In this episode I recap my most recent marathon in Newport, Rhode Island. Plus we look at the 2018 London Marathon, and in the quick tip segment, I will share three lessons from 10 years of running marathons.
Race Recap: Rhode Races Newport Marathon
The 3rd annual Rhode Races Newport Marathon, half marathon and 5k was held on April 14, 2018 in Newport, Rhode Island. The races are put on by the company Rhode Races which also does a variety of other events in the area throughout the year. There is also another marathon in Newport held in the fall which is not affiliated with this company. Since I registered in late March the fee for entry was $100. I was impressed with the amount of information available on the race website and the amount of email communication they sent out. Strangely the race isn’t listed over on Marathon Guide although it is over on the Running in the USA website. The race allowed transfers to another race in their series, deferrals and switching to another distance.
I drove the 7 plus hours to Newport, RI on Friday (the 13th) and was excited to discover that the place I was staying was even closer to the start/finish area than I thought. Packet pickup that day was held at the Newport Storm Brewery which had a somewhat chaotic parking situation. They didn’t have an expo but simply a packet pickup line which went smoothly (thankfully, since it was chilly outdoors). They gave out race and gender specific shirts and I did notice until later that they gave me the shirt for the half marathon. There really wasn’t much other swag other than the normal ads and brochures along with a granola bar and a pack of band aids (hopefully not a sign of what was to come). The race also offered packet pickup on Thursday and on race morning at the start/finish area. The races coincided with the town’s Daffy Days Festival and there were some glimpses of beautiful yellow daffodils around the area. After getting my packet I drove to a local beach and walked along the water for a while before finding a place to have an early dinner.
I had the great fortune of being less than a 5 minute walk from the start area and was able to sleep in until 6:15 in the morning and get ready in a leisurely manner. They didn’t allow parking at the start/finish area which was located at Easton’s Beach. Many runners were getting dropped off there and they also offered shuttle service from Second Beach which was a few miles away. The start area had plentiful port-a-pots and there was a large pavilion where many runners were standing. Many other people were walking along the beach and taking pictures of the water and sunrise. The weather forecast had changed for the better and temps were in the mid-40’s and clear early in the morning. I had prepared for colder temps by wearing tights and arm warmers with my singlet and my throw away jacket really wasn’t needed. The race offered gear check as well.
The morning announcer didn’t seem to be much of a runner because she kept making comments like “you don’t look like a runner” and “you people must be crazy to do a marathon.” I’m sure her remarks were meant in the best possible way but was not the most motivating thing to hear pre-marathon. I was able to see my friend Rhonda Foulds before the start and meet a couple of her friends.
Just before the marathon start at 7:30am there was a beautiful rendition of the Star Spangled Banner and we were off. The half marathon started at 7:45am and the 5k started at 8:00am. They offered pace groups ranging from 3:30-5:00 for the marathon and 1:40-2:45 for the half marathon.
The marathon course is USATF certified and is a Boston Marathon Qualifier. After the start at Easton’s Beach with lovely views of the sun rising above the water we ran into the town of Middleton and out to more areas of ocean views. In the early miles we ran by Fort Adams and then along Ocean Avenue.
The course is advertized as “moderately hilly” with an overall ascent of 750 ft and it was somewhat windy at times. But the temperatures never got above the mid-50’s so it never felt cold even along the water. The marathon and half followed the same course until the halfway point during which the half marathoners finished and they had dividers set up where the marathoners had to run right by the finish and out again for the rest of our miles.
It might have been a bit discouraging to some runners to be so close to the finish and see other runners getting medals and hitting the food and beer. But overall the course was so beautiful with frequent ocean/water views, nice neighborhoods and running by many of the historic mansions and architecture that it stayed enjoyable even with a few out and backs.
One thing they were very strict about was respecting the native environment and staying off the dunes. In fact, information repeatedly said that you could be disqualified if you went on the dunes. In later miles we ran by the Norman Bird Sanctuary and into Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge. This is not a marathon with many spectators (pretty much only at the start/finish area and a few at aid stations) but there were a fair amount of runners spread out along the course. The course time limits were 6 hours for the marathon and 3.5 hours for the half marathon.
The aid stations were located approximately every 2 miles and staffed by friendly volunteers handing out sports drink and water. There were a few aid stations handing out other fueling options and bananas. Port a pots were located at every aid station as well. For my fueling I used UCAN snack bars and ate one 30 minutes pre-race and carried two during the race (I ate half a bar at miles 5, 10, 15, and 20). I usually carry the liquid mixture but decided to try the bars because I didn’t want to carry anything in my hands due to some neck problems. The UCAN snack bars worked great, my energy levels were solid and my stomach felt good.
The finish area was nice and had an enthusiastic announcer commenting as runners crossed the finish line. They had a nice nautical themed medal but were out of heat sheets by the time I finished. The food area was a disappointment and seemed to have been totally decimated by previous runners. There were bottles of water, sports drink, what looked like dry rice cakes and cold pizza (which I passed on). They did have a beer garden with a local Rhode Island brew so I headed over there to get my free beer. I met and talked to Jodi & Tracy who are fellow Marathon Maniacs as we sipped our beverages.
The first place male finisher was Adam Crombie (age 32) with a time of 2:54:07. The first place female was Heather Cirka (age 29) with a time of 3:16:31. There were 335 finishers for the marathon, 1121 for the half marathon, and 309 in the 5k. The race offered live tracking and free photos (although there weren’t many photographers along the course).
