ING Georgia Marathon Race Report

To say I conquered the ING Georgia Marathon would be a bit of a stretch, but I finished; and I finished 8 minutes faster than the Atlanta Marathon in November.

The Georgia Marathon course was difficult. It started in deep, downtown Atlanta – running through Little Five Points, East Atlanta, Druid Hills etc… The scenery was beautiful. Spring was in full swing and the eclectic neighborhoods brought out a colorful group of onlookers and cheering fans. True to the south, the neighborhoods got into the act by hosing down runners, offering fruit along the way and playing live music from their yards and street corners. Having so much street-side support really does make a difference.

The course was much, much hillier than I *think* anyone expected. My running buddy, whom finished the race 30 minutes ahead of me, commented that he also found the course extremely difficult. For some reason, we had it in our heads it was an easy course — lesson learned — we should have run portions of the ING Georgia Marathon route in training. {sigh}

I was a little worried at the start due to some stomach problems I had been experiencing over the last two weeks; but once that gun went off, I settled in – slow, but feeling OK. I did not want to upset my body too much in the early stages for fear of DNF-ing later on in the race.

I found out later that I was running a 9-minute mile-ish pace for the first half of the race and seemed to be feeling much better than expected. I just kept looking for the marathon halfway point at mile 13 . These half-way points always seem to give me a mental lift and encourage me to stay strong and finish.

Around mile 16 the heat began to take its toll. We emerged from the old, tree-lined neighborhoods of Decatur and into the wide open streets of downtown’s Carter Center / Freedom Parkway area. Egad – the heat was awful. Must have been at least 80 degrees but felt even worse with the sun bearing down on you relentlessly. At mile 18, I started to fall apart. I started “shuffling” my feet wondering if what I was doing was actually still considered “running”. I slowed waaay down, but I was OK with it. I was getting tired very, very quickly and the sun was only compounding the issue.

After that treacherous Freedom Parkway, we hit mile 20 and entered into Inman Park and a little bit of shade …but not much. You really had to look for it. I grabbed a few orange slices from friendly race fans, filled up bottles wherever I could find water and consistently poured water over my entire body to stay cool. I continued to shuffle along, trying to avoid direct sunlight, trying not to feel the pain …trying to get through the race.

Trekking through Virginia Highlands at mile 21, I got a little lift. The vibe was cool there and the people were very supportive. I think they knew that based on their geographic place along the Georgia Marathon race route, the people they were seeing were most likely in bad shape. That was a me – a runner in bad shape.

The race numbers had our first names on them and I remember people calling out “come on Christian”, “stay strong Christian” and the ultimate lie, “keep it up, you look GREAT Christian” …supportive, but miles away from the truth.

Once we moved onto Peachtree at mile 24, past the last tough hill, I knew I was gonna make it through this brutal marathon course. It was HOT on Peachtree Road with no shade until that final stretch between the skyscrapers. I picked it up, got a huge mental lift from the screaming fans along the road and ran across the finish with every ounce of physical strength I had left.

Then, I just stood there. …Exhausted, close to crying, thirsty as hell, tired as hell, in massive pain and just wanting to see my family, my friend and to just sit my ass down on the ground. Luckily, all that was seconds away.

I have big goals to improve my marathon times. I really want to get into the 4-hour game and I need to be more consistent in my training and weight loss. I need to take better care of myself and ensure that I don’t get sidelined with stupid physical problems that get in the way. I am not making excuses. I ran this marathon with all I had and I am proud of finishing where I did. Do I wish it would have been sub-five? Yes, I do, but it wasn’t. At least I beat my Atlanta Marathon time and there’s alway next time – the next race. It’s up to me to get there.

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