4:30 or Bust: A Quest for Marathon Mediocrity

First Light Marathon Race Report

with 5 comments

I know I owe you guys a race report for the First Light Marathon, which was 8 days ago!  The funny thing is that I find very little motivation to write a report after the race is over.  For me, I’m more interested in posting about the effort that went into *preparing* for the race!  Once the race is done, I’m quickly ready to turn the page and move on.  This happens for bad races, of course, but also apparently, for good races, like this one.  I’ve had a hard time writing this report, and also, I never filed a report for my best marathon ever, my 4:22 PR effort in Austin in 2009!

So, without further adieu, here are the highlights!

On Sunday Jan 9, I completed the First Light Marathon, in Mobile Alabama, on my 40th birthday!  It was my 14th marathon and my 8th state.  With a finishing time of 4:37:10, it was my 3rd fastest.  As usual when travelling to out of town races, I had a blast, and really enjoyed the whole experience.  It was smallest marathon I’ve ever run, with only 471 finishers.  My finish position was 241, sooooo close to my holy grail of finishing within the 50% percentile!

The weather leading up to the race was fantastic.  Thurs and Fri were spent in New Orleans, and Sat in Mobile.  The weather was clear, with temps in the 50s and 60s.  However, a storm was getting ready to come through that was promising snow and ice in the southern US.  The night before the race, the weather forecast was for low 30s, with freezing rain and sleet.  However, in reality, the day dawned 39 degrees, and just overcast.  The rain was forecast to hold off till after lunchtime!  In summary, perfect marathon conditions!

The course was unique in the sense that the first 10 miles were completely flat.  As well as the last 5 miles.  However, miles 10-21 were very very hilly.  I drove the course the day before to get familiar with what was in store.

I had recently come to terms with the fact that I did not care so much about my finishing time for marathon racing (see the latter part of my 2011 plans post).  I had previously been fixated on finishing under 4:30, and as a result was mostly unhappy with my marathon race days.  This time it was about getting it done in a way that was comfortable for me, and such that I didn’t flame out in the last 10k.  So I was liberated to start conservatively without caring so much about the split times.  Check out the consistency in those early miles.  Mile 10 was slow because I made a potty and Gu break.

  • Mile 1 – ???
  • Mile 2 – 19:53
  • Mile 3 – 10:19
  • Mile 4- 10:18
  • Mile 5 – 10:12
  • Mile 6 – 10:22
  • Mile 7 – 10:28
  • Mile 8 – 10:41
  • Mile 9 – 10:46
  • Mile 10 – 11:17

Then we hit the hills.  And guess what?  I started pushing the uphills, and passing lots of people on every hill.  And I got faster!  I really got into a groove and fell into a great rhythm, pushing the uphills and coasting the flats and downhills.  I am most proud that I ran EVERY SINGLE one of the uphills, including the last big one that some guy watching from the sidelines called “the monster”.

  • Mile 11 – 10:25
  • Mile 12 – 10:26
  • Mile 13 – 10:10
  • Mile 14 – 10:04
  • Mile 15 – 9:51
  • Mile 16 – 10:38
  • Mile 17 – 10:10
  • Mile 18 – ???
  • Mile 19 – 21:41
  • Mile 20 – 10:27
  • Mile 21 – 10:20

My first 10 miles took 1:44:16, and the 2nd 10 miles took 1:43:52.  I actually negative split the first 20 miles, with the 2nd half being extremely hilly!  And not only that, but I did NOT hit the wall at mile 20, and had enough in the tank to run a relatively strong last 10k.  Yes, I did hit the wall, in mile 23 and had a few slow miles, but I had no miles slower than 12 minutes – for my last few marathons I had at least 4 such slow miles in each race.  In mile 24, I realized I had a Gu left and that propelled me, by mile 25, to run strong the rest of the way in.

  • Mile 22 – 10:55
  • Mile 23 – 11:37
  • Mile 24 – 11:59
  • Mile 25 – 11:41
  • Mile 26 – 10:20
  • Mile 26.2 – 1:56

So even though my finishing time was :7:10 beyond 4:30, I was still extremely pleased with the effort.  Because the race field was so small, I was running by myself the last half mile into the finish.  And with a 12:16 last 1.2 miles, I was CHURNING into the finish on all cylinders, picturing that I was the winner of the race!  All of the cheers were for ME!  It was a great feeling…

The highlights for me were:

  • Small town race feel – I loved the small field energy.  For those of you that need crowd motivation to get through a marathon, this might not be for you, but I really enjoyed the laid back nature.  The most common ‘cheer’ I got from the sideline was “mornin'”, with that southern drawl and a smile.  It was a fantastic.
  • Relay – there was a relay within the full marathon, with relay stations at 5, 10, 15 and 20 miles.  There energy at those stations was great, and it gave me something to look forward to at those major mile-stones.
  • Chicken soup broth – at the water stop in the 18th mile, they were handing out warm chicken soup broth.  It was fantastic!  I think that was what gave me the energy to run the full distance of the ‘monster’ hill that immediately followed, and even the smaller hills that were to follow in the next couple of miles.
  • College campuses – The course took us through the USA (University of South Alabama) and Spring Hill college.  Nice change of scenery.
  • People running the ‘double’ – Saturday was Mississippi Blues Marathon, and there were many people that ran both events, or the ‘double’.  There was one fit looking guy that passed me easily in mile 23.  I shared some words of encouragement with him, and was then very impressed when I heard him chatting with the guy in front of me that he ran the marathon the day before as well.  However, I was more impressed with the other guy in that conversation, who must have been 15 years older than me, and who also ran the marathon Saturday.  I had been trying to keep up with that older guy for much of the late miles and just could not do it.  So impressed with those people!
  • Post race party – the had a great spread of food post-race, with a great live band.  They moved the party indoors because of the cold, and it was a fantastic way to unwind after the race was done

Already looking forward to my next marathon, Flying Pig on May 1…


Written by SCL

January 17, 2011 at 3:46 pm

5 Responses

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  1. What better way to enjoy your birthday! Glad you had a great race, sounds like you were prepared to run hard and enjoy the moment.


    January 17, 2011 at 4:08 pm

  2. Great job, glad you had a good time!


    January 17, 2011 at 5:59 pm

  3. Great marathon Scott. You ran YOUR race. And your splits show a strong race too. So great that you were able to push the uphills.

    And what a way to celebrate your birthday. FIRST LIGHT. Perfect!

    Just so you know, on my run today I totally remembered your advice to push the uphills and coast the downhills. GREAT ADVICE!


    January 17, 2011 at 6:28 pm

  4. Congrats, Scott! & Happy Birthday!

    Sharon Paige

    January 17, 2011 at 10:22 pm

  5. Congratulations! And totally sympathize with you on not feeling like writing the race reports after the fact… I too struggle with that 🙂


    January 31, 2011 at 1:26 pm

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