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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.