White River Marathon – Guest Blog


Guest Blog by Anna Ritz

Aaaaaaannnnnnnd 26.2 is done! What an incredible experience, and perhaps even fun?

The White River Marathon for Kenya is held in Cotter, AR, a small town just outside Mountain Home in the Ozarks.

“Wow! I’m really impressed that you’re going to run your first marathon in the mountains!”

It wasn’t quite that impressive – the course is flat as can be, with two out-and-backs along the river. Except for a steep downhill for the first 1200 meters, there is no elevation change to speak of. (No, we don’t even go back up that hill.)

It’s a small race – 700 people combined for the 5k, half marathon and full marathon. It was flat and fast, attracting those hoping to qualify for Boston. A friendly and low-key attitude appeals to ultra- and trail-runners who want a quick road race. And being relatively cheap with flexible registration and packet pickup attracts the 50-Staters and Marathon Maniacs.

Race day brought temperatures in the 30s and 14 mph winds – not the conditions we trained in! We were able to stay warm in the school cafeteria where the race had set up camp. A short walk to the starting line, a quick prayer and a not-so-quick rendition of the national anthem later, then we were off!

Leg 1: We headed down the hill (and I was passed by almost every. Single. Person.), but I did my best to maintain my very slow first mile pace. Made a few friends along the way, and was in high spirits and on pace, or just under, through the first turnaround.

Leg 2: I felt great and left the running buddy I had found. I realized I was a minute or two ahead of where I should be (time-wise, not pace-wise), but maintained my pace. Had a moment where I wondered if this would come back to bite me, but just kept going. I even had time to hit a port-a-potty, and still cruise into the half-way point a couple of minuets ahead of schedule.

Leg 3: half-marathoners finished, and I turned around to do it all again. I came across Kevin, who ran with me for a couple of minutes until my next walk break. When he turned back, I considered having a meltdown, and spent a couple of miles telling myself that the marathon is a stupid distance. I told myself I felt bad, so I did feel bad. I was concerned that the excess speed from the second leg had caught up with me, and was convinced I had blown my race.

Then I told myself I didn’t care. My first goal was to reach The Wall at mile 20 and feel good about being there. My mantra became “Trust the training. Follow the plan. Feel good at 20.” By this point, I was a minute and a half behind where I should have been at each mile marker, but starting to feel better.

Leg 4 (final leg!): just after the last turn around, I hit mile 20 and felt fine, but was ready to ditch my 8 ½ minute run/1 ½ minute walk routine (my legs were done with that particular running pace). I tried a 4/1 for a few intervals, but it wasn’t much better.

Finally, around mile 22 (still under where I should have been, according to my paceband), I decided to completely forget about my goal time, stop looking at my watch, and just finish and feel good. I started a form of fartleks, alternating short distances of faster runs and walks. I counted driveways and electric poles, doing anything I could to will myself to the finish line and be done. I wasn’t going to make my goal time, but I knew I would be happy with my finish.

Best of all, I passed at least a dozen people during the last 8 miles or so, but not a single person passed me. (Keep in mind that there were only 230 marathon finishers, so a dozen is a fair number of people.) These were all people who flew past me down the hill in the beginning. They weren’t looking so hot, but I felt great.  I even passed a woman with the .2 left! I was done, finally done.

The cherry on top? I somehow made up 4 ½ minutes in the last 4 miles and beat my goal time by 3 minutes.

Trust the training. Follow the plan. Feel good at 20.

Way to go, Anna!!  You showed incredible discipline and restraint and finished strong!  Perfect race!!  BIGGEST congrats on your awesome accomplishment!  I can’t wait to run this race next year.  Can you imagine if 20% of the field were Star Runners?!  Let’s do it!

San Antonio Marathon – Guest Blog

Guest Post by Rebecca Cortese
It was not intended in God’s plans for me to run in “normal” conditions on race day. But then again, I never thought I would ever run a marathon!
This was my first ever marathon and I’m so happy I joined Star Runners 7 months ago to embark on this crazy journey.
Roughly 3 months prior to my race we had a long Saturday group run of 18 miles. It is a day that I will never forget because I hit a major wall due to the heat conditions (90 degrees) and only a few hours of sleep the night before (thanks a lot fire alarm!) It is also a day that prepared me more than I ever could have imagined for race day.
I arrived in San Antonio 2 days prior to race day and temperatures in the morning were averaging in the low 50/60s. Perfect! The temperature was a little higher on race morning, a humid 68. Still, I was pumped and raring to go and my family was there to cheer me on, including my sister who was 10 corrals ahead of me running the half.
I took off- the first 13 were amazing- I was averaging about 20 seconds ahead of each split, ensuring I had a slow enough start. It was when we split from the half runners at about mile 12 that I started to really feel awesome. I knew I was feeling great and was ahead of my time (thinking in my head) “Star must be so proud!” I also didn’t want to let my Star Running buds down- so good so far.
It was at about mile 18 that I really began to worry. I felt a MAJOR increase in temperature, not to mention there hadn’t been any shade since I passed mile 15 and I knew it was going to be all mental from this point on. I got to mile 20 and we entered this park that was paved and in wide open sunlight. I began to notice my surroundings- ambulance golf carts passing more frequently, more people walking than running, people camped out underneath what ounce of shade there was- underneath the interstate overpasses.
Mile 22 I walked a great bit. My body was sluggish and I found myself chugging Gatorade, water, and downing salt packs. During my extended walk break I passed a man that had to be in his 50s. He knew I wasn’t a happy camper- no one was at this point. He told me that this race was his 37th marathon and that by far this was the worst. Encouraging! I told him this was my first and he told me to keep going- to imagine myself crossing the finish line with a chocolate milk. I like this guy! I then took off- I thought about everyone rooting for me back home and at the finish line. I thought about the hot, humid day in Memphis when I hit the wall. I thought about Genna and Stephanie running that day with me and afterward telling me that if I could get through that day, I could get through anything. I thought about my husband who, on the day I hit the wall, walked the last 3 miles with me to my car just so I could finish. I CAN DO THIS! (I was saying his to myself out loud- talking to myself- anything to keep me going.)
I approached mile 25 and I knew I wanted to run the last one in. I turned to a lady next to me and asked her if we had crossed 25- she said yes, about a half mile ago- S#*%!! I took off and I made it to the .2 where I saw my family waiting (sweating) and cheering me on and I dug deep and sprinted to cross the finish line. Immediately I began to cry because I knew I hadn’t met my goal but then I realized- I finished. I. Finished. At the end of the day, that 110% meets my expectations because I accomplished what I never thought I could. Later that night I learned that within a span of 15 minutes the temperature had climbed 8 degrees to a staggering 89 (while I was around mile 20). I also learned that later in the day they were actually re-routing people to finish, cutting off 3 miles so that they wouldn’t be running any longer in the heat. They also moved the race to the first weekend in December for next year – I am going to run it again to prove to myself I can run a “normal” race.
Thank you to everyone in the group, especially my marathon training buds, the ones that kept me going through all of this- through blisters, tight legs, sweat, tears, and laughs- we did it! Most importantly thank you Star & Keith for supporting and teaching me to complete this race. You have made me the runner I’ve always wanted to be and for that I am forever grateful. Go Star Runners!
Isn’t it crazy to read this post about awful heat as we sit here waiting on an ice storm!  Rebecca, I could not be more proud.  You were the definition of perseverance.  Marathons are tough and marathons in unexpected heat are crazy tough.  You were awesome!!  You are awesome!