be important, but it isn’t everything.
All told, I was pleased with how the Albany Marathon went. A few minor glitches, but in 3 hours and 26 minutes, and 26.4 miles, that’s to be expected. Now training gets real. Boston, here we come.
What is your marathon strategy? Any great tips to share?