The Roman Gingerich Recreation-Fitness Center on the Campus of Goshen College
I left for Goshen, Indiana Friday afternoon around lunch time arriving in enough time to check out the Roman Gingerich Recreation-Fitness Center where the race was held before dinner. I picked up my packet which had my shirt in it and then ventured upstairs to check out the track and see how hard the surface was and how tight the turns were. There were a few runner/walkers on the track but I was able to get around without any problems. I was happy to notice that the turns were not too tight though I wouldn't want to be sprinting on them. The track is 208 meters long with 4 turns on each lap. Each turn is about 10 meters long with 2 very short straight-aways of about 10 meters each and 2 long straight-aways of about 80 meters long. Right away I knew this race was going to be harder then the Icebreaker Indoor Marathon, but I like a good challenge. At least the surface was a touch softer.
Long straight-aways of about 80 meters.
Marathon Gas Station, I like the name.
After a good nights sleep, I wake early and head over to Goshen College, a small Mennonite College names after the town. I arrive and see a lot of the runner already assembled upstairs staking out a spot along the track for their stuff and also putting their water bottle on 1 of the 4 tables in each of the 4 corners of the track. I decide to take a spot on a table away from the scorers/lap counters end of the track so I can easily get my stuff when needed. I found a runner named Yoshiko Jo who had run the Icebreaker Marathon as well and was able to present her with the award she won in Milwaukee a few weeks earlier. Next to her was a guy named Scott Dahl who mentioned that he had run the Icebreaker last year. He noticed the Mississippi Blues Marathon shirt I was wearing and said he was a pacer there. Ends up we discovered that we had actually talked to each other in the middle of that race. I was passing the 4 hour pace group making conversation and he was there. Small world! Ends up there was even another person in the race that ran the Icebreaker.
This year, the race decided to institute a chip for lap counting. Good Idea! If there were 30 lap counters along the route, that could have gotten confusing. Every lap we would have to run over 3 timing mats, an official one, a backup, and a battery powered backup too. There was a small problem with the timing mats as in the early parts of the race, 2 laps seemed to not have registered. I noticed this as I hit the lap counter on my watch every lap and knew it was off. They knew they were off as well, but they thought it was only 1 lap (this will come into play later).
Before the race, I am ready to go, even with a little sweat already.
Everyone before the race is in a good mood and ready to run. I knew from before the horn this was going to be a hard one. I was sweating before we even started. It was Hot! We were on the second floor of a gymnasium and as we all know, heat rising. And with over 30 runners, we were generating a lot of heat on our own. They did have a fan on one end of the track, but it really didn't do any good. I wish they could have opened some windows but I think they were not able to open. With snow lightly falling outside, it would have been nice to have some of that cool air inside. The race starts and off we go.
My goal was to try to break 4 hours again so I knew I had to run an average of 70 seconds per lap and for the most part, that wasn't too hard. One issue was that runners were running in every lane (there were 4) so I felt bad for the faster runners as they had to do a lot of weaving and running long on the turns. I tried to stay in lane 1 for the shortest way around the curves but had to pass a lot of runners myself.
After 30 minutes (and every 30 minutes after that), a traffic cone was placed at the halfway point of a lap and we all turned around and went to opposite direction. I think this helped as the turns could sure take a toll on you. Everyone knew that when it was direction change time, you ran in the first 2 lanes until you passed the cone and then the outside lane until everyone was going the new direction. This went really smooth.
They were playing music from 2 large speakers set on one of the straight-aways. Some of it was good and some was way too slow for running to. And some was down right annoying. Toward the end of my race, they started playing polka music. I can handle the Pennsylvania Polka, but it ended up being close to an entire CDs worth of Polka music. Uuugghhhh. Idea to the race staff, when runners register, ask them to name a few songs they like and then incorporate them into the music mix. Not every one will like all songs, but you will hear a few you like that way.
For the first half of the race, I was banging out laps right at 67 to 69 seconds and then a longer lap every 15 for a small walk break. I pass lap 102 (Half Way) at 1:58:55, PERFECT! But I knew the second half was going to be very hard already. The legs were a starting to tire too soon but I tried to maintain in hopes it would go away.
By lap 130, I was starting to go downhill. By lap 153 (3/4 done) I was already 3:43 off 4 hour pace and slowing. My laps were hovering around 1:30 give or take a few seconds which is 11:00 to 12:00 pace. I was TOAST! I just took it lap by lap and took my walk breaks every 10 laps and mentally struggled to not stop before that. My walk breaks ended up now being a full lap walk. I was ready to finish. I knew with 10 laps to go, I would be able to summon some sort of energy to pick it up but I just needed to get there.
I get to 6 laps to go and some confusion starts. I knew I only had 6 laps to go but the officials were saying I had 7. I made sure but stuck with what they said and ran until they said I was done. I was able to get back to my original pace for the last 4 laps and when they said I had 1 to go, I ran my fastest lap of the race, 1:00 flat. I even leaded on one turn too much and banged my shoulder into one of the support cables helping hold up the track. I hit those cables a few times during the race too. I was so glad to be finally done.
I am still standing glad to be done.
Turns out, I did run 205 laps. The race was 204 laps so I am very glad they didn't charge me extra for the extra lap I ran. I know one guy who will be glad after he finds out about the mistake. The winner. I was talking to him after the race and while he was happy to have won the race, we was bummer at his time of 3:00:22. He really wanted to break 3 hours. Now his official time (minus the extra lap) is 2:59:32.
It is a hard race to figure out. Of the 30 runners who ran on Saturday, I think only 1 negative split the race. And there were quite a few who crashed like I did. I think it had a lot to do with the heat but maybe it was different for them.
The post race food seemed good to me. I can never eat right after a race so I don't know if it tasted good or not, but I do know they hit a home run with having chocolate milk there. I don't understand why more races don't have chocolate milk, most of us runners love it and it is such a good recovery drink. Showers were available at no charge and if I wanted to, I could have used to pool or hot tube. If only I had more time! I ended up hitting the road for the 4 hour drive home getting there just in time to shovel the 2 inches of snow on the driveway.
There is something about an indoor marathon that you don't get from other marathons, something really cool! You get to know the runners around you and even some of the people watching. Even though there were runners 30 laps ahead of me and 30 laps behind me, we all cheered each other on. The camaraderie of a small mulitlap race like this is really awesome. If you have never tried an indoor marathon (or half marathon), give it a try. They can be hard, but a ton of fun. The Maple Leaf Indoor Marathon is a hard one for sure, but definitely a fun one. They put on a good race there. Is there room for improvement, of course, but show me a race that doesn't have that. This is only their 3rd year and this is the first year it is as big as it is. They will have it a ton better next year for sure.
Thanks to Doug Yoder for putting on such a fun event. Keep up the good work! I know I am not the only one who liked it and I am sure you heard that as well.