Grandma's Marathon is based out of Duluth, MN, on the shore of Lake Superior. It's a straight course, so it starts 26.2 miles away in the town of Two Harbors. It seems like hotel rooms in the area had been booked solid for the past year, so my sister and I stayed in the small town of Tofte, an hour from the start line. It was a beautiful area, practically in Canada, but required a 5am wake up call.
We made it to Two Harbors by 6:30 where Kirsten dropped me off at a hotel where I could take the shuttle to the starting line. The shuttle was late, and we sat in marathon traffic for awhile, which means I didn't arrive at the starting area until 7:15 for a 7:30 start. I barely had time to drop my bag at gear check and go to the bathroom before I had to get into the starting chute. There were no official corrals, so I just had to fight my way forward.
I started behind the 3:40 pacer, and because it was so crowded, I ran my first mile in 8:10. I soon passed the 3:40 group, and shortly after that I passed the 3:30 group. I didn't catch up with the 3:20 group until mile 14, and then passed them too. Unfortunately I couldn't keep up this pace, and they passed me around mile 22.
The course had long stretches with no spectators, but fortunately there were plenty of patches with spectators and music to help get me through. Lots of cowbells and cheerleaders and dogs, and in the later miles, exuberant college kids handing out cups and cans of beer. I grabbed a can of Budweiser at mile 21 and took 2 swallows, crushed it and slammed it on the ground. The college kids erupted in cheers. It was a nice boost, but unfortunately didn't last long.
My marathon MO seems to be to head out at what I consider a steady, sustainable pace, and inevitably I start to crash after 20 miles and just try to hang on for dear life. I would love to be able to run perfectly even splits, but so far this ability has eluded me. Apparently my sister was at mile 25 and yelled my name, but I didn't hear her at all. According to her, I looked like I was "in the zone." The last mile was my slowest, and I finished the race in 3:24:15. Beforehand I told myself I would be happy with anything under 3:30, but I can't help but feel discouraged at my weak finish.
The weather was in the low 50's the whole race with a threat of rain, but luckily only drizzled a little in the first few miles. I was debating whether to wear a long sleeve shirt, but at the last moment opted for just the short sleeve shirt. For the most part this worked out, but I was shivering uncontrollably once I crossed the finish line and stopped running. I was experiencing severe pain in my hips, and it took ages to find and then hobble to the gear check to collect my things.
After getting changed, I met my sister, and we took a picture at the finish line before slowly walking back to her car. We drove back to St. Paul where we went out to an Irish Pub for dinner, and I enjoyed my first beer in almost a month. Many thanks to Kirsten for helping with logistics like hotels and parking, and of course for driving me to and from the marathon.