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Columbus Marathon race report

These last few days have flown by and it feels like I somehow lost a week. We picked my son up from school on Thursday afternoon and drove the 7 hours to Ohio arriving after dark. Then yesterday we drove home most of the day. So that kills 2 days right there.

On Friday, we drove downtown to the convention center to pick up my packet at the expo. Ran into a high school classmate towards the very end and chatted briefly...though we'd see him again at dinner. Your pretty typical expo. The balcony around the main ballroom is for race bib, t-shirt, goodie bag, etc.. The main floor below is the booths with the shoes, foam rollers, race ads, the like. I found the workers at the information booth unhelpful about where to be dropped off on race morning. Nothing really in the packet either...plenty of parking instructions, but no single/convenient point. That would be helpful.

The theme for the event, really, is that Columbus occupies a strange place in the middle...it's either a very small big city race. Or a very big small town race. So it's hard to classify. I loved it. Even just minutes before the race there was virtually no line for the toilets in the starting corrals. On the other hand, don't expect some of the bells and whistles you get at other races. No free arm warmers or lots of samples of new gel flavors or recovery drink options. Not that kind of event. Your goodie bag will have a few coupons and the post-race food is bagels and pretzels handed to you. No long buffet of free food. But the race shirt is very, very nice and almost too quality to train in. It's legit.

Friday evening we came home from the expo and went to the playground and nature center at a local park with the kids. Then Grandma got them Chipotle while Mama and myself went for pasta with friends.

Saturday--just how I like--was a lowkey day of visiting with my dad and his family. Big breakfast. Bland dinner. Watched the Buckeye game on tv. Over the course of the weekend both my mom and dad had belated birthday gifts, cake, or Halloween related items for the kids. I stupidly decided to get a late-afternoon coffee when the Mama wanted some for her. I'd already over-hydrated all day so I was up way too late, unable to sleep, and feeling a little out of sorts.

Woke up feeling great on race morning though. Had my oatmeal and coffee and then my mom drove me to the Arena District to drop me off. No problem doing that. There were a few people around though I wouldn't call it congestion until closer to 7am when the corrals closed. I walked into my spot hoping there would be bottled water...there wasn't. So I walked back out of the secured area towards Gear Check. The "athlete water" table was a lonely looking spot with a few cases of bottled water that a couple of brave souls had already punched the plastic on to take what they wanted. No volunteer handing them out even 30 min after the corrals opened. Personally, I like to see pre-race hydration inside the start area near the restrooms.

The heaters the race promised were in an area behind the corral fencing and not all of them were working. The entertainment was ok. But I'm fine with canned running-friendly tunes on the speakers, frankly. So I ate my pre-race chews and huddled to stay warm. Start line temp was 40 degrees so I didn't need gloves to run in. But they may have helped while waiting...I'm sure I burned off some needed calories here.

My friend from high school track--among other places--arrived a bit early and found me easily. She'd been unable to make it to dinner Friday evening due to work, but we'd had a loose plan to at least start together. This is marathon 10 for her and she'd originally planned to run about an hour faster than me before finding out she was pregnant. She graciously moved back to Corral C with me and it ended up being a great day because of it.

The race lets the first 2 corrals go with fireworks, lasers, and the whole "big deal" at 7:30am. Then, oddly, a few minutes later they let the other 2 corrals go with a repeated production...including a 2nd national anthem. At that point, I just want to run. So sitting through the Star Spangled Banner again isn't my thing per se. I'm sure somebody suggested it to make us feel less left out?

The start of the race is along a wall, very crowded, and meanders through downtown...reminded me of a cross between Twin Cities and Chicago here. The 13.1 participants start alongside the 26.2 runners so for the first half of the race the course is full of spectators. The first few miles is a long two-way stretch down Broad Street where we settled in and started planning where to find family. My family met another near a large park and they were on the wrong side of the street to really get to me until I'd been to Bexley and looped to come back towards downtown. Ditched my arm warmers. Got my sunglasses. Saw my dad's family for the first time. They made it to German Village, too. Then we saw my family and my running partner's husband downtown. Then it was a pretty long, lonely stretch until the Ohio State campus and my dad's family just after that. Then another long stretch to the finish.

We kept at a nice pace for most of the day. In fact, for most of the race, we were beating my PR by nearly 15 minutes. And--disappointing for me--it felt great. I maybe wasn't quite where I needed to be nutrition-wise though to keep that up. So I ended up falling off at the end trying to hang on. It was still a PR by 2 minutes. Woohoo! Right? I'm happy, but also frustrated because I killed it by so much more for about 23 miles. Points to the race director, they had pretzels, oranges, and bananas at Mile 20 that helped a lot. Nicole was running at an odd stride for her because it was so slow...so she was sore. And I was getting side cramps and then a hamstring cramp in the home stretch. Maybe a smidge warm as it crept up towards 50. I had a salty crust all over me. Maybe I hit the Gatorade too late? Mile 12. Usually if I switch from water too soon it upsets my stomach.

Anyway, the last couple miles you know, brain-wise, that you're getting close. But the course twists and turns--thankfully downhill--so you never get a good glimpse at exactly how much farther. The race marks the miles, too, no kilometers and no signs for how many meters during the last mile. I'm not a fan of the out-and-back. Especially late in the race in Grandview where it just taunts you. Probably my favorite section of the course was from German Village up High Street and thru the Short North. By the time you finally turn, it isn't long until you're running through the OSU campus. The back half of the race is largely residential which can be kinda boring seeing people in their driveway. But I did appreciate the "corny field" where the course is just a bike path through a cornfield and the race set up jokes and inspirational quotes. There is a lot...I mean a lot...of entertainment throughout. Bands mostly. From polka to rock to a person with a keyboard.

I was one of the lucky (slow) ones who actually got my finish medal as Nicole and I crossed the line. About 1/6 of the field beat the medals to the end...there was a holdup in shipping due to the typhoon. They literally arrived at 9:30am.

Overall, I would say this was a solid, well-organized race. It's sponsored by Nationwide Children's Hospital so each mile is dedicated to a "patient champion." Including an angel mile dedicated to memorials. Be prepared for the emotion. The spectators range from loud and wild to non-existent and sporadic. Be prepared for that, too. The course, contrary to the profile, is not flat and includes many small hills--ramps and inclines more like--be prepared that it is not a pancake. Overall, a good effort from my home city though. There are pace groups. The water stops are a bit chaotic. For a small race there were still lines at nearly every toilet on the course. And once the thousands of half-marathoners leave you, it thins out so you may be running alone in some spots. I'd do the race again in a heartbeat...it was the right price and high quality enough that I can recommend it. Though I'd also argue it has a few bells and whistles to get straight before I'd say it was on-par with Twin Cities, for instance.

Congrats to all my friends and family who were also finishers. Sorry I didn't get to see a few people in all the chaos...I heard my high school coach was waiting at the finish and I'd love to have talked to him. Here's to all the first marathons and PRs!

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