I ran the Columbus Marathon yesterday. I had a great experience, from pre-race to afterward. I’d love to tell you about it.
This was our third year hitting the Columbus Marathon Expo, so we knew our way through the Convention Center and expo hall. My Min volunteer was so nice, I could have talked to him for an hour. We picked up our shirts and bags, stopped at a few booths, and headed back out. We had some coffee at The Chintz Room before we checked into our hotel; they were playing football, on mute, with great showtunes through their bar speakers. It was the best ever.
Checking in at our hotel took quite some time. The Doubletree didn’t plan well for a 4:00pm check in time on a marathon, wedding, and home OSU night game day. We waited in line for 15-20 minutes, only to be told our request for a late checkout would not be honored even though we’re Hilton Honors Members. I think we’ll choose a different hotel the next time we stay in Columbus.
We ate at Elevator Brewery again, which was great. I tried a Dark Force, which I recommend, and had the spinach fettucine, which I also recommend. We watched Michigan State win and Penn State start to lose before we went to sleep.
The alarm went off at 5:30 AM and we started getting ready for the race. It was 29 degree that morning, so I put on my race outfit…
…and over that, I layered an old pair of paint-splotched yoga pants, a pink tech-jacket that I don’t wear anymore, and a pair of throwaway gloves from a previous race. The walk to the starting line was a quick walk from our hotel. My husband and I were in separate corrals (he had an A start! Fasty McFaster) so we gave kisses and headed off in separate directions.
The C-corral porta-potty situation was on point. We had a U-shaped area with—get this—no line. I walked straight into one, which was very clean. I then went and stood in my spot. Right before the National Anthem, I took off the yoga pants and tossed them to the side (they collect and donate the clothes runners toss off). I wish I would have kept them until C-corral started moving forward. Also: Runners, remove your hats during the National Anthem. Yes, I mean all of you. I don’t care if it will mess up your hairdo. It’s a race, not a pageant.
They did a special set of fireworks for Corral C’s start, and we were off!
Mile by Mile
I crossed the starting line at 7:40. My legs felt fresh—and cold. I didn’t ever feel extremely cold during this portion, but enjoyed the spots with sunshine more than the mostly shaded areas. As the sun was still rising, the shady spots outnumbered the sunny spots. I ditched my gloves somewhere before the turn into four miles. I felt so strong and so happy that I almost skipped my first walking break. I didn’t, figuring I’d need the energy for later in the marathon. Sometimes I’m smart.
I ditched my jacket before the photographer around mile 5. I almost kept it with me, but I knew from running the Columbus half marathon twice before that the photographer was coming up. As I was already sweating and I wanted my number to be visible, I ditched it. I debated tying it around my waist but thought it might bother me; I’ll regret this later. We passed Children’s Hospital in between miles 8 and 9, and I took a photo of my Children’s Champions sign.
While running, so excuse the blur.
I didn’t want to walk at my next break yet, but I did it anyway. I make smart choices sometimes.
A trip through German Village is always nice. I specifically made myself take note of the Angel Mile this year, acknowledging each parent holding up a sign. There’s a slow hill up into the 12th mile. As I had with the slow hill through mile 9, I repeated to myself, “I trained on hills much bigger than this. I run hills. I can do this.” Minus two (small) hills that happened to fall during scheduled walk breaks, I ran every second of every hill.
I expected to feel distraught when the half marathoners made their turn to the finish while I kept going. In fact, I took a photo on our way to dinner the night before, stating how I’d hate this point in the race the next day.
I didn’t. I still felt strong. I was still enjoying the race. The numbers really dropped off at this point. I took my next scheduled walk break without questioning my plan.
Listen, I love the Columbus Marathon but the trek through campus feels underwhelming. There were no crowds. There were no bands. This was a dead zone. If I had been a first time marathoner, having a giant dead zone so soon after the split from the half marathoners might have felt defeating. I just kept going. This was the first time I actually walked a water stop so I could have a Gatorade in one hand and a water in the other. I began longing for my walk break at 18.
And my wheels fell off. As soon as I stared running after my scheduled walk break, I knew that I was going to have to formulate a new plan if I wanted to finish at all, let alone with a PR. I still stood a chance to hit my A-goal, which I never officially announced out of fear I wouldn’t make it. (Spoiler: I didn’t.) During this stretch, I decided to run between the water breaks, walk the fluid station and for a bit after as my stomach was starting to hurt when I began running too quickly after cold fluids.
There was also a significant incline into mile 20. I just kept shuffling. Some lovely spectators let us know when it ended so we could keep on moving. I remember hearing, “Just two more blocks and then it starts back downhill!” I was running, really desperately wanting some water again, when I ran into Uncle Crappy in Upper Arlington. It was so great to see him and gave me the boost I needed to get to the next water station.
