I ran the Boulder Marathon this morning. Four years after my last marathon. Not sure if I can explain why running 26 miles was important to me. Let’s just say 2020 was hard and I wasn’t happy with my weight gain. I wanted to be a runner again and running a marathon seemed like the best way to become one. That’s how runners think.
Although most of the race was run on the Boulder Backroads, as in past Boulder Marathons, this one finished downtown on Pearl Street, so the organizers branded it as the Boulderthon. Who am I to consider that kitschy? Well, I’m a product manager. I understand marketing, it’s one of the hats I wear more frequently at work. I’ve named my share of products. Given that the biggest draw of this event, per the race organizers, is the downtown finish on Pearl Street, I’d have named it the Pearl Street Marathon. Think Colfax. Think Peach Street. Something meaningful to the locals. That would have differentiated it from past Boulder Marathons. I shouldn’t complain though. The event could not have been more well run.
Karen and I spent the night at the Hotel Boulderado. There’s no parking at the race start at the Boulder Res, and I didn’t want to make her drop me off so early, plus the hotel is near the finish on the Pearl Street Mall. We enjoyed a nice dinner at the hotel restaurant, Spruce, Farm & Fish where I ate raw oysters and Cod. That thing about runners eating pasta before a marathon is a myth. There were also buses lined up near the hotel to ferry me to the race start in the morning.
The weather was awesome and likely helped me to do better than expected. 43° at the start. Low 60s by the finish.
Nothing stretches distance out longer than straightness, and this course had some long, straight roads. The half-mile-long dam at the Res was the worst. Because it’s straight in every dimension, it felt like three miles. Oxford Road was about four miles of straightness, but at least it undulated vertically with some hills. Still, I felt really good the first half and didn’t start to feel fatigued until mile sixteen. I pretty much ran to the race plan I shared last weekend, except I ran a bit faster overall; 50 seconds per mile faster in the first half and 10 seconds faster per mile in the second half.
My breathing felt great this entire run. I never once felt like I wasn’t going to finish. I did start walking a bit at the aid stations to drink and douse my head with water in the final 10K. I also walked a tad whenever my heart would start to race past my max heart rate. I found I could recover after a half minute or so of walking. This was also in the final 10K. Still, I finished well ahead of my goal, in 4:35.
My legs tightened up after twenty miles and shortened my stride, but I never came close to cramping. I helped a runner out at 23 miles by giving him the rest of my pickle juice when I discovered him on the side of the trail with cramps. I had two 17 ounce water bottles, one with Tailwind, a high-calorie sports drink that’s not at all sweet tasting, and the other with dill pickle juice. You won’t find a sports drink with anywhere near the sodium as pickle juice. It has more salt than the Dead Sea. But I drink it because it tastes good.
As usual, I found religion those final six miles. Because I didn’t want to disappoint God, I made promises I couldn’t keep with the Devil. I’m kidding of course, but man, the things you say to yourself to get across the finish line. The twenty-fifth mile was uphill with a quick downhill near the end. Colorado races will always throw a hill at you near the end. Race Directors are cruel.
I wouldn’t say I put on a kick, but I did finish strong. Karen and friends were there at the finish. Chris Price served as my crew chief and took all these photos. He rode around the course on his bike, ready to resupply my sports drinks, or carry me off if I DNF’d.
Finished 5th in my age group, even though I was 4th and an hour quicker in my last Boulder Marathon. I think other competing marathons in October, or Covid, and maybe the poor air quality this summer, diluted this year’s competition. The first two weeks of my ten week training plan was inside on the elliptical to avoid the unhealthy air quality. I wasn’t as fit as I’d hoped to be for this event, but man, it felt good to run it. I’m a runner again.