We were going to be in the area visiting family around that time and I couldn’t resist the chance to run one more marathon before the end of the year.
I’d never previously considered running an indoor marathon or thought it sounded like anything but torture. But as ideas do, this one continued to grow in my mind until I decided to just go for it (see podcast #128).
The Hawk Indoor Marathon and 50k
The race was held at the Hagerstown Community College Athletic Center and put on by Bill Stewart, head coach of the cross country/track and field department. In fact, the race is a fund raiser for the Hawks team and most of the race volunteers are college students on the team.
I was considering the race just a couple weeks before the event and emailed Coach Stewart for more information and to see if there was still room (maximum capacity was 50 runners). There was indeed room and I received some nice personal correspondence with him.
We drove to Harrisburg, PA the day before the race and ate at McGrath’s Pub (which was excellent) and enjoyed walking around the downtown area. Later that evening we drove to Hagerstown about 1.5 hours away and stayed the night. Packet pickup for the marathon took place on race morning from 7-8 am and it was nice not to have to get up super early.
We arrived at 7:30 and walked into the gym, signed a waiver and got a few pre-race instructions. Trevor and I found a place on the bleachers to wait and get ready for the runner’s meeting right before the race start. There were a few other runners already there, some doing warm-up laps, others getting their gear on and setting out their fuel. There were at least three other Marathon Maniacs or 50 State Club members.
During the pre-race meeting each runner in the marathon and 50k were assigned two volunteers who would be counting their laps (211 for the marathon, 250 for the 50k). My “counters” were Arthur and Tom, both sophomores at the college. There weren’t any race bibs or tracking devices. However, there was an official clock and a person from the USATF there as Michael Wardian was going for the indoor record (see podcast #129).
All in all, there turned out to be a total of 14 runners and at 8:15 we all lined up, the gun sounded and we were off on our laps.
The 200 meter indoor track went around the periphery of the gym and was a nice soft surface. There were 3 tables set up as aid stations and we were able to pick a spot to park our water bottle and fuels. In addition, the race offered water, sports drink, a variety of energy bars/gels, potato chips and M&M’s. The temperature felt fine in the beginning but I quickly started to heat up as I ran. Fortunately there were doors open in several locations to bring in fresh cool air.
I found it very hard to judge how fast I was running since I didn’t have GPS information and we were running around an oval. I also couldn’t decide whether or not I should count laps or just run. My mind made the decision for me and decided to obsess on numbers, rather badly. If I was uncertain how many laps I would always take the lower number so as to not over count and be devastated in the end. Our volunteer counters were always available to ask about the number we were on too.
We ran one direction for 60 minutes (around 50 laps for me) and then changed directions, which was very nice. It was getting somewhat wearing on the outside leg to go around in the same direction. It was also a bit of a challenge to pick which lane to run in. I usually stuck to lane 2 unless I was passing someone and left lane 1 open for faster runners.
There were a big variety of runners there. Michael Wardian was trying to run an indoor marathon and 50k record and he shot around the track quickly. There were a couple other fast guys that frequently lapped the rest of us. There was a grand total of three women doing the marathon. Some people did a run/walk strategy and there was one man who juggled four balls the entire time (stopping to pick them up when they dropped).
I found the temptation very strong to stop at “my” aid station and get a drink frequently. I had been struggling with a head cold before the race and the dry indoor air was making me extra thirsty. I tried to limit myself to stopping only every 8 laps or the equivalent of every mile. There were bathrooms within a few yards which made taking a pit stop very handy (although I didn’t have to use them).
The runners who did this race were friendly and encouraging but some people were clearly suffering from the monotony. One lady kept saying things like, “this is awful, this is torture, this is hard.” At first I tried to counteract her negative statements but it didn’t seem to help her mindset so it made me want to avoid her in the future.
The indoor aspect wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be, but it did make me miss having different scenery and fresh air. Plus it was weird to have the same people see you every single lap. I felt a bit like a lab rat that they were scrutinizing. The volunteers, race director and few spectators were great. Many of them encouraged us by name. There was a DJ playing music over the sound system so they didn’t allow any personal music devices.
At times the music selection wasn’t quite to my taste but I did request a song around mile 20 and the DJ graciously played “Try” by P!NK. In a way, I just wanted to zone out mentally and think about anything other than what lap I was on. However my mind kept obsessing with the number of laps and I was wishing I had a lap clicker to avoid the mental turmoil my poor counting caused.
When it got to the point where a runner was on their last lap they would ring a bell and people would really start cheering you along. Michael Wardian finished the 50k in an indoor world record time of 3:06:07 despite having GI issues. There were a couple other guys who finished the marathon shortly after that. It quickly became evident that despite my mediocre pace I was the first female. I finished in 4:14:04 and was very happy to be done.
Each finisher was given a technical shirt, nice finisher’s trophy and the 1st-3rd place finishers received a medal. There was plenty of food from the aid stations for a post-marathon snack. We got some pictures afterward and then I took advantage of the locker rooms and took a shower.
The track was such a soft surface and I kept my pace easy so that made for a quick post-marathon recovery. I just had some mild stiffness and fatigue the next day. On the day of the marathon it was the 37th day of my running streak and it was amazing how well my legs held up. This was a top notch event in terms of organization and support. I predict that they will sell out in coming years.
A news article from Herald Mail Media had this to say,
“Wardian won the 26.2-mile marathon in an event-record time of 2:35:07, he continued on for another 39 laps to break his 50K world record. “I loved it,” said Wardian of his Hawk debut. “This is a top-notch facility, and it’s really well-run. I’ve been wanting to come here for a couple of years, and finally I was able to make it work.” His goal for Wednesday was also to break his own indoor track world record for the marathon (2:27:21), which he set in 2010. But he was slowed by stomach issues, which forced him to take roughly a 3-minute bathroom break about 12 kilometers into his race. “Coming in, I thought I was going to get the marathon record, too,” Wardian said. “I just didn’t feel good from the get-go. My stomach felt bad from the beginning.” The runner-up in the marathon was 47-year-old Patrick Fahey from Cleveland, OH in 3:11:59. It was his first indoor marathon. Robert Preston, 45, of Athens, Tenn., finished third in 3:14:12. Angie Spencer, 36, of Sikeston, Missouri — the women’s winner in 4:14:04 — is now halfway to earning her membership.” (1)