I am finally ready (and have the time) to write a race report about the Steamtown Marathon in Scranton, PA.
This is an AMAZING race and I would highly recommend it to anyone. Not only was it extremely organized from the day of registration to the end, it was a hell of a lot of fun. Yes. I said fun in reference to running 26.2 miles and I am not even drunk...yet.
Leading up to the marathon you get a weekly email from the race directors that are informative, but very funny. Closer to the marathon you receive a packet in the mail with detailed information on the course, directions, parking, buses, maps, etc. I wish all marathons did this because it is nice to have all this information at your fingertips. Plus, if you are neurotic like I am, you will almost wear the print off the page from reading it so many times.
About the race:
One thing they beat into all the runners heads is to not go out fast and bank time. You will die. Okay, that is a little dramatic, but you will FEEL like dying. Why you ask. The hills. Holy Mary Mother Of God, the hills. More on that later.
We got up at the butt ass crack of dawn -- strike that -- it was earlier than the butt ass crack of dawn, to catch the first bus out to the start line. It was at 5:45 a.m. SO...SO...EARLY and freezing. It was the coldest start they have ever had at Steamtown. But we wanted to get there early so we had time to wait in line at the Port-o-Jon's. We all know, that early in the morning, a Porto stop was not an option.
The bus ride was 45 minutes of heading up and up and up and up to where we finally arrived at the high school. As we got off the busses there were teenagers every where cheering for you and escorting runners to the gym. I have to give those kids HUGE kudos for dragging their butts out of bed that early on a Sunday morning and looking HAPPY to be there! Maybe they were drunk?
We found our little spot in the gym and decided to head out in the freezing cold for our first pit stop. As we got out there we noticed that there are Men AND Women Port-o-Jon's! GET THE HELL OUTTA OF HERE. It was great because it really cut down on the lines. Steamtown, you had me at Port-O-Jon's.
The morning was cold, but clear blue skies and bright sunshine. Just a gorgeous day for a race. As we started off, we went through a little town and a few people were out on their porches in pj's drinking coffee watching the many smiling faces run by. There are a few steep downhills at the beginning. After the first inital downhills, we reach a stretch where the trees are blazing with so many colors. The beautiful scenery really made the miles go by because there was so much beauty around you.
However, this is where runners can get into trouble, if they let it. What is important to remember is the race is 14 miles of downhill. 14 miles, people. And you don't even realize you are going downhill. Here is the thing I want to stress in my subtle way: LISTEN TO WHAT FORMER RUNNERS OF THIS MARATHON TELL YOU. Do not fly down these hills, thinking you will bank time. Reign it in and save it for the end. Which I did and it totally worked in my favor.
My goal was to keep a consistent 10:15 pace up until mile 20 or 23 and then try for negative splits at the end. Negative splits...ahahahahaaaa........snort....I am an idiot.
In the beginning people were FLYING by me like I was standing still. A girl in our training group was a good 3 minutes ahead of me, but I was militant about keeping my time of 10:15 on these downhills. I am so happy I did. Around the 19 mile mark, I started catching up with those people who were so far ahead of me in the beginning and caught up to the girl in our group and passed her. In the end -- she ended up finishing 15 minutes behind me. At mile 20, I was passing a lot of people.
The course goes flat around mile 15 (with some rolling hills) until mile 23. You run along a beautiful canal on soft trail terrain which is a nice break for the legs and you get to a really pretty section where the trees are bending over the trail making sort of an archway. The sun was shining through and it was so pretty. At this point, we come across an EMT that was cracking us up. He would point at people and say "you are going to make it" "YOU are going to make it" etc. We wanted to wait around to see who the person he said "you aren't going to make it."
Up until mile 21, I felt great! I mean, really good. Felt like I wasn't going to hit the wall at all and then....I did. The wall for me is major aches in the hips, fatigue and the worst...the overwhelming feeling of wanting to start bawling my head off. This is so weird because I am NOT a crier. I rarely cry and when I do, it is in private, with my face stuffed in a pillow. I don't like to cry and like to push all those feeling down deep and reach for a glass of therapy.
Thank GOD for my dear friend Shannon, who meet me at mile 17 to run the last 9 miles with me. She kept me sane, kept me on track and kept my ass moving.
Mile 23 has a nice sized hill (Bastards). After that, it was pure survival mode and my pace really started to slow. However, even with my pace coming down to 10:30 -10:45, I was passing people. The major bitch of the race was mile 25.5. HOLY SHIT. If one of the race directors were there, I swear I would have bitched slapped them into next week. This hill was HUGE. This was where the wheels really started to come off. There was a lot of whimpering and tearing up at this point, but Shannon and my coach were the only things that got my ass up that hill. After the hill and a quick puke, it is downhill and straight to the glorious finish.
The thing that stands out the most about this race was the crowd support. It rivaled the Philadelphia marathon and in some ways, out did Philly. This is one of the biggest reasons I will run this marathon again. The people in the Scranton community were amazing. You couldn't swing a cat without someone offering you water, Gatorade, Swedish fish, Oreos, brownies, fig newtons, etc. There were so many amazing, kind, enthusiastic, supportive people along the way that made you feel like you could run a 100 miles. People were out tailgating and enjoying the race as much as the runners. I cannot express how important this type of support is and how it it is welcomed and needed by runners. If anyone from the communities of Scranton are reading this...THANK YOU.
My time: 4:31 -- a personal best. Knocked 9 minutes off my Philadelphia time. I was VERY happy with my performance (besides the crying part). BUT, it took a full week before I could walk down a flight of stairs. Those downhills bit me in the ass...hard.
If you are going to run Steamtown:
1. DO NOT BANK TIME
2. TRAIN ON DOWNHILLS
3. DO NOT GET IN A HOT TUB DIRECTLY AFTERWARDS.