On December 19th I followed up my previous weeks PR in the half marathon with a PR in the Jacksonville Marathon. My winter marathon goal was to wait for a late January marathon. I had read that if you are running marathons within 6 to 8 weeks of each other, that you need to run just one long (20 to 26) mile training run in between the two marathons. So, my brother Dave, his wife Dianna and I all decided to run Jacksonville as a training run. However, this came with the proviso that we would run it at marathon pace for the 1st 1/2 and if we were on pace of a Boston Qualifier, we would give it a go. My brother is in the 40-44 age group needing a 7:30 pace to hit his 3:20 qualifier. I needed a 3:30. His wife needed a 3:50. Our previous PRs were as follows: Dave- 3:53; Dianna- 4:05; Me- 3:45.
The weather was ideal: 42 and no wind. I decided to pace my brother Dave at the 7:30 pace and figured I'd try to hit a 1:40 at the half. We ran together at that pace for 9 or 10 miles. It felt great; more like a training run than a marathon. Brother Dave, however, sees a Port-O-John and feels moved. We split off as I want to see if I can hold the pace. I hit the 1/2 at 1:39:15 and decide I have to give it a shot. The return trip on the out and back course was still cool, but it is a marathon. I start giving back the half minutes I banked on the way out and start averaging about 8:30 miles. Still works as I needed to average 8:00s to BQ. As I hit the 22 mile mark, I realize that I'm on target, but its tight. At mile 26, I try to pick up the pace to make up for a slowing pace the last two miles.
The marathon finishes on a high school track where you run 3/4th of the track to a finish line. I hit the track and cramp in the right hamstring. I stop and stretch. Start to run...cramp again. Stretch...run...cramp a third time. Stretch and run to the finish. Clock time: 3:31:35. A mere 36 seconds from a BQ. But for those cramps, I most likely qualify. On the up side, I knock 14 minutes off my PR. Brother Dave comes in at 3:33, a mere potty stop behind me. After 5 minutes of recovery time, we start to wonder whether Dianna will have a chance at a BQ. Sure enough, we spot her coming into the track around the 3:42 mark. I run across the field and yell to her: "You're going to qualify for Boston!" She gives me a pained look in reply. Once she crossed the finish line we all high fived and hugged her. Salome had run the half in 2:09 and was at the finish to greet each of us.
Three PRs and one BQ. Not bad for what was scheduled to be a training run for a late January marathon. It just goes to show you, you never know what will happen until you start the marathon. For me, it was like Paula Radcliff redeeming her DNF in Athens at the NYC marathon. My cramping starting at mile 20 at NYC threw me off my pace and I ended with a 4:14. I was OK with that, but felt like my body let me down. Jacksonville, and redemption.
I had questioned the wisdom of running the 1/2 the week before, but in hindsight, I think it gave me the confidence to go out at the 7:30 pace. I now feel that the BQ is a real possibility and hope to still run the a January marathon for a last bite at the apple for this year. However, I've been feeling like a bear in hibernation the last few days and am listing to my body. So only one 5 miler since the marathon. I'll try to get back on track in a few days.