I’m a marathoner! Last Saturday I successfully crossed the finish line at the Phoenix Marathon! I’m going to do two recaps on my experience. This first one will be an overview of my experience that morning.
The last bus left Mesa Riverview at 5 a.m. I knew I wanted to get on one of the earlier ones, so I set my alarm for 3:20 and hopped on the 4:30 bus. I chatted with a girl who was also running her first marathon on our ride to the start line at Usery Park. The start line was very nice. There were several heaters and the race staff had set up bonfires as well. They also had heaters in between two rows of porta potties, which was nice in theory but it made for a great deal of confusion when it came to the line. It wasn’t too chilly, in the low 50s, but we all stood around the heaters and campfires to stay warm. They also have FIREWORKS during the national anthem!
As I mentioned in my previous post, my plan going into the race was to stick with the 4:25 pacer. There are not corrals in the Phoenix Marathon, it is a smaller race, so the pacers just hop into the pack based on time. I scanned the crowd and spied the 4:10 and 4:40 pacer, but the 4:25 pacer was no where to be seen. As the time got closer and closer to the gun, I realized I was going to have to do this on my own.
The gun went off and down Usery Mountain we went! The first part of the race was very scenic. You could see one of Arizona’s beautiful sunrises to your left over a terrain scattered with mighty saguaros. I had said in last year’s half marathon recap that the Phoenix Marathon is not a pretty one. My thoughts on this definitely changed at the beginning of this one, it was a sight to see.
The first four miles were all downhill. I started a bit too fast – my first two miles were 9:34 and 9:32 – but settled into a comfortable pace at mile 3. Miles 5 and 6 were uphill, and were pretty much the only major elevation gains during the entire race. I averaged about 10:16 during those miles. Many of those miles were through beautiful neighborhoods in East Mesa. Many of the residents were sitting on their driveways with their kids and dogs, cheering the runners on. I saw a couple on their balcony having their morning coffee and ringing a cowbell. It made for a wonderful community feel and I was jealous a marathon doesn’t run by my house! Miles 1-6: 9:34, 9:32, 9:56, 9:52, 10:13, 10:16.
I was amazed when my watched dinged at six miles. I couldn’t believe I had already been running for nearly an hour! That may have energized me a bit too much because mile 7 was my fastest of the race – 9:23. Whoops. It was also the largest net downhill. My next three miles were all under 10 minute miles – 9:32 (too fast), 9:48, 9:48. The next mile, mile 11, was straight into a strong wind. There were about four of us running around the same pace and we took turns running behind the others to catch their draft. It was especially strong when we were on Recker crossing the 202.
I was elated when I saw the half marathon start! I was 50% of the way through! I finished the first half in 2:09:04, which is my third-fastest half time. The thought of finishing sub 2:20 briefly entered my mind but I realized the downhill portion was past and I still had 13.1 freaking more miles to go. Miles 11-13: 10:08, 9:57, 9:56.
A man chatted with me briefly during a few of the next miles, but I’m not much of a talker while running since I usually don’t train with others. I knew Tim, my parents, sister-in-law and nephew were going to be cheering me on soon and I kept my eye out for Val Vista and Brown. The wind was still strong at this point and I think the fact I was keeping an eye out for them slowed me down a bit. I was so excited when I saw them around Mile 16 and stopped briefly to give Tim a kiss, drink some water and say thank you to them. I sped up some in elation of seeing them after that. Miles 14-17: 9:45, 10:15, 10:26, 9:58.
It got much harder after that and I definitely slowed down significantly. I kept my mind happy knowing I would see my friends Amanda and JT cheering me on at mile 20. They saw me and Amanda ran with me a bit. “You have just six miles left! You’ve got this, you’re doing great.” I smiled but holy hell I was sore at this point and my legs just felt tired. Miles 18-20: 10:25, 10:27,11:28 (yikes).
After that it was all mind games, and I don’t think I came out ahead. My legs felt dead. I tried to think positive – “Jen, you just have a 10k left” but that was usually followed up by a “J*#*@ f*%*ng C$&#*@ that’s another f*%*ng hour left.” One way I did win was that with the exception of the aid stations, I did not walk and that was one thing I’m proud of. I was very close to walking but then I saw mile 22 and realized I had 4.2 miles left, the equivalent of Pat’s Run. That gave me the strength to keep my trot going. Miles 21-25: 10:56, 11:20, 11:11, 11:05, 11:40.
I saw the last mile marker and thought – “Go for it Jen, you have 1.2 miles left. Get it done.” I picked up my pace and immediately felt… better? Why was I going at that miserable jogging pace when I felt better and less sore running faster? I was quite angry with myself and ran the last mile at 10:02. That mile is partially downhill and you turn into Mesa Riverview with about a half mile to go. I realized at this point I was really close to finishing in under 4:30 and sped it up. I scanned the supporters at the finish lining, finally spotted my mom and Tim and sprinted as fast as I could across the finish line. My smile was huge across my face and my arms went up in elation.
4:29:53. I did it.