I chose to do the Redding Marathon this year for two reasons. One, I am currently in the best shape of my life and I decided that I better put that fitness to use. Second, I daydream of the glory that comes from winning races and thought that I would have a great shot of not only winning the race but maybe chasing down the course record set by ultra marathon great Hal Koerner.
The Redding Marathon is definitely unique. It’s not a huge race….maybe 300 hundred runners including the relay runners. It starts up at the Lake Shasta Dam then follows a bike path all the way back into Redding and finishes on the renowned Sundial Bridge. Along the way there are a few out and backs and hilly sections to add variety. I wouldn’t say Redding is a “FAST” course but it’s not slow either; it probably adds anywhere from 2-4 minutes on to a pancake flat super fast course like Chicago or Houston or something.
Before the start I scanned the field and was feeling confident that I could be a contender to win the race although I knew that anyone could potentially come out of the woodwork. The winning times from years past were consistently in the 2:40’s so my odds were good that if I ran quicker than that, I would win.
The race starts with a 2-3 mile downhill, which sounds nice, but I would prefer flat ground. I really don’t think I made up any time with that descent. Then we hit a nice 10 mile stretch of flat bike path where I was able to just settle into my pace and cruise. I knew I had to run 5:57’s to get the course record so my thought while looking down at my splits on my Garmin watch was, “Any mile that starts with a 5 is a good mile…any one that starts with a 6 is a bad mile.” It turns out after all was said and done, I had 18 good miles and 8 bad ones.
I wasn’t sure how those 5:50ish miles were going to feel but luckily they just felt like I was cruising at marathon pace, well within my limits.
Lots of guys went out hard but it became apparent after about 4-5 miles that there was really only one other guy that I had to worry about. With a 3-person relay element to this race I was not sure if this one guy out ahead of me was running the full marathon or if he was just running the 1st leg of the course. Sadly, after the relay handoff around mile 10 came and went, he was still there. Who turned out to be Jorge Maravilla opened up about a 1-2 minute gap on me within the first 8 miles or so. From there it seemed we were basically cruising at the same pace, I was not closing on him nor was he opening a greater gap. It was kind of nice to have that carrot out there to chase. I kept telling myself that he was going to come back to me. I seem to finish pretty strong, or at least not fade too hard late in races so I thought that just maybe I would see him down the road and still have a chance to win.
I felt pretty strong on all the flat sections and OK on the hill portions. The hills just worried me more than anything; I didn’t know how they were going to affect my legs as I’ve never run a marathon with any kind of hills in it. I was taking in gu’s every 4 miles and took one S-Cap at the hour mark, I didn’t get one hint of leg cramps which was great for me! I tried to take in a lot of fluids but some of the aid stations made that hard.
If I had one criticism of this race it would be the aid stations. Some of them were great, at one of them a guy even chased me down for about 75 meters to hand me a gu! But at two of them nobody was there to hand me cups so I had to stop and grab them myself…and the ones that did have cups ready it was very hard to get more than one cup because the aid station people were not properly staggered. I know this is a smaller event but with a little coaching this could have easily been taken care of. Aside from that though, this race was seriously awesome and well organized!
Due to the lack of fluids I was getting I was super lucky to have my girlfriend Nikki there for additional support. I saw her at miles 13 and 18 where she was ready with a water bottle, gu’s, and an encouraging word. She was a lifesaver!
I held it all together pretty good through about mile 21. I actually felt like I hit this really hard zone a little earlier than I did at the Eugene Marathon (race report) last May but I attribute it to the course. From mile 21-23 there was some seriously steep little rollers that didn’t make much of a blip on the elevation profile because they may have only been 10-20 feet high but they were steep so they definitely took me out of my rhythm…and late in a race like that is when your rhythm is what takes you through.
Over the second half of the race I received a lot of intel from spectators, other racers, and Nikki about the leader, Jorge, and how much time he had on me. At first it was consistently a minute, then it creeped up to a minute and a half, then 2 minutes, and then for the last 4 miles I didn’t hear anything. I kept looking for him though on the long straightaway sections! You never know, people blow up late in marathons all the time and I still thought that just maybe if I maintained my pace, he could come back to me.
Those last 3 miles were really tough. My legs were going and I had a few “BAD” miles but nothing too slow. Just for you data geeks out there, here were my mile times: 5:49, 5:41, 5:55, 6:05, 5:54, 5:52, 5:53, 5:57, 5:51, 5:52, 5:57, 6:01, 6:05, 5:34, 5:57, 6:04, 5:45, 5:49, 5:51, 5:45, 5:49, 6:00, 6:00, 6:12, 6:09, 6:01. I was OK with my effort level over those last 4 miles but looking back I think I could have dug a little deeper. It was tough though, there were no spectators, no competitors in sight, I was too disoriented to crunch the numbers to know my potential overall time outcome, they were just plain hard. But again, I faded a little, but hung pretty tough with 6:12 being my slowest mile.
I hit the Sundial Bridge, basically closed my eyes, and sprinted it in…2:35:28 was the official time. Another 3 minutes off my PR! I was 23 seconds under the course record and any other year in the history of the race, I would have won! But sadly, well not sadly, ironically I guess, this year happened to be the year that a real stud showed up. It turned out that Jorge Maravilla is a “somebody” in the running world and cruised his way to a 2:31! After chatting with him after the race he told me he felt great and closed hard. What was a 2 minute gap between us at 20 miles turned into a 4 minute gap at 26…he was NOT coming back! However, he went on to tell me that he is not actually a road marathoner, but a mountain runner. Apparently he recently won the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 miler and the Whiskeytown 50k. Also in 2011, he became a professional and is now sponsored by Salomon, not a bad resume.
Although I didn’t get the win or the course record, I did get my name in the RECORD BOOKS with a 25-29 year old age group record and a 2nd overall record. Hopefully those will stand for awhile! In all honesty though, I enjoy the records, the competition, the pursuit of personal bests and all but really I just love to run and share it with other people. I love getting out there and in the mix with other runners in hopes of achieving personal goals but in a collective environment. Because I finish the race in a quicker time than some people does not mean I tried any harder or achieved any greater. Me and Nikki went back to the finish line 2-3 hours after the race and saw a woman who had just crossed the finish line. She was hobbling like crazy and looked like she had tears in her eyes. She was there with her loved ones as she proudly stumbled back to the car. She finished a marathon, she pushed her body to it’s limit, she achieved her goal, she overcame just like everyone else. I hope to inspire others to run and am inspired myself by all runners; whether it’s Jorge Maravilla at 2:31 or your 6 hour runner who slugs it out well into the afternoon.
Get out there and run, any pace, any place, any level…just run and you’ll be an inspiration.