Phew, that is one long name for a marathon. From now on I am going to call it the Albany Marathon. This race took place one week ago in Albany, Georgia. As far as an organized, well run, good course marathon, I would give it an A-. A very nice marathon indeed. A mostly good course, mostly flat and good crowd support. OK finish line but a nice finish area with extras.
As far as I ran, I did just what I wanted to. I ran a 3:58:51, a sub 4, YES! But I certainly didn't do it fully according to plan. So here is the entire race with my opinions and report on how I did:
Paul, Mike, and I got up early on Saturday morning. It was cold (I like the cold) and dark when we arrived at the starting area. there was absolutely no traffic problems or parking issues to speak of. VERY SMOOTH. We sat in the warm car for awhile and ventured to the port-o-johns while the lines were shorts about 45 minutes before the start. One last time before the race and off to the starting line we went.
It was about 33F out at the start as the sun came up. Of course I was in shorts but also has on my singlet over my long sleeve shirt and I also had on a throw away long sleeve shirt. We get to the starting line and find the pace leader for the 3:30 group that Paul may join. To our surprise HE was in a running skirt. What!?!?! Then we notice the 3:40 pacer, also a guy, was wearing one as well. I found my pacer, Emily, for the 4:00 group and asked about it. She explained that the sponsor for the pace leaders was a running skirt maker and that is all they made. OK, I understand the idea, but the guys could have worn a tshirt with the company name on it. Just my opinion.
The race starts and I tuck a few meters behind the 4 hour group and ease into the run. We run though the campus of Albany State University but not one college student was out cheering on the runners, at least I did not see any. Maybe they were on spring break. I keep it easy and talk with a few other runners in the group including a guy names Roy from Atlanta. Nice older guy who would love to break 4 but did not think he could do it but was trying anyways. After 4 miles, I take off my throw away shirt and drop it next to a bridge as we cross near the finish area.
The next 6 1/2 miles I would say are the least interesting miles to view. We ran along a busier highway and along businesses that were not the prettiest to see. The course got much better when we got to 10 1/2 miles. The 4 hour pace group was right on track and maybe a 5 seconds per mile fast though 8 miles when all of a sudden I felt something going on in my stomach. Uh oh, nothing too major but I need to stop and take care of this. So at the water stop at 8 1/2 miles, I stop to use the port-o-john. Crap, both are occupied. I wait. Roy finally comes out of one and I take care of business all the while the 4 hour group trucks ahead. I wasn't too worried as I felt good everywhere else. I get out and feel much better and get going again keeping in mind that I should gradually catch the 4 hour group and not try to get it all back in a mile or 2.
By mile 10 1/2, the course enters a residential area for most of the rest of the way. Beautiful area to run in with only small hills. Some of the residents are out cheering on the runners which is always appreciated. I reach the half way point and have still not caught the 4 hour group. In fact, with all the turns, I am not sure where they are. Later I hear they past the half right at 2:00:00 while I pasted at 2:02:00, a full 2 minutes back. Apparently I am not running fast enough to catch them and I also now realize I will need to negative split the race to break 4 hours. I have never negative split a marathon before but there is always a first.
At this point, I make an effort to pick it up or else lose the chance at sub 4. I can feel myself pushing harder as I continue to pass runner after runner. Hey, I like passing other runners, this is fun! They next 4 miles average about 8:40 and I still feel good. I finally catch the 4 hour group at about mile 19 and for a moment, run with them. It is also getting warmer so I take off the long sleeve shirt I have on and run solely wit the singlet on top and tuck my shirt in my short (I like the shirt too much to throw away).
My pace was good the last 5 miles so, hey, why stop now, I feel good, let's keep up the pace. So just before mile 20, I pull ahead of the group and start running with a lady names Robin from Tallahassee, FL. We talk a bit, do introductions the way only a marathoner could during a race. We know that we are using each other now to get to our goal which is sub 4 for both of us. And for her, a Boston Qualifier! She is an IronMan competitor so she has only run a few marathon only races. We end up working quite well together. Our pace is equal and I keep us informed as to how much ahead of pace we are. She also keeps me from any walk breaks between water stops. She gets me though my 'problem' part of a marathon, miles 20 to 23. By mile 24, we are both confident of breaking 4 hours as we are about 1 minute ahead.
The course, while nice though miles 22 to 25, seems like we are running in a big circle. A look at the map shows why. Lots of turns through a neighborhood but since it is now past 10 AM, lots more people watching. A little past mile 24 and Robin pulls a bit ahead of me. I see she turns to look a few times but I am OK, just a touch slower. Mile 25 comes and now I know only a disaster can break me and I know I can always find extra energy in the last mile. At about 25 3/4 miles, the course turns toward the railroad station. The course actually run INTO the station and through the side of it to a pathway for the final 0.2 of the race. While this was different, I did not like it for 2 reasons. 1. You could not see where you needed to go and it was tight and, 2. There was a step they put a board over to run over and I stepped right in the middle of it and it gave way quite a bit. It make for a tough, awkward step. Now all there was to do is run down a hill on a pathway to the finish line. One small tight turn wit 75 meters to go and the final chute. It was along a hill on the right had side so lots of people could watch.
Robin finished just ahead of me by 1 place and 19 seconds so she is now Boston Bound! Way to go Robin! I finish and feel surprisingly good! 3:58:51 with a second half of 1:56:51! I find Mike and Paul who finished ahead of me and we share a nice cup of Miller Lite. I am not much of a beer drinker, but that beer tastes do good. Who know I would have to travel from Milwaukee, the corporate headquarters of Miller (at least for awhile) to Albany, GA for a good beer. They do have a MillerCoors brewery in Albany so That makes sense.
Turns out Pacer Emily finished right at 4 hours and even gave the pace sign to Robin for breaking 4 and qualifying for Boston. I really didn't use her the way one normally uses a pacer. She ended up being my target to get back to once I had stopped for 2 to 3 minutes at mile 8 1/2. Did she do a good job? She must have at least on time. She was motivating when I was with the group and when I passed the group. She even thanked me afterwards for helping out Robin toward the end. Apparently Robin and Emily talked during the race so Emily know what Robin's goal was. When we pulled ahead of the group, Emily was glad to see Robin had someone to run with. It all turned out great!
Mike (left), Bill, and Paul (right)
Mike ran a great race and his knee did not bother him at all as it had for over a year now. He took 38th place overall in 3:12:43 and 4th in his age group (top 3 get awards though). Paul ran good as well and finished in 3:36:10 for 130th place overall. Paula seems to run right around this a lot which is a bummer since he needs a 3:30 to qualify for Boston. He hasn't quite gotten over that hump. I come to find out later that before I finished, both Mike and Paul bet against me breaking 4 hours. Some friends, huh. Well, I guess they had history on their side.
The post race area was nice with food and beer for the participants and I even found my shirt I tossed at mile 4, right where I threw it just off the bridge.
Like I said before, this is a nice race. 574 marathon finishers so a size I really like. There were 585 half marathoners at the start as well, but they cut off almost right away. I definitely recommend this marathon to all of you if you happen to be in Georgia in early March or if you need to get Georgia done for the 50 states club. I am now at 21 marathon completed and 9 states completed. 1 more state and I could join to 50 states club, at least be a member, not a full complete one though.