Three weeks from today, I’ll be running the New Jersey Marathon, in the North Jersey shore town of Long Branch. Until today, I didn’t know a whole lot about this race, other than it’s rumored to be well organized and flat – two great qualities for a potential PR.
This morning, one of the Long Branch running clubs hosted a practice 20 mile race simulation; it followed the two-loop course for the first 19 miles before turning back toward the beach to round out the run. Ali, the only sane one among us, opted to get in her last long run yesterday, but Bess and I decided to head up the Jersey Turnpike for a change of pace.
I was pretty anxious about what to eat before the run, both because of Passover and because we were waking up at 4:00 AM for a 7 AM start. I contemplating disregarding the holiday and downing a peanut butter sandwich, but then Brent came up with the perfect alternative. Before I left the house to meet Bess at a nearby parking lot, I ate a spoonful of peanut butter. An hour later, I munched on a banana… and a small bag of baked lay’s potato chips.
Yes, that’s right, potato chips – and I think I may have found the secret to marathon glory.
After getting a little bit turned around en route, we made it to the unofficial starting line just before the pre-‘race’ debriefing. The director of the marathon took the bullhorn and spoke to the crowd of 80-ish runners, detailing the plan for the morning.
The Jersey Marathon is grossly overshadowed by Philly to the south and New York to the north, and I get the impression that the race makes up for any inferiority complex by offering amazing amenities and organization that rivals any ironman. Along today’s makeshift course, there were six fuel stations, fully stocked with gatorade, water, and chocolate gu, not to mention the Peeps and jelly beans (I didn’t partake in these Easter delights during the run for fear of screwing with my stomach, but I was still impressed). The director offered free race magnets to all participants, and they even got local businesses to put out “You’re all Kenyans” signs on their curbs.
We started in the 8:00-9:00 corral and quickly settled into what we thought was a comfortable pace. After the first mile, though, I looked down at my garmin to find that we were running sub-8:00. Bess and I got nervous that we were pushing too hard, but we decided to go with it and see what happened. After five miles, we were consistently hitting times ranging from 8:07-8:16, and we both felt good.
At the start of the run, we made friends with Andrew, a New York computer consultant training for his second marathon. Quickly, the three of us joined forces with two other New Yorkers, and we all ran together for much of the 20 miles.
We got to the half marathon point at 1:47, a full eight minutes faster than my last official PR. I had to work hard not to psyche myself out, worrying that we’d started out too fast and would collapse in the final seven. It was a brisk day, and when we finished the first loop, the winds picked up a bit, upping our effort and slowing our pace. But by mile 17, the winds had calmed, and we all spread out a bit as our new friends pushed it to the finish (Andrew had a “secret” goal that was definitely faster than a 3:40, and at least one of the other women we were running with had a PR of 3:12 on a hilly course).
I struggled a bit around mile 15, but by 17 I got a second wind, and Bess and I finished the last three miles strong, rounding out the 20 in a time of 2:45:19. When I looked down at my watch, I nearly squealed. 8:16 pace! We could have run the remaining 6.2 miles this morning above a 9:00 pace and still come in under our marathon goal time!
Because we’d missed a turn in the final mile and had to backtrack, we finished our run about 1/2 a mile from the start, so we walked/shuffled back and enjoyed a veritable smorgasbord of jelly beans, peanuts, pretzels, bananas, water, gatorade, and dyed eggs, each individually etched with 13.1 and 26.2 (okay, so I actually just had a few peanuts and a handful of jelly beans, but it was quite the spread).
After stretching and changing and singing the praises of the race director and running club, Bess and Andrew and I headed to Amy’s Omelets for lunch. I scanned the menu over and over again, and quickly realized that the thought of an omelet made me nauseous, so unless I wanted fruit and cottage cheese, I was going to have to break Passover (the horror, I know). I settled on a veggie pita, joking that pita bread must have less yeast in it since it’s so much flatter than regular bread. I ate half the sandwich and 2/3 of the fries and was thoroughly satisfied as we walked back to the car, stopping to mug with the Easter bunny on our way out.
It was the perfect morning, the best 20 miler ever. And it totally made up for yesterday’s debacle.
Next up, taper!
(Photos c/o Andrew… And no more Passover posts – they’re getting boring)