My Favorite Runs of 2011 – #2 The St George Marathon & The New Recruits
The St George Marathon
As I have mentioned in a few other posts, 2011 was a very energizing year for me as a runner and really probably in life. One of the things that re-energized me last year was all of the good people around me. It would be hard to mention all of the people in my life that give me reasons to be happy. I have a great wife and kids and a great support system of so many family members and friends.
In writing about my favorite runs of 2011 there were three people who specifically helped keeped me running and motivated me to be better. Those three people were my nephew Riley, my brother-in-law JJ, and JJ’s brother-in-law Trent. I was able to see these three train for and run their first marathons. Riley and JJ both ran the St George Marathon, while Trent ran the Top Of Utah Marathon for his first. Being with them throughout the year gave me the chance to think back to my first marathon experience in October of 2001. That first time finishing a marathon is a great, emotional, empowering experience. It is a great feeling to finish something, that not long before, you thought was impossible.
I was also excited about the St George Marathon because I was in better shape than I had been in for a few years and was excited to see how I would be able to finish. In 2010 I ran my 4th St George marathon. I was the worst shape that I had been in for any of my marathons and that coupled with 2010 being the hottest St George marathon on record resulted in my slowest marathon time by over 30 minutes. I was excited to try to avenge that experience.
Unfortunately, as marathon day approached it was evident that it would again be a very hot day, despite this I was still very feeling optimistic. One of my favorite parts of the race is to be at the starting line with all 6,000 or so runners. To paint the picture of the St George Marathon starting line, they have about fifty or so small bonfires blazing to keep the runners warm and then a line of port-a-potties as far as the eye can see. There is music blaring and the same booming voice each year giving instructions and motivation. It is dark and you are really in the middle of nowhere. There is a line of flags from each of the countries being represented in the race. There is such a feeling of excitement in the air. It is an incredible place. The St George marathon is such an organized event and they do such a good job with every aspect of the race. The start is at 6:40 am with the wheelchair racers followed by the runners at 6:45am. The race starts up by a small rural Utah town called Central. The course drops down through beautiful Snow Canyon and some of the most breathtaking red rock country in the world. It is always chilly or even cold at the starting line but you warm up quickly in the Southern Utah weather as you drop in elevation and as the sun starts to beat down. The past two years have been on the warm side of chilly as we have started which means that the final miles will be hot and they were.
My goal time for the race was to be somewhere between three hours thirty minutes and three hours thirty five minutes, with the heat I wasn’t sure that would happen but I was going to give my best effort. To finish in that time it meant I would need to be running somewhere between 8 minute and 8 minute 12 seconds per mile. It did start to warm up quick but I was on pace for about the first 18 or 19 miles. For each of the last 6 or 7 miles though, I was off of my pace by about a minute to a minute and a half. The heat just started to take its toll and I was running out of gas. Some of the highlights during this race were thinking about the signs that my kids had made and posted along the route, the popsicles that some angels were handing out at about mile 23 or 24, the wet washcloths around mile 24 or 25, and the cheering crowds at small towns along the route. All of those things make such a difference but probably the thing that I most appreciated was the ice cold sponges that my parents hand out to me every year around mile 21. Nothing feels better at that point in the race than the ice cold of those sponges on my hot bald head. I know JJ felt the same gratitude as they handed him the sponges. It felt so good that I even had to share one with the guy running next to me. Despite the best efforts of all of the cheerleaders and supporters along the way I finished in 3:45:13. I was about 10 minutes slower than I had hoped but I was still happy with the race. I had cut about 45 minutes off of my 2010 time. My time was right in the middle of the road for my six marathon finishes. This year I hope to come a little closer to the faster times I ran in the early 2000′s. That is what it is all about just trying to improve each time and getting back up when you fall.
One of the great things about this race though was the fact that after I had finished I still had the excitement of waiting to see Riley and JJ finish their first marathon. I walked back along the route for a few miles and saw both of them crusing along through the heat. They both finished strong and it was great too see them accomplish their goals after so much time and effort. No one can ever take that title of “marathon finisher” from them. Definitely one of my favorite runs and favorite experiences of 2011.
Check back tomorrow for My Favorite Run of 2011.