My finish time was 4:23:21 (a solid positive split of 2:01:19 and 2:22:02 respectively…of course a negative or even split is a more ideal pacing scenario). This was my 52nd marathon and 41st state. I realized that this race was almost 10 years to the date from my first marathon in 2008. A decade has gone by fast.
My training for this marathon was a bit different. As many long time listeners know I started struggling with my health just over two years ago and have been dealing with hormone imbalances, weight gain, and energy issues. Because of this I stepped back my running from the summer of 2016-2017 and didn’t do any races for a year in an effort to give my body more recovery and support. Then last September I did a come-back marathon (in Jackson Hole Wyoming) and did two more marathons to finish out 2017.
I purposely didn’t schedule any races this spring to let my body tell me when it was time for another marathon. I just ran the mileage I felt like during the winter (my long run was never more than 6 miles) and was dedicated to strength training 2-3 times per week. This renewed focus on strength work came after doing the Mount Dessert Island Marathon last October when I came away feeling like I had some definite week areas and knew it was because I wasn’t being very dedicated to core and strength work. So I signed up for several sessions with a personal trainer to work on my strength and that gave me enough momentum to continue on my own over the winter. I also got a TRX system for Christmas and have integrated that into strength and mobility work. I’ve been doing one upper body + core workout, one lower body + core workout and another yoga + core day per week.
In February I did a spontaneous 10 miler just because I felt good, and then did a 12 miler, a 16 miler, and 20 miler. They went well so I signed up for the Newport Marathon with the goal of finishing healthy and strong. All was going well until two days before the race when my neck froze up and I could hardly turn my head (and my chiropractor’s office was closed). I decided to drive to Rhode Island on faith that I’d be feeling better and just do the best I could during the race.
I felt good for the first 13 miles and after that whenever my neck started to spasum I slowed to a walk and tried to loosen up my shoulders. This was the main reason I didn’t want to carry anything in my hands (like my usual fuel bottle) and possibly cause additional tightness. I also listened to an audio book during the marathon which helped take my mind off the physical discomfort. With all said and done I can honestly say that I enjoyed the marathon and felt healthy and strong. The fact that the course was so beautiful and the weather was nice was icing on the cake.
Three lessons I’ve learned in 10 years of running marathons
You do you.
What works for other runners may be different from what works for you. Don’t feel like you’re less-than as a runner because you don’t follow the same training routine, do the same amount of races that others do, don’t run a large number of miles, look different from other runners, or run at a different pace.
I’m reminded of the great quote by Teddy Rosevelt which says, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” This is something I have to battle in my own life. Social media can be a great thing but if you’re not careful the perfectly polished lives that some people present can lead to discontentment with your own life. Remember that no one looks perfect 100% of the time. They also don’t always have perfect training cycles, run in beautiful places all the time, or PR at every race. It’s important to keep learning and growing as a runner but to also keep in mind that you’re an experiment of one.
Don’t neglect the little things.
It’s often not the big decisions that make the most difference over time but the little things. The little things may include practices like: focused cross training to prevent injury, regular strength training to build up support muscles and address body imbalances, foam rolling, eating healthy, balancing rest with training, building back slowly from injury or time off, using stress management techniques like meditation, and being prepared with tested gear for your marathon.
Even tiny things like bringing safety pins to a race can decrease your anxiety level. True story- I didn’t get any safety pins for my bib at this marathon. I was able to borrow one from the hotel clerk and had two pinned to my race hat so this tiny crisis was averted, but I was kicking myself for not being totally prepared in advance. Being diligent about the little things can go a long way to success in your running goals. Remind yourself of this the next time you’re struggling to find motivation to do your core work.
Aim for progress, not perfection.
This is a theme that I always come back to. You’re likely to struggle in certain areas because we all struggle. I can get down about the fact that I can’t run high mileage without getting injured or I can be thankful for the miles I am able to run. I could wish that I had the thin body type of an elite runner or I can be thankful for the strong body that I have.
Keep your goals in sight but know that progress is not always linear. The decisions we make now don’t always pay off immediately (like those little things I talked about previously) but our actions do go a long way to helping us progress in the right direction. Remember that your goals and even physical and mental capacity for training and running will change over the years so it’s important to keep a long term perspective in mind. My goal is to be a runner for life. We fall down (sometimes figuratively, sometimes literally) and we get back up. Setbacks are just part of the overall journey and can help mold us into stronger people. I’ve changed so much since I did my first marathon 10 years ago and I know that I’ll continue to change and grow in the next decade.
Mentioned in This Episode
Rhode Island Races website: www.runri.us/newport-race-info/
#FinishForMatt – Facebook page in honor of Matt Campbell who died at the London Marathon
Generation Ucan -a fueling source gentle on your stomach and not hight in sugar.
Fully -standing desks and collection of active chairs that give you the freedom to sit, stand, perch, or lean yourself into healthy, comfortable positions that work for your body’s unique and changing needs. I have the Jarvis standing desk and the Back App chair by Fully and absolutely love love love them!
Shoutout to Tamiko from the Academy
My second half marathon is in the books! After the halfway point, I spent a couple of miles resisting “the bargainer”. For this race, that became more difficult than the actual running! I plan to spend some of my recovery time studying how to build mental strength. All in all I had a great race came away with a 16 minute PR! I credit MTA’s emphasis on cross training as a key factor in my improvement! I so thankful to have joined this group! -Tamiko