Atlanta Marathon Race Recap

The 2019 Publix Atlanta Marathon was definitely an experience I won’t forget soon.

I had done the training necessary to run a good marathon. It was the healthiest and happiest I have been in training possibly EVER.

Unfortunately, and unbeknownst to me, Atlanta is supremely hilly. A quick Google search (where was this research prior to registering, I don’t know) says that Atlanta has the highest elevation of any major city East of the Mississippi River.

I wish I had known.

Recapping the training leading up to the Atlanta Marathon
Marc’s Recap of the 2019 Atlanta Marathon

My Training Plan

This is the first training period I did what I needed instead of what would be a typical training plan. It was precisely what I needed.

During the 12 or so weeks I trained for this marathon, I didn’t do any speed work – no striders, no threshold or tempo workouts, and definitely nothing faster than my potential marathon pace of 7 minute miles.

I purposefully did no speed because my only goal was to be completely healthy. Being healthy – with no injuries or setbacks is something that is rare for me and it was really my only goal besides finishing the marathon. Because I’m so injury prone, I didn’t register for the race until the week before the last price increase.

Reviewing my race effort for the Atlanta Marathon
Recapping my 53rd place finish at the Atlanta Marathon

After my Philly Half Marathon in November of 2018, I vowed to do what was best for me to stay healthy and it was my belief that speedwork might have been the reason so many of my lower leg injuries came about.


The Actual Race

For a big city, it was a rather small event. There were roughly 1,500 marathon finishers.

The first miles of the race were run in the morning darkness. I didn’t mind at all as a decent chunk of my training was done in the dark – either before teaching or before coaching the Marlton Rec Track program.

As the sun peaked its head up over the tall buildings, it started to feel more like a race than a training run. I purposely started about 10 seconds back behind the race leaders and my first instincts were to catch everyone. I did my best to stay patient, however, the first 8 miles or so were spent reeling runners in.

Find Trainwithmarc on Instagram
Find Trainwithmarc on Instagram

At 13 miles, I knew I’d see my cheer squad and they’d fill me in on roughly how many runners were in front of me – 40 or so – that I’d have to keep my sights on. They also helped me refuel – giving me a piece of RunGum and another Gu for my 2nd half of the race.

My splits were pretty even throughout the first half – however, the hills played a big part in how those miles felt. By mile 15, my legs were tired and I could feel the constant ups and downs in my quads and calves.

2019 Atlanta Marathon Race Report
Recapping the highs and lows of the 2019 Atlanta Marathon

For the next 5 or 6 miles, I was working with two guys decked out in red and listening to music. We were still working on a good tempo and catching up to guys who went out faster than we did, but were coming back to us. I hit mile 17 in 7:03 and 18 in 6:58. After a hilly 19 in 7:22 and a decent 20 in 7:17, I crossed the 20-mile mats in 2:23:24 for an average of 7:11.

At 20 miles and the peak of the race (what felt like the highest point and figuratively before I came crashing back to Earth), I was in about 30th to 35th place.

And then, the wheels started to come off. By the time I hit my 21, my legs were toast. The hills had officially won and I just had to get my weary body back to the finish line. After slugging through 21 and 22 I knew I wasn’t going to break 3 hours without some form of a miracle.

Mile 21: 7:38
Mile 22: 7:59

And since I knew what the first 20 miles were like, I knew there wasn’t going to be a relief from the hills.

Mile 23: 8:21
Mile 24: 8:40

Elevation Map of the Atlanta Marathon based on Garmin GPS data

The elevation gain and loss based on Marc’s Garmin GPS

Huge ups. Long downs. My body was trashed.

Mile 25: 8:40
Mile 26: 8:32

Marc's 1st ever 26.2 marathon
Reviewing the 2019 Atlanta Marathon

The finishing mile was a long grinding uphill and my calves were on fire. I barely had the energy to say hi to Carly and Lucy who were waiting for me somewhere in the middle of mile 25.

