Another marathon, slower than I wanted it to be

Magically the rain of last night had vanished when I awoke at 4am.


☑ No Rain
☑ Light meal
☑ Body de-chafed
☑ HR monitor (Brrr) and watch
☑ Bib and chip
☑ Race food loaded
☑ 7 “Final” trips to the bathroom

It was actually rather pleasant, and when the sun rose over the race start, the light on the mountains was lovely.

But we weren’t there for the light. And then the race started.

Of course we all went out too fast. After about 100m my watch said I was running at a 6 minute pace (didn’t feel like it, of course) and I wanted to run the first mile at 7:15. So I slowed way down. Plenty of people passed me then.

Once out of the school parking lot the course goes steeply downhill and it’s very tempting to go fast here. But I control myself, I need to warm up a bit before speeding.

And then it’s uphill. Now I start to pass a few people. People who don’t know how to race and went out far too fast for their abilities.

At the one mile mark I see I’ve run 7:14 which sounds pretty much right.

A little after then we leave Cathedral Oaks and turn the corner to run down Los Carneros. Another tempting downhill. I want to run this mile ~7:00 but it ends up as 6:46. Oopsie.

That was to be the end of the warmup, and after that I want to run 6:50s until about mile 14 or so.

Kent and Kary are running together some distance ahead. Laura is between me and them. Joy is somewhere behind. As is Travis, the 3 hour pacer. Odd, I thought he was going to be running 6:52s. Jeff and Eric are too far ahead to see.

Los Carneros crosses the freeway here and there’s a steep little hill as we climb up to the bridge over it, and then a steep drop down the other side. I manage to catch up with Laura because of this.

I haven’t run with Laura in ages. It’s good to see her out again. She says she wants to run between 6:50 and 7s. A little slower than what I want but not much and we run together for a way.

Ahead of us, Kent turns off the course and into the bushes. Kent has a habit of doing this, then he comes charging out like superman from a phone booth. But not today. I do not see Kent again on the course.

Someone shouts out to us “Third or Fourth woman.” This comes as a surprise to me; I had assumed Kary was first and there isn’t anyone between Laura and Kary. Guess I was wrong. (No one shouts anything at me. Which isn’t really fair, it’s harder (by the Age Graded tables) for a 52 year old man to hold this pace than it is for a woman Laura’s (or Kary’s) age. Ah well, that’s sexism for you).

After we cross Hollister the road starts to climb again and Laura slows, so I decide to leave her. I run a little faster and start to catch Kary, but this is a slow process and doesn’t really happen until a bit after mile 5.

Now Kary and I run together.

At about mile 7 we finally see the woman who is ahead of Kary. It turns out she’s a relay runner (and so doesn’t count). But we pass her anyway. The other woman decides to fight with Kary and they both go a bit faster than I want to run, so I drop back a way until Kary has firmly trounced her, whereupon Kary eases back a bit and I catch her again.

Now we have looped back to the school, and it’s lovely downhill (which I let myself take advantage of to the tune of a 6:40). This is also the first relay exchange point and as we pass through another woman pops out. This one seems a friend of Kary’s and we all run together to the next relay exchange point.

We come up to the 13 mile mark and I start looking for the half marathon point. I don’t see it. I know Rusty put a paint mark on the road (because I saw it when I biked over the course the previous week), but it doesn’t seem to warrant a big marker which is what I seek. Kary tells me she saw a clock (how did I miss that?), and that it read 1:29:??. This cheers me as it means we’re on track for a 3 hour marathon.

Looking back at my splits I see that Kary’s clock must have been at the 13 mile mark, not at the half marathon mark and the time was 1:29:19. However, at the pace we were running it would be roughly another 40 seconds to reach the halfway point. Which means we were almost exactly at 1:30:00 and not quite in such good shape as I thought. Not bad shape. But I wish I’d known that I was running exactly 1:30 pace rather than going faster. I would not have fell quite so sanguine.

The next mile is an uphill mile and it takes us 7:02. That frightens me. That’s too slow. The next mile is downhill and I pick up the pace a little, expecting Kary to follow. But she doesn’t. My original plan was to pick the pace up here anyway. I do a 6:40 and then a 6:46 as we meander along a bike path beside a little creek.

Finally we come out onto the main bikepath to UCSB and here are the first of the half-marathoners. They are walking. I got a half hour headstart, but still, in a little less than 2 hours I have run 17 miles, in a little less than 1:30 they have gone four. I’m running about 3 times faster than they. As always it bugs me. Why aren’t they trying?

