Ok - so no sub 3 hours and no PR, but I am reasonably satisfied with my race today. The weather report had been forecast for temperatures between 48 and 58 degrees for days. I awoke surprised this morning to 26 degrees and ice on the rental car. No worries though, I was fully prepared with clothing to cover that possibility.
This was a small town race in Ohio where Ohio University is located. The race started in the center of town at the corner of the entrance the school. They have done this event 44 years, so they have figured out how to operate it very well. It was an out and back course along a bike path that more or less paralleled a the Hocking River. The Hock-Hocking Adena Bike Way as it is officially known makes its way through the Wayne National Forest. I don't recall seeing the river very much, but there were lots of trees and pleasant scenery. And VERY FEW runners (maybe less than 200 in the full marathon), which I think turned out to be my issue very late in the race.
They ran a half marathon alongside the full marathon, with turn around at about 6.5 miles finally revealing who was in the big race.
Anyway, the early part of the race had to make its way out of downtown Athens, which sits atop a hill, so the first mile was a bit quick at 6:40 but not too terribly fast that I was at all concerned. However I usually run over 30 seconds slower than my MRP in most marathons when I hit the first mile. I dealt with a few negative thoughts in the early miles of not feeling that sharp and worrying about my HR, but I began to settle into a comfortable pace in MRP goal race pace range around 4-5 miles.
When the half marathons runners separated from us, I had two runners within my immediate view in front of me, but I knew there were quite a few well ahead and nearly out of sight. So, I set about reeling them in one by one. Between miles 8 and 20 I think I passed 6 runners and had none pass me. That doesn't sound like a lot, but the gaps between each runner I passed was literally a half mile or more between each. At the turn around I think I counted around 15 to 18 runners ahead of me. Two were well off on their own, clearly running in the low 2:30's. Then a scattering of a couple here and there. I used the "carrot" of each runner in front of me to maintain pace and concentration.
I was at 1:30:17 at the halfway mark. I knew I needed to drop some time to have a chance at at sub 3. I was pleased that I really began ticking off the splits that would set me up to do just that. At mile 16 I was emotionally very high, knowing that I was feeling very good and was visualizing the final clock. I just had to keep it together for the next ten miles.
Around mile 21 I started going through a rough patch. The sun which had been out for a while, and warmed things nicely, was covered by clouds and a headwind started pushing against me. My mile 23 split of 7:10 was evidence of the difficulty I was in, as it was the first mile in the entire race that I had gone over 7 mins per mile. It was all the more difficult because there was no one in front of me to catch and no one behind me to push me. The trail was slightly twisting and turning so I could never get I long view of the field in front of me. With the exception of a few stragglers from the half marathon, I saw no one for the last 3 miles of the race.
I think the slowed split and realization that I would need to really have several fast miles to have a chance at breaking 3 hours when I was not feeling that good, really dropped my spirits. I settled in for the next two miles just trying to keep from losing too much time.
I think I ran two 7:15's before the last mile at 7:08. The race ended on the track at the University stadium. That was pretty cool. 1.5 laps around the track - the PA announced my name and my hometown as I entered the stadium. I had to run past the finish line to make it around the last lap and so saw the clock at 3:00:34 with 400 meters to go. Oh well - I ran a decent quarter with my nearest competitor entering into the stadium when I was finishing the last 200.
The organizers arranged for the Aquatic Center at the school to have showers available after the race which I took full advantage of, before heading to the airport.
With the last two marathons I have completed at 3:01 and 3:02, I feel like I am in a range now where with just a few tweaks in the training and execution in the race, I might yet see a sub 3 hour race.