I was contemplating walking, but as long as I could keep up my slow shuffle, I felt it would be silly to delay my finish line quest any longer than needed.

On I trudged.

As I climbed the last hill and took a right, I could finally hear the announcers. I gathered all the smiles I could (none) and summoned my body across the finish line.

3:14:55 for an average of 7:27 per mile. My last 10k was in a brutal 51 minutes.



What’s Next?

Recovery. My next 14 or more days have one goal: feel normal again. That will probably take me to the end of the month before I do any formal running again.

Medal Monday for Marc after the Atlanta Marathon

I don’t have any running or racing plans in the next 3 months on purpose. After fully recovering – however long that takes, then I’ll assess what my goals and plans are.

Marathons bring out the best in people
Meb Keflezighi Marathon Quote

Thanks a ton for following along. I replied to every comment (I think) on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I gave it my all and in the end, I’m happy with my effort, the training I did and after it all, I hope I inspired you in some way to follow your heart and do what makes you special.

Did you find this article helpful? Let me know by leaving a comment below or join the conversation on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

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22 thoughts on “Atlanta Marathon Race Recap

  1. deborahbrooks14 March 20, 2019 — 8:28 AM

    Congrats on your marathon. Unexpected hills are the not a fun surprise at all. Taking so much time off for recovery sounds very smart!

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  2. Congratulations! The marathon is definitely a learning experience. I’m sure you’ve heard the expression that the marathon is divided into two halves, the first 20 and the last six. Now you know exactly what that means! Still, a great job well done. It took me almost three years and about 10 marathons before I ran my PR of 3:16 (and I still feel like I could have done better lol).

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  3. I know I should have done more research into the elevation of the course, but it was an oversight. I’m definitely taking at least 2 weeks off! I’m super excited for that part.

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  4. Yes, I definitely understand where that comes from. I think without the hills I could shave 20+ minutes off. It was that brutal!

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  5. I live in Atlanta and that is one marathon that I refuse to do! Even the half is brutal with the last 3.5 miles of worst hills! I cant imagine tackling that in a full distance.

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  6. That’s the one thing I DID NOT pay attention to when I registered… Yeah, it was definitely a tough last 6 miles, but it’s done!

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  7. Wow, just looking at that elevation made my legs hurt. Congratulations on conquering that hard marathon course!

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  8. Organic Runner Mom March 21, 2019 — 8:28 AM

    Oh wow! Those hills sound brutal. It’s no fun when you start to hit the wall with about a 10k left. Those last miles can totally suck. Congrats on your finish though. Always an accomplishment!

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  9. angela@marathonsandmotivation.com March 21, 2019 — 11:39 AM

    Congratulations on a great race! The last 6 miles are always the most difficult, I’m impressed how you trudged though, especially with all of the hills. Enjoy your rest & recovery time now!!

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  10. Congrats on the marathon! It surprises me from the runners I coach in Atlanta just how hilly it is. Enjoy your recovery!

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  11. Oh my, it was not what I expected, but it’s over with and I’m already finished being sore!

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  12. It was absolutely a trudge. But I’m healthy and happy and now I’m motivated to run another one and really get below 3 hours.

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  13. Never Too Old to Lift March 21, 2019 — 5:14 PM

    Wow that elevation graph looks brutal. Amazing work, your slower splits are faster than my target pace for a marathon!

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  14. I was cheering you on from Houston! Unexpected hills are challenging mentally and physically! You should still be so proud of your race! That is a great accomplishment!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Thanks! Yes, it was SO hilly. I couldn’t believe it. Anyway, thanks for cheering – means a lot.

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  16. Thanks. Yes, it was brutally hilly – I couldn’t have picked a hillier first race. I was prepared for 7-minute pace for 26 miles, but the hills obviously took way more out of me than I anticipated.

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  17. You are so welcome! Hills are never fun, especially when unexpected!

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