And of course they are paying no attention to people who are actually racing. They tend to join little chat groups which spread out over much of the bike path (which isn’t exactly wide). If I yell “left” at them they will apologetically scoot out of the way, but it doesn’t occur to them that they shouldn’t have been in the way to start with.

I’m going to have to deal with with this for the next 9.2 miles (though the half-marathoners will get a little faster as I go along, still someone who can finish a half in 2:30 is not fast by any standards).

This bikepath runs slightly uphill here, normally I don’t really notice it, but I’m tired. I slow to a 6:52. That’s OK, that’ll get me to the finish in 3 hours, but I shouldn’t go any slower.

But the mile after that is 7:05, and then 7:15 and 7:45 and I realize I’ve lost it. My legs are tired. I don’t think I hit the wall this time. I’m just beat. I have no excuses.

Just about mile 20 a half-marathon walker seems me plodding by and says “half-way done!” to me. I can’t let that pass. I say “three-quarters” as I jog by.

Someone turns on the wind here, and now we’ve got a headwind to contend with.

Finally I get a downhill mile and I hope this one will be an improvement. But it isn’t, not really. 7:41. I’m sort of in my own world and out of things by now. Some friends of mine are dressed in costumes and cheering here I totally miss it. Nichol even runs beside me to cheer me on but I only have the vaguest impression of someone there. I don’t look. It’s all I can do to keep going. It hurts so much to put one foot in front of the next, I have no energy for anything but the race.

Somewhere around here the bike for the lead woman passes me, and I expect to see that Kary has caught up. But it isn’t Kary it is Laura! Laura is sticking to her 7 minute pace (marginally faster) while both Kary and I have fallen off our 6:50s to the point she has caught us. Sigh.

The next mile is even more downhill on Los Positas. I was thinking to run 6:40s here, but I can’t. It’s 7:24. And the next mile on LP is even worse: 7:57. That’s downhill and I can only run an 8 minute mile. At least there’s no wind in this direction.

By this time Kary has passed me. Sigh. Now I start to worry about Joy.

Every now and then someone yells out encouragement telling me how well I’m doing. Who do they think they are kidding? OK, I’m going faster than the half-marathoners, but that’s a pretty damning comparison.

At mile 9 on the half marathon (roughly mile 22 for me) I a bunch of half marathoners are standing around the mile marker taking its picture. OK, they can do what they like, but they kind of spread out and take up much of the lane I’m trying to run in. Would I be more forgiving if I weren’t so tired? I think so, it wouldn’t hurt so much to loop around them — I’d have less to complain about.

And now comes the HILL. Scattered with clumps of half-marathoners who are congratulating themselves on how well they are doing; turning backwards to look behind them and go greet some friend; just generally wandering around and getting in my way as they try to encourage one another.

Oh yes, and we’ve turned into the teeth of the gale again.

I zoom up that half mile at a 9:30 pace. No one passes me. Pathetic. Absolutely pathetic.

Once I get past that I manage to “pick up” the pace to 7:40s again. Sigh.

By this time I’m no longer looking at the pace which the watch is telling me. It’s too depressing.

Now we come to two very nice downhill miles. Three weeks ago I ran them at ~6:25. Today I eke out a 7:20 and 7:40.

We are nearing the finish, the half marathoners are getting excited, and that’s a bad thing. A group of them link arms and spread out to cover as much of the road as they possibly can. Again I have to loop around them while thinking nasty thoughts.

When I get to mile 26 I hear Kary’s name called as she finishes. I try to push a little harder and I run the last .2 miles at a blistering 7:12 pace. AND that includes dodging around half marathoners.

I’m 100m from the finish when the another large group of half marathoners links arms (who taught these guys that blocking the route was fun?) and spreads out over as much of the track as they can. I want to kill them. But there is just space on the left for me to sneak past them. And finish ahead.

Those girls look so cheerful and I’m so grim and intent.


My second fastest marathon. Sadly, this is the first road marathon I have run which has not been a PR. I knew it would come someday, but I didn’t want it to happen today. I really thought I could go sub 3. But I couldn’t. None of my friends did.

On a slightly more cheerful note… age graded, it is my best marathon.

I wonder… would I have run even more slowly if I hadn’t been spurred on by my annoyance with the half marathoners? Perhaps they do serve a function.

No one calls out my name when I cross the line. I only hear half marathoners being announced. Grumble, mutter, damn all half-marathoners. Here am I, age group winner of the marathon and no one notices.

OK… complaining is fun, but not very useful. What might improve the situation (and be feasible)?

