Athens Marathon 2013

First, I want to  apologize to everyone because I totally lied about running this marathon. However, I have a good reason. Kinda. However, I want to say I’m sorry I lied and I promise not to hide any more secret marathons from you for the rest of this year. No promises on future years though.

After having IT band problems last year I’ve been very cautious about signing up for races and even risk paying more to register at the last-minute. I decided early on that I would train to run the Athens full marathon BUT if I had any problems I would bump down to the half. After my first 20 mile training run I decided to register for the full. Still I didn’t tell anyone because I wanted to wait and see how training would go to make sure my IT band would hold up. Then when I was down in Athens and fully set on running the full, I didn’t tell anyone because I was nervous.

Surprise! I'm running the marathon!
Surprise! I’m running the marathon!

Race morning was super easy to get up. I had barely slept. I woke up at 12am, tossed and turned til 2am and then laid there until it was time to get up. However, I don’t think losing sleep will affect how you run. I’m pretty sure I don’t get enough rest before most marathons. When I got up,I  had some Gatorade, water, a clif bar and 2 bites of a banana. This was a little more than I would normally eat. I usually eat half of a cliff bar and then head out for a long run. For the marathon though, I’m up and eating breakfast but not running for at least another hour so I ate a little more. I hate when I get to the start line and realize I’m hungry.

I always lay my clothes out before a marathon. Makes me feel less stressed.
I always lay my clothes out before a marathon. Makes me feel less stressed.

The Athens Marathon is very small. We were able to park a few feet from the start line. Very convenient since it allowed us to keep our clothes on until the last minute. It was a whooping 30-something degrees and I brought shorts and a tank top. However, it was going to warm up to 70 later in the day.

I had many plans for this race. 1.) run in the 3:30s. 2.) run a hard 20 miles and hold on for the last 6. 3.) Have a happy IT band. 4.) Enjoy running a marathon again. 5.) run an even pace.

I achieved 2 of those goals.

When I got to the start line I suddenly realized something. The awesome playlist I made the day before, I synced to my iPod. However, I didn’t actually click that folder to be added. Of course I realized this minutes before the race. At least I have a playlist ready to go for Cleveland now 🙂

The race started kind of suddenly, it may have even started before 8am. My watch had literally just connected to satellite when the gun went off. You would think in Athens, OH a course would be hilly. This course is not hilly and the first couple miles are downhill. Then you enter a bike path and you are literally on the bike path the entire time. It is ridiculously flat. There are also no pace groups or mile markers for this race!

I cannot even tell you how good it felt to be running a marathon again. As soon as the gun went off I was telling myself “OMG, look at you! You’re running a marathon again. You go girl!” I should have told myself “Woah girl, slow down. You are going way too fast.” The first couple miles I kept looking down at my watch and seeing 7:30s. “Too fast Jess. Slow yourself down.” But I couldn’t. The weather was perfect and I was feeling great. Miles 4, 5 and 6 even went down to a 7:18 pace.

Feeling Good
Feeling Good

It was around mile 7, where I was taking my first gu that I noticed I was full. Common problem for me because I probably have the worlds smallest stomach. My plan was to take Gu at miles 7, 14 and 21. I tried my best to down the Gu. I probably spent the whole mile trying to take it. It was at this time that you started seeing the half marathoners since their turn around was just ahead. It was a welcome sight to see runners since you are by yourself a lot during this race. Just you, the bike path and the woods.

Miles 8, 9 and 10 I finally started to slow down to the 7:50s. I still felt pretty good minus feeling really full. Somewhere between mile 10 and the turnaround I saw my Ryan. He looked great and smiled at me. He might have said something but by this point I realized I went out way too fast and could barely muster a smile and wave back at him. I hit the halfway mark a whole minute earlier than I was supposed to for a 3:30 marathon. I was also in 9th place overall and not another woman in sight. Both behind me and in front of my I saw no one.

At mile 14, I was begging myself to keep going and if I made it to mile 20 I could start walking. At mile 14.10, I hit the wall. I was done. If I had my phone I would have called our friend to come find me and take me to the bar. If there was a first aid tent nearby I would have begged them to take me to the finish line.


Although, at that moment all I wanted to do was quit, I didn’t. I kept going. This was my first marathon back. Who cares what time I run. Finishing should always be goal number 1! I told myself the only way I was going to DNF is from injury. I was not injured so I went on.

Mile 15, I had a second wind. My pace picked up without even trying and I felt like a million bucks! Mile 15.5, my second wind had already faded. I was still full at this point. I was taking water only from mile 13 on and mile 7 was my only Gu. I really didn’t even want the water but I’m not risking dehydration during a marathon.

Running and Smiling are my favorite!
Running and Smiling are my favorite!

The rest of the marathon I got passed…a lot. My paced slowed way down but with every step I took forward, I was one step closer to that finish line.

At around mile 22, I still had not taken another Gu and was really tempted to just lay down on the bike path for a nap. Only 4.2 miles to go, so I trudged on. Finally, I reached mile 25! So close! Yet I could not see the finish anywhere. I was on the bike path until the very end, where the volunteers pointed me to the stadium. You run a lap and a half to finish. A little odd, yes, but if you have family and friends watching this gives them time to watch you run for a few minutes and to snap some pictures.

I finally finished in 3:57:29 I had gone from 9th place female to 23rd and had gone from being on pace to run a 3:27 to running 30 minutes over that. In the end I finished marathon number 11 and completed 2 goals. I ran pain-free and had a happy IT band and I enjoyed running a marathon again. No where near my goal time and I’m okay with that. (although it took me a few days to feel that way) I think I’ve learned my lesson to not go out too fast and that will help me when I run Cleveland. I think I needed this “bad” marathon to get it out of my system.

Athens Finisher Medal
Athens Finisher Medal

This race I admit is boring. It’s on a bike path the entire time and the only time you see spectators is at the water stops. However, I was incredibly surprised at how well-organized this race was. Yes, it was small so there was no expo just packet pick up but not a single problem with the entire race. It went very smooth and the volunteers were amazing! If they weren’t handing out water, they were cheering you on. Even when I finished, so many people congratulated me and told me exactly where to go and where to find stuff.

Ryan and I after the marathon
Ryan and I after the marathon

When I saw Ryan after the race. I was tired and disappointed. I would not have been surprised if I would have cried from being disappointed. Instead, he looked at me, smiled and said “did you go out too fast? because I did”. I immediately felt a huge sense of relief and told him this “at the 10K mark I ran a PR, at the 10 mile mark I ran a PR, at the half marathon point I was close to a PR, at mile 14 F***”. We both immediately cracked up at that. The fact that we were both laughing so quickly after the race, made me feel so much better. Ryan did not hit the wall as bad or early as I did but he didn’t meet the time he wanted and admitted it was probably because he went out too fast.

We consoled ourselves at Jackie O’s brewery with some tasty brews, pizza and hanging with friends.

IMG_1510[1]     IMG_1512[1]

Marathon #11 is in the books and I’m looking forward to Marathon #12.

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