(you've gotta be sort of) Mad Marathon

1. July marathon on the east coast 2. in a state I haven’t done 3. during the family reunion. For me, the Mad Marathon in Waitsfield, VT was a running trifecta.

The one thing I love more than the challenge of the distance itself is sharing marathon miles with others. My Uncle, an experienced three time Ironman, joined me for his first standalone 26.2. We agreed to run as much as possible together but allowed the other person a pass if/when they needed to speed up.

At 7:30 am, we began under clear skies and temperatures in the low 60s. 1200 lined up, with just under 500 doing the full. I have a bad habit of getting swept up in the half marathon stampede and going out too fast, so it was great to have my Uncle there to keep my pace in check.

As "The World's Most Beautiful Marathon", this race earned it's tagline as we began on Route 100 and headed north, passing through a neat covered bridge that crossed over the Mad River. Almost immediately after the mile 1 mark, we began winding up a hill. A really steep one. It just kept on going...and going. This was not going to be easy.

After a very sharp drop from that hill, the course leveled off onto a gravel road for the next few miles and through another covered bridge. We ran a surprisingly even 9 min/mile during the first 10K, resisting the temptation to burn out our quads on the downhill descents. I would never have been able to do that on my own; Uncle Tre must have realized we’d be going back up those same descents in a few more miles!

The next stretch of the course broke off into a wishbone pattern, turning around at an orange cone twice before reversing back again, allowing me to absorb and share the positive energy from many Marathon Maniacs. With almost 4000 total, I am sort of an OG (“Original Gangsta”- you’re welcome) at #891 and it was funny to see reactions as I introduced myself to others.

Uncle Tre and I talked the entire first half about everything under the sun. It was really enjoyable and served as dissociation from the early hills. At one point, he mentioned a nagging injury and I quickly implemented a rule system requiring 2 positive statements per negative remark. I use this with myself during training runs and it works- if anything, to get out of the habit of letting negative thoughts surface. Either that or you look like an idiot talking to yourself.

Shortly after halfway at 2:12 and still chatting up a storm, we approached what is affectionately called “The Dip”. It looked like a roller coaster drop. There was no puke at the bottom, but I caught myself thinking, "Has the chute from Equinox 50K in Fairbanks followed me all the way to Vermont?!"

Now, I don't mind hills. Some runners loathe them, but I honestly appreciate the grind up and the feeling of accomplishment once I've made it to the top. Sure, I’m not gonna run 7:30 splits or PR; but I always do better within my gender and age group on a really hilly course. However, a few "Holy shit!"s and an "Are you kidding me?" later, I questioned the likelihood of a sub 4 hour marathon.

Around mile 15, I took Uncle Tre up on that pass. Having been conservative in the early miles, I was able to pick up the pace to 8:30/mile, taking advantage of gradual descent. I was focused only on my “second 10 miler”, having split the race mentally into 10, 10, and 6 miles. Breaking down into manageable parts is how I handle difficult situations, be it running or otherwise.

A sign that read "your feet hurt because you are kicking so much ass!" lifted my spirits , as did the many spectators along the course with treats, sprinkler systems, and words of encouragement. Just after mile 22, I saw my own support crew: my Mom, Mima, Aunt Theresa, Cousin Caroline, Mother-in-Law BJ, and Father-in-Law Scott. They were so enthusiastic the runners around me joked that they wanted to “share my family” and asked which races that specific crew would be at in the Fall!

Once I hit mile 23 at just under 3:40, I was averaging low 8 minute miles and knew that I was hovering the line for my overall time of either 4:01+ or 3:59:ish, which is (as the name implies) required for the 50<4 marathon club. I pushed to a 7:20, 7:16, and 7:13 in the final miles to secure a 3:59:26 finishing time, making me 17th female overall and 3rd in my age group.

The final 10K of this race is a testament to what Crossfit can do specifically for marathon running. This is something that a lot of runners like to debate (read: trash). When I PRed in Eugene, several folks assured me that I would be undertrained on more challenging terrain. Nyet. I’ll continue to use an adaptation of Crossfit Endurance (add long runs every other week) for fall races, including JFK50. It's a fantastic advantage. Selfishly (!), I sort of hope no women in my age group adopt it and continue to mileage themselves to death.

Sharing state #28 with my Uncle, who crushed his previous marathon PR from a dead flat IM marathon course, was the highlight of this event. Proud of the sub 4 on a challenging course, too. George Costanza style, I’m leaving the “Under 29” age group on a high note!