  • Having two separate finishing shoots, one for the half and one for the marathon so we don’t stumble on one another, and so that every one in a shoot will be going (roughly) the same pace
  • Start the half-marathon an hour or even an hour and a half after the marathon. That way the half marathon finishers won’t be quite as slow compared to those of the marathon.
    (The last marathoner finished in 6:49 while the last half marathoner in 5:02, adding an extra hour to the half start wouldn’t bump finishers against the end of the race)
  • Perhaps a couple of signs en route asking half marathoners to stick to the right and not form large chatty clumps and to allow faster runners to pass? Though I doubt that would do much, people tend to forget and ignore, but it wouldn’t hurt.

I stop, and slowly lean down to remove the chip from my shoe (my shoe lace goes through it and I don’t want them to cut my shoelace), and several people rush over to see if I’m all right. I guess it must look as though I’m slowly collapsing or something 🙂 !

50-54 men, 1st and 2nd



9 Responses to “Another marathon, slower than I wanted it to be”

  1. Dan Says:

    Congratulations! I’m sorry you don’t feel that you ran to your expectations. One question I have is: Was all the preparation worth it? Do you think you can change your preparation to have a better outcome, or make the preparation easier? I observe that the benefit of training, aside from a better event performance, is that I feel better during the event, and recover much more quickly afterwards.

    • georgeruns Says:

      I’m not sure what went wrong. I have one idea for something to try next time: Try some long runs at something between marathon pace and easy. Maybe building to a 24 mile run at 7:15 pace in addition to my tempo/long run build… Don’t know, but it’s all I can think of.

      I rather enjoy training for its own sake too…

  2. Maggie Mason Says:

    I empathize with your experience, George…at Long Beach, we marathoners were finishing with the slower half-marathoners, and I couldn’t even get to the water stations. They were practically all joining hands and singing kum ba yah. Dianna and I both remember accidentally hitting some of them with our elbows–it was that tight!

    Sorry you didn’t get what you wanted. What’s your theory?

    • georgeruns Says:

      Yeah, I simply ignored the last 3 or 4 water stations they were so crowded with people chatting. I guess it didn’t bother me as much as it might have because I didn’t think I needed water at that point.

      And I too brushed elbows. Partly my fault. I cut a corner tightly and the person on the inside didn’t behave as I expected. If I’d been less tired (or less annoyed) I’d probably have given them a bit more room.

    • georgeruns Says:

      You are right. Water stop congestion is an issue that needs to be addressed too. The water stands on the bike path weren’t too bad, the walkers all tended to be on the right side of the trail and the runners on the left (at least when I went through) and a few volunteers were standing on the left so it all worked there.

      But once we got out onto Los Positas there were no volunteers on the left. I’m guessing they didn’t like the traffic (and I don’t blame them). I’m not sure what could be done.

      • Segregated water stands? (have a stand for marathoners a quarter mile after the one for the half)
      • The second half of each stand being reserved for marathoners only?
      • Have a volunteer with a broom at each stand whose job it is to attack anyone who stays there from more than 20 seconds?
  3. Jay Hennigan Says:

    George, add half an hour overall and increase the paces appropriately and I could have written this. Was shooting for 3:30 and finished in 3:33. Yes, the HILL. Yes, dodging and weaving through oblivious half-marathoners towards the end. Yes, the headwinds.

    Still, an awesome race overall. Weather could have been a lot worse. For me a PR.

    • georgeruns Says:

      I’d say you did better than I in your finish, I missed my goal by more than 7 minutes.

      If only we were finishing with half-marathon runners. Runners, even those going 10 minute miles would probably understand the concept of racing in a way that walkers don’t seem to….

  4. Joy Says:

    Oh George.

    I can’t wait to chat with you about your experience in person because your second half is eerily similar to my second half. Brutal. Paces I am embarrassed to speak of. My only saving grace was that I didn’t go out quite as fast as you guys. It would have been even worse if I had.

    Going up THE HILL a walker jumped right in front of me… She did not see me…. I said “Excuse me”…. She didn’t budge…. I yelled “MOVE!!”..she told me to F$#% OFF!!! …If I had any extra strength left in me I would have punched her in the face.

    It was a great learning experience and I am excited to get stronger and do it again:)

    • georgeruns Says:

      Most walkers don’t understand the concept of racing. I am constantly bemused and annoyed: Why do people who don’t race join a race? If someone wants to walk 13 miles they don’t need the infrastructure of a race, they could go out and walk any time they want. They are disrespectful. And they pay to get in my way. And I don’t like the charities which encourage this disrespect, that teach people that it’s more important to raise money for <fill in the blank> than it is to race. (Grumble and rant)

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