This was the 3rd straight year we've driven to Ohio to run The Nationwide Children's Hospital Columbus Marathon and it continues to be an affordable, organized, excellent race to recommend to anybody who needs a fall 13.1 or 26.2. The only disappointment this year was the weather which crept to near 80 at the finish line. Columbus has a low entry fee if you sign up early, a flat course with amazing support, and a great overall feel.
There's nothing to be done about the heat. But it's especially frustrating to pick--specifically--a race later in October hoping for cooler temps, run the race of your life, and still come up short due to outside factors you have no control over. The day certainly tested me mentally as much as physically for that reason. Sure, everybody gets the same conditions out there. So there were a lot of runners who had a far worse day than I ended up. I felt a little better about myself when I examined my results more carefully and realized I passed over 100 people in the last 10k compared to 50 who passed me. Didn't feel like it though!
Having run the front 13.1 all three years now, it has a great atmosphere with lots of participants, large cheers from spectators, and was fairly easy to get through. Coming up High Street to the split point for the half-marathon finishers, however, it was clear to see that the elite athletes coming back home on the 26.2 course were already facing a hot slog. Not exactly encouraging, psychologically. Once you leave the Half runners behind, things thin out and the course feels a bit empty. Lack of crowds AND runners means it gets mentally tougher. It's the Short North, Ohio State University campus, a field, and residential neighborhoods that are all pretty desolate on a Sunday morning.
Up until Mile 19-23 or so I'd kept a fairly solid hold on being under my PR pace. It fluctuated, depending, between 4-8 minutes under which had me pretty happy. I've always said I'm fairly confident I could significantly lower my times if I had more time and energy to dedicate to training...not that this cycle was especially "hard" for me. But the training I did felt pretty good and I've gotten a lot more confident about what works and what doesn't. I knew I could hold that pace until the end and probably would have if the temperature had been 50 (it was at the Start Line) instead of 70 degrees. Oh well. My dad watched me at several places on the course and said I still was looking good at Mile 21, but I'd lost the spring in my step and already had to start dumping water over myself to cool down. Mile 23 was the final "pack it in or dig down?" moment where I had to decide just how badly I wanted that PR.
I'd slowly seen my -8 minutes turn into "even" and my sports psychology failed me at that point. Realizing how miserable it was going to be to go all out for 3+ miles I decided to live to fight another day. I was inching into being over my PR and wasn't sure it was going to be physically possible to gain anything back given the sun. So there you go. It gradually climbed to about 10 minutes over my PR that I set on the same course in 2014. Well, almost. The course does have a few notable changes in the intervening years. They're minor enough that I don't think they impacted my result.
For those looking for inside info, there are plentiful, regular aid stations. Plenty of medical staff. Plenty of restrooms (for the most part). Easy packet pickup at the Expo. Easy parking. Easy corral lineup and decent food and finisher medal. Overall, this event gets an A from me. Maybe not A+ since there is always room for improvement. But it's rare to not have any real complaints about a race with thousands of people. Good time. Lots of fun. You know what to expect.
Next year, we're thinking of going back to Twin Cities though. Gotta rotate!