Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Race Report - Marshall University Marathon

Sunday, November 11th was the Marshall University Marathon in Huntington, West Virginia.  Paul and I decided to run this race a few weeks ago and make a road trip out of it.  How much of a road trip?  Well, 1170 miles or driving in a little over 36 hours and add running a full marathon in there.  Sounds like a good road trip to me. 

Paul and I left from his house at 5:00AM on Saturday and pretty much drove straight through to Huntington, only stopping for gas and food.  After only 9 hours, we were on the campus of Marshall University to pick up our race numbers and shirt from the Rec Center on campus.  Oddly enough, there was no packet to pick up, I guess there were trying to go green or something.  All I received at the time was a technical short sleeve shirt and my race number.  So glad they gave out short sleeve shirts, too many race feel they need to give out long sleeve and I have waaaaayyy too many of those.

This is the 9th year of the Marshall University Marathon and is put on as a memorial to the many who lost their lives in a plane crash back in 1970.  Almost the entire Marshall  University Football team died back on November 14th, 1970 in a tragic crash coming back from a road football game.  The Movie "We Are Marshall" tells the story of the crash and the resurrection of the football team the following year.  On campus is a memorial fountain in honor of those who lost their lives.  The full marathon runs past this fountain 2 different times.  Unfortunately, the half marathon did not run past this fountain.  I think the marathon did a poor job at letting the runners know where this fountain was or that it really existed.  I found it after asking some staff on campus.  In past marathons here, they gave runners the option to place a flower at the memorial during the race but I did not see this happening this year.  Not sure if they did this or not.  

Memorial Fountain on the Campus of Marshall University.

West Virginia is in the middle of the Appalachian Mountains but somehow, they were able to create a mostly flat marathon there.  This marathon has only 3 or 4 very short hills, maybe 30 feet up so this is a fast course.  It is a double loop course for the full marathon which I was unsure if I would like or not.  I have done a 95 lap marathon and a 208 lap marathon, but never a 2 lap marathon.  In the end, I liked knowing the course and running it a second time when I was getting tired toward the end.  I would not mind doing a double loop marathon again.  Most of the course is on city roads but there is a stretch for a few miles each loop on a crushed limestone path through a pretty park.  If I remember correctly, there are very few full marathons in West Virginia so if you are trying to do all 50 states, this is a pretty good one to do.

The race started right outside the Football Stadium at 7:00AM.  The weather was cool, mid 40's and there was about 1500 half and full marathoners that all started together.  The road was pretty full of runners so Paul and I headed toward the back of the pack.  The announcer was either non existent or I just couldn't hear them but I never heard a National Anthem before the race.  We also could not hear the starting gun, we just saw runners starting to go.  There was no timing mat at the start either (this comes into play later).

Paul decided he was going to run with me so after a couple slow miles, we ramped it up to about 8:50 pace.  Paul was having some stomach discomfort to often we would stop and would catch up to me later.  It warmed up pretty quickly and by halfway through the first lap, I was warm and needed to remove the long sleeve shirt and go with just the singlet.  At the halfway point, I tossed my shirt and it was nice for awhile.

For the first 12+ miles, the half marathoners ran with the full marathoners, then right as we hit the edge of campus, the full marathoners turned into campus and ran straight through the middle right past the memorial fountain.  At the stadium, the full runners kept on the road and the half marathoners finished in the stadium.  Paul was with me as we passed the half in 1:57:45ish as the average pace was finally under 9:00.  We kept running on and off together as I would go ahead and he would catch up.

By mile 21, my legs were starting to get tired and it was getting quite warm, mid 60's already and fully sunny.  My goal was always to break 4:00:00 so I knew I needed to keep up 9:09 average to make that.  And I knew my garmin was marking the miles a little early so I knew I had less time.  The miles started slowing down but I kept my mind on track and still tried to get the under 4.  We hit mile 25 and I looked at my watch and guesses we needed to run a little under 9:00 to break 4.  I tried picking it up and Paul was being very encouraging.  Finally with a half mile to go, Paul was pulling away and I tried as much as I could to pick it up as I knew it was going to be close, VERY close.  The hill down into the football stadium was very steep and Paul was already way ahead of me making sure he broke 4.

