So, the day of the race finally arrived after 9 weeks of training. My taper had been very relaxed – I ran 2 miles on Tuesday and then rested. The day before the race I popped to the expo and picked up my number, then went to get the biggest pulled pork sandwich that I have ever seen at a very popular Saint Louis BBQ place (as seen on Man Vs Food), this was probably not ideal before a marathon, but it was tasty.
On Sunday morning I got up at 5am to eat breakfast and then left the house at 6am to get to the start line as the race was due to start at 7am. The sun was already beating down and it was clear that it was going to get very hot very early. As it turned out, it was the hottest day of the year, getting to 23c in the shade before the end of the race, in the sun it was up to 34c – and after training in temperature almost exclusively below freezing, this was quite a shock to the system.
The start was quite dramatic – looking out over the Saint Louis Arch with a giant America flag hanging across the start line the crowd fell silent to hear the national anthem before the race began (just a few minutes delayed). I set off aiming for 3:25 and ran that pace easily up to the half marathon point despite discovering that the course was very much run on rolling hills, this was not at all a flat marathon like London which I was expecting. At about 15 miles I suddenly started to slow down. I didn’t feel any pain, I just felt like it was taking more effort to maintain pace, the course offered little to no shade and the sun started to feel very hot, I noticed that I had stopped sweating already. By mile 17 I was starting to feel ill – my stomach was hurting and my pace had slowed significantly. I hit a big hill about mile 18 and half way up realised I needed to walk – as I did so I vomited liquid. This concerned me somewhat, so I walked the hill, composed myself at the top and then picked up a jog again. It actually felt slightly better now, but I was worried about the heat and dehydration. I pushed on as best as I could, but realised that any hope of a good time was gone. Instead I focused on my initial aim for this marathon – to finish the race still feeling okay. I slowed right down, walked through drinking stations to take on water properly and stopped a number of times to stretch because I was cramping a lot. The last few miles were brutal – running along a highway with concrete walls on either side and the sun beating down, it was a depressing part of the course. As cramp got worse and worse I slowly dragged myself to the finish and ended up 18 minutes behind where I wanted to be – my slowest marathon by 15 minutes. A disappointing time, but I finished feeling just about okay – I needed to sit down for 15 minutes but I wasn’t in a medical tent, which is one better than the previous two marathons!
Overall, the race was well organised and the much smaller field than London made it easier to run – when the half marathon turned off at mile 9 it felt as though the full marathon was a bit ‘tacked on’ and much of it was very ugly. That said, the volunteers were fantastic and the end of the race was well organised. Oh and whoever handed me a panda-pop style ice lolly at about mile 23 was the greatest person in the world.
I don’t think the result was a reflection on my training as much as conditions on the day and there’s nothing you can do about that. I really think that a 9 week program is just about enough to get a good time if that’s all the time you have and if you stay injury free. But, as I’ve said before, if you get an injury and miss a week of training then you are done for – so probably best to stick to a longer plan if you can. Although I didn’t get the time I wanted, I doubt many people were getting PBs this weekend and I’m just glad I managed to finish – at one point I didn’t think I would.
Next up for me is 100 mile bike race in London in August, so I’d better get on my bike.
Thanks for reading.