Simply put, I love the Atlanta Marathon.
About the Atlanta Marathon
The Atlanta Marathon is held every year on Thanksgiving Day. Being that the race is run early morning, on a holiday, it tends to be very low-key. The traffic isn’t even detoured. Instead, the Atlanta Track Club places orange cones along the road and runners simply squeeze into the right lane. It’s not uncommon for there to be a couple of near miss runner vs. vehicle mishaps which only adds to the race experience. There are almost no yelling crowds, no fan support, and no media; but in contrast, the race organizers are very diligent with runner aid and aid stations are well-stocked and plentiful.
Preparing to Run in the Rain
This year was a wet year. A few days out, I knew it was going to rain, but planned NOT to prepare any differently. If I got wet, I got wet, but I was not going to lug around excessive gear or worry too much about it. This proved to be the right strategy for me.
Like clockwork, the rain began just as the race officials were saying, “go”. Luckily, the first stint of rain was short, but since it was rather warm outside, the small amount rain just made it humid. I cursed myself for wearing sleeves and removed the long sleeve wicking shirt from under my short sleeve one.
This is where I met “Indiana”. Indiana was from, you guessed it, Indiana, and he was in town just for this marathon and had no idea what to expect with regards to the course, weather etc… Indiana passed me shortly after a brief conversation but I would see Indiana many times throughout the day, and I believe there was some kindred reasoning for our meeting. I’ll elaborate on that in a moment.
My first mile clocked in at 9:36 and I kept this general pace pretty much throughout the first half of the race. My goal was to simply break five hours and log a marathon PR. Both of my previous marathons were 5:13 and 5:03 respectively, and I desperately wanted to show some improvement.
After the first half of the race, I felt good, but I starting to get heavy legs. Three weeks ago, I attempted the Mountain Masochist 50-mile Trail Race in Virginia, and I probably did not rest enough before jumping right into this marathon; but, I wasn’t going to let that mental negativity get in the way …I was halfway home.
Running from the Five Hour Marathon Stigma
Around mile 17, I met Holly. She captured my attention with a sign on her back that read, “26.2 just because you said I couldn’t” — I had to ask her what that meant.
Apparently an “ex” had told her that she “couldn’t run a marathon”, and by her tone and general disgust, I got the feeling that this ex was responsible for a lot of self-defeat and self-esteem issues within Holly. I felt sad for her, but immediately offered to run with her for awhile to keep her company and get her to the finish. I knew I could keep her spirits up, and as an ultrarunner, I knew how much that tiny element can help someone finish an endurance challenge.
We met up with yet another girl and I sort of backed off, letting the “chatty Cathys” do their thing, but stayed around for moral support and to push Holly when she would try to stop or cry again.
Unfortunately, around mile 22, at cardiac hill, I pulled ahead and when I looked back, I no longer could see Holly and the other female runner. Holly, if you’re out there, I hope you finished.
Update: there is a Holly Kent in the results finishing at 4:51. …I sure hope it was her…
At mile 23, I was dying to know the time, but scared that if I found out I was not on pace for a sub-five hour marathon, I might just loaf it on in, so I never asked for the time and just ran blindly.
Right after mile 24, as I was approaching the downtown area near the Hard Rock restaurant, who do I see? Good ol’ Indiana …but he’s walking.
“Indiana! get moving!”, I yelled.
“Man, I’m about done.”, he said.
“Come on, Indiana, we are going to finish this race and finish it strong.”, I pushed.
Reluctantly, he started running again just as I pulled up next to him, and we ran together, mostly silent, through mile 25 and crossing the finish line. As we neared the finish, we shook hands, athlete style, and then took off to shave off those last few seconds and look strong for the cameras.
Race finishes like that are always special and true to endurance challenge form.
I finished the race in 4:41:40; thus, finally breaking the five-hour marathon stigma, and setting my sites on faster marathons in the future.
The Atlanta Marathon is the best. The course takes runners through the heart of the city – Turner Field, Downtown, Midtown, Buckhead, Brookhaven and the entire Peachtree Road corridor. The volunteers and race organization are both top notch. The aid stations are well-manned and the aid station workers are very supportive.
Some say this race is not a good race for first-timers due to the hills and lack of fan support due to the holiday. I disagree, and not because the Atlanta Marathon was my first in 2006, but because this race is special. If your idea of the perfect marathon is plenty of swag, big crowds and massive media, then yea – maybe Atlanta Marathon isn’t the best first-time race – but, if you are interested in running a marathon with a challenging course and a race against yourself, then the Atlanta is a very good choice.
Next up, Mountain Mist 50K in Huntsville, AL.