The final part of the race is really cool.  You enter the stadium and run along the sidelines of the football field until you reach the 20 where you then run to the center of the field.  They then toss you a football for you to run with for the final 80 yards.  This was fun and unique.  I caught the football and headed for the goal line as fast as I could.  I crossed the finish line with the clock reading 4:00:24.  BUT, that was the gun time.  I said they didn't have a timing mat at the start line and this REALLY sucks.  My official time is 4:00:25 BUT my "Chip Time", if they had it, would have been 3:59:57.  Here is where I am confused at their decisions.  They had a timing mat at the finish of course.  They had one at the half marathon mark, AND they had one at 30 yards before the finish line (I assume so they could read your name over the speakers).  So now my official time is over 4:00 but I actually ran under 4:00 because I started in the back and it took me that long to reach the starting line.  Oh well, I am still going to call it a sub 4:00.

Finish line of the Marshall Marathon.  My "Chip Time" would be 3:59:57, not 4:00:24

After the race, we headed to the car to get some dry clothes before heading back to the stadium for some pictures.  Suddenly my blood pressure dropped (this has happened a few times after marathons) and I felt really crappy.  I was laying in the middle of the football field for a while waiting for it to pass as it has in the past.  This time took a little longer than usual and I think it has to do with me being a bit dehydrated after the race.  During the race, I think I was fine with hydration, but afterwards, it was warm and sunny and I think it happened quickly.  I recovered and after a quick shower, Paul and I got in the car and started our trek home.  We arrived home at about 10:00 PM after a stop in Cincinnati for a big dinner at Longhorn Steakhouse.  I sure get hungry about 4 or 5 hours after finishing a marathon.  I can't eat anything for 2 or 3 hours but then it comes on strong.  

Paul and I inside the Stadium after the race.  Great finish location for a marathon.

 A view of the finish area inside the stadium.

The final 80 yards of the race is right down the middle of the field.  A football is tossed to you so you can carry it over those last 80 yards across the goal line. 

Overall, the Marshall University Marathon is a pretty good race, definitely in the upper half of marathons I have run.  Good, fast course with many scenic areas and not too many drab areas.  Plenty of aid stations along the course not too far apart from each other.  Great volunteers at the aid stations too and at almost every crossing.  There were many military service members at the intersections and since this race took place on Veterans Day, it was a great opportunity to thank each one as we ran past.  The finish area was really cool in the stadium with the music playing and names being read of the the speakers.  Running the final 80 yards with a football in hand was fun.  So glad I didn't drop the pass or fumble along the way.  Loved the green (Marshall colored) technical shirt with only 1 ad on the back.  A really cool finishers medal that is 2 sided with a thundering herd in it.  The letters RK are on both sides of the medal but I am not sure what that exactly represents.  I heard a rumor it was the initials of someone who was initially part of starting the race years ago but have not confirmed or denied this.

A little bummed they didn't have chocolate milk after the race.  My stomach was in no position to eat but they had food somewhere, some off the grill too.  Really bummed they didn't have a timing mat at the start.  Seems like a bad decision to me.  A didn't like that they seemed to not have anything, at least that I saw, for memorializing the place crash that I was under the impression was the reason they started the race.  I had watched the movie a week before the race to familiarize myself with the story.

 A nice short sleeve technical shirt.

 The front of the 2 sided Marshall University Marathon Finisher's Medal. 
The back side of the Finisher's Medal.  I saw this side first after the race and was confused for a second until I turned it over. 

Overall, this is a pretty good marathon with a few things they can improve on.  It was a fairly inexpensive race to enter if you signed up soon enough.  I signed up 2 weeks before and it was still only $60.  If you signed up way in advance, you received a jacket as well and the price was even cheaper.  Given the chance, if I was in the area, I would run this one again.

Next up in 4 weeks, the Kiawah Island Marathon in South Carolina.

Keep on Running!!!

Marshall University Marathon
Time 3:59:57 (Gun Time 4:00:25)
Place Overall 265 out of 596
Place Age Group 32 out of 61
43 Completed Marathon
16 States Completed

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