I thought a lot of awful thoughts through this stretch. Most of them revolved around supposed or alleged failure. I considered quitting. I cursed all the things.
At 22.5, a cold wind started blowing directly at me—while walking. If you’ve been running for four-some hours and a cold wind blows at you while you’re moving slower and using less energy than before, you’ll feel cold. I missed that jacket I tossed off way back in the first six miles. I missed my gloves. I missed the yoga pants I walked to the starting line while wearing. I missed being warm.
At mile 23, I started in with my last altered “plan.” You have a lot of time to come up with new plans while you’re walking and freezing to death. I would run all of mile 23. At mile 24, I would allow myself to walk the WHOLE mile in order to find energy to run the entire last mile and point two. And so I ran ALL of mile 23. Surprise, surprise, I warmed up. Once inside the next mile, I walked a little bit, but found that I felt surprisingly great. I overcame the wall that I hit between 18-22. That feeling felt especially empowering. So I started running again. When I got to the final water station, I did walk long enough to drink one cup of water, throw it in a receptacle (instead of missing; sorry, volunteers), and to just before the sign for mile 25.
And then I ran.
I ran hard. I had something left to give, so I gave it. I left it all on the pavement.
Just before the last turn toward the finish line, I found my husband in the crowd. He had time to go shower, check out of the hotel, get coffee, and come back down to cheer me on at the finish as he finished his half marathon in 1:51:20. (His new PR!) I waved, gave him a quick high five, and continued pushing hard.
I pushed all the way through the finish, which you can watch here. (I’m waving to Diane in the approach video. She was at the media tent as she now works for Nationwide Children’s, which is so awesome.) I am so proud of my finish, especially in light of the wall miles.
I felt a little woozy due to how hard I pushed for the last mile point two, so I walked slowly forward for a bit. The volunteer who put the medal around my neck very kindly said, “You’re a marathoner.” I was prior to yesterday, but I cried all over again. In fact, I just cried writing it now. I’m a marathoner. It blows my mind every single time. I then accepted my foil blanket. I learned the lesson to take the mylar blanket the hard way at the 2013 Columbus Marathon, and with my very cold 22nd mile experience, I wrapped myself in the blanket. I took some water, drank a bit, and took a selfie.
I had my official picture taken. I accepted all the free goodies, except for the yogurt because nope. They gave us a handy little bag, sponsored by White Castle, to put all the goodies into before they handed us all the goodies. This is the smartest thing ever. I just kind of held my bag out and volunteers put bagels and bananas in the bag. I found it difficult to walk, hold the bag and blanket, and think, so the help from the little baggie and the amazing volunteers was greatly appreciated.
I walked out of the finishers chute, found my husband…
…and began the slow walk back to our car in the hotel’s parking garage. I was really bummed that Jimmy John’s was out of free sandwiches to hand out to runners by the time I finished. I know I was a beginning of the back of the packer, but man, I really wanted a sandwich. When I heard my husband got one earlier, I gave him the stink eye, but it wasn’t his fault. He ran the half, and quickly. Jimmy John’s should have planned for back of the pack runners. My husband’s response is: “I’ll never run the full Columbus Marathon. I’ll run the half so I can get my Jimmy John’s.” Smarty pants.
I have very little negative race feedback. The race itself is extremely well-organized. The social media is off the charts. The expo was lovely, and if I’d had more money to burn, I’d have bought all the things. The shirts, while colored by gender, are a great weight and fit. (And yes, I do like pink. I just want one shirt for everyone so it looks like I ran the same race as my husband. Don’t pinkify my stuff just to make it “girly.” This is a current race trend, not just in Columbus, and it needs to end.)
Here’s my negative note: Someone needs to do something about bikes on the course. I know there’s a bike tour for spectators, but between the spectators ON THE ROAD WITH US and the coaches biking ON THE ROAD WITH US beside their runners and random people just trying to bike around the city, things got dicey more than once. I was more annoyed with the coaches biking next to their runners than with the spectators, though a number of spectators were NOT looking where they were going and nearly ran into runners when they would start moving again. The coaches, offering everything from water to salt to chews to fresh shoes, really bothered me. I get it. Some dude paid for that dude to follow him. But hey, I’d like some water, too. I’m dying over here. You could tell me how much fat I’m burning, too. That’d be nice. Can you offer me a “good job” or something? If it had been just one coach with one guy, maybe I wouldn’t have felt so annoyed. But goodness.
Other than the bike/coach problem, I still feel this will remain my favorite course. They’ve done such a good job with the course itself, making the entire weekend a special event, and staying involved on social media. If you’re considering this as a race, I can assure you it’s worth it.
I wish I could adequately explain how I adore this race. It will forever hold a place in my heart, and, for now, holds my PR in both the half marathon and the full marathon. Not too shabby, Columbus.