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The Jacksonville Bank Marathon was held for the 33rd time on January 3, 2016.
This race is billed as the “fastest marathon course in the south” and rated the Top 10 Fastest by Runner’s World. It has a 6 hour time limit for the full; 3 hour for the half and also featured a 5k.
I was able to travel to Jacksonville, FL to visit a friend for a few days during the holiday and by chance found this marathon to do while I was there (because doesn’t everyone search for races at their trip destinations). I registered for the race about one week out and it was still a reasonable $80. I love a good bargain!
Race Recap: The Jacksonville Bank Marathon
The race offered packet pick up at the local chain of running stores which was hosting the event -1st Place Sports- which has 6 locations. Since I knew there wouldn’t be an expo to speak of, I was able to take advantage of race morning packet pick up at The Bolles School gymnasium. The race website warned that there was limited race parking at the starting area so I easily found a spot at a designed race parking area a couple miles away and rode the race shuttle to the starting area. It turns out that there was plenty of parking available since I arrived early.
It was rainy and in the 50’s race morning and I got to the starting area around 5:45am. It was easy to find packet pick up and we got a nice race shirt. I used gear check to store my race swag as well as my post-race items.
Because it was raining most runners stayed inside until closer to the starting time. There were adequate port-a-pots outside as well as a couple of bathrooms indoors with reasonable lines. Some runners had extra black trash bags and gave me one. It really came in handy to keep most of the rain off.
Jacksonville is a smaller race. There were around 140 runners doing the 5k, 600 for the half, and 450 doing the full marathon. All three races started together. There weren’t any race corrals but there were signs that indicated finish time so we loosely organized ourselves around those.
I got in near the 4:00 hour group. As I was standing there in my hat and black trash bag in the dark, two long-time MTA listeners, Adolfo from FL and his brother Jose from Venzuala found me and said hello. They were both running the half and came away with eventual PR’s.
The starting gun fired at 7:00am and the race began through the dark and wet streets of Jacksonville. I guess it rains nearly every year for this race. We did a 1.5 mile out and back and it didn’t start to get light until I crossed the 5k finish line. The half and full runners continued on through the rain and the half split away after the 8 mile mark. There were some out and back sections where we were able to see the elites speed by which was very cool. Some people joked that it felt like we were standing still in comparison to them.
The course was well marked with either law enforcement or volunteers at every turn and split. The rain continued through around mile 13 but it wasn’t unpleasant because the temperature was mild. After the half split away there were decidedly fewer runners out on the course and I talked to a few fellow Marathon Maniacs.
One guy asked me why I don’t listen to music while running and we started talking. When he asked me my time goal I said “somewhere around 4:00” adding, at least the 4:00 pacer hasn’t passed me yet. He then said he WAS the 4:00 pacer but no one was interested in running with him so he wasn’t carrying the balloons. It turns out that even though there were pacers many of them didn’t really form groups. The 4:15 guy passed me toward the end and didn’t have anyone with him either.
The course started on San Jose Blvd and headed north before returning back south. It also includes a loop so that it travels along the St. John’s River back to the Bolles School. The course was nice and flat and the aid stations were stocked with water, sports drink and two (at miles 16 & 19) had gels. There really weren’t many spectators out along the course because of the inclement weather although we did go through some nice neighborhoods. I used the trusty Generation UCAN for my race fueling and enjoyed the new Cinnamon Delight flavor which I carried in a small hand-held bottle.
A cool aspect to the marathon that I mentioned briefly before was that there were around 100 elite runners who came down to run the half to try and qualify for the US Olympic Trials in the marathon. In the gym area pre-race it was pretty clear who the elite runners were.
- For men seeking to run in the US Olympic Trials, they had to run sub 2:15 in the marathon for the A standard or a sub 2:19 marathon or sub 1:05 half marathon for the B standard.
- Women had to run a sub 2:37 marathon for the A standard and a sub 2:45 marathon or sub 1:15 half marathon for the B standard.
- 7 Women and 20 men qualified for the Olympic Trials in Jacksonville. Cash prizes in the marathon went to the top 3 males and females.
The total number of marathon finishers in Jacksonville was 447 (Males= 286 and Females= 161). Male Winner: 2:23:33 was Nick Filippazzo of NY | Female Winner: 2:57:43 was Anne Elise Creamer of FL. The average marathon finish time was 4:12:37. The men’s Master’s winner was Chuck Engle (who we’ve had on the podcast before) in 2:53.
Finishing the Race
I felt strong through the halfway point and then could feel the lack of training catch up with me after that. I started walking a minute through each aid station and slowed considerably after mile 18. Still, it was enjoyable until my period started at that point. I’m sure many women can relate to how excited about that I was.
In the later miles I tried to stay strong and finished with an official time of 4:17:40. The race ended on the Hodges Field Track in the Skinner-Barco Stadium at The Bolles School. We ran the final 0.2 miles around the track and each runner’s name was called out as they enter the stadium.
Finishers got a nice large medal, heat sheet, and there was water, sports drink, bagels, bananas, oranges, and soup to eat. I changed into dry clothes (using my handy-dandy Undress) after getting something to eat and took the shuttle back to my car. Then I went to the store to get some ice cream and food to take back to my friend’s house. All in all, it was good to complete marathon #41 and check off Florida as state #32.
How to Run a Last Minute Marathon
I signed up for this race approximately one week beforehand. And although my last marathon of 2015 was the Marine Corps Marathon at the end of October, I hadn’t done any runs longer than 10 miles since then. But having done last-minute marathons before I wasn’t worried about my ability to finish and still have a good experience. So, here are a few tips on how to run a last minute half or full marathon (depending on your experience level) and have a great time.
- Don’t try a last minute half or full marathon if it’s your first. Your chances of getting injured or having an awful experience increase exponentially if you’re not trained and ready for race.
- If you’ve done a half or full marathon before, keep a solid running base with at least a moderate length long run once every month. Even though I wasn’t actively training for a marathon I was still running approximately 4 times each week.
- Be sure to continue cross training and keep your core strength up. The “off season” or time when you’re not actively training for races is a good time to focus more on other cross training activities and strength building. If you maintain a strong core it will be much easier to ramp up your training or even run a last minute marathon.
- Have low expectations for your finish time. If you haven’t been actively training it’s unlikely that you’ll be setting any land speed records. The goal of a last minute race should be more about enjoying the experience and having fun. Besides, there’s a lot of stress both physically and mentally that comes with trying to PR every race you do.
- Listen to your body. If you’re planning on doing frequent races it’s important to carefully listen to what your body is telling you. Adjust the intensity of your workouts according to how you feel, get extra rest and focus on giving your body the best nutrition possible.
The next time you’re traveling or will be on vacation think about incorporating a low-key race. I have a coaching client who recently did the Maui Marathon while on vacation. It can be a fun way to experience more local flavor, meet people and get some great exercise.