White River Marathon – Guest Blog

anna

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!

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