This race report documents my participation in the Monumental Marathon 2017, a long distance running event in Indianapolis that culminated a year of anticipation and eighteen weeks of training.
Let me begin by writing that I treasure this entire marathon journey and all of the experiences along the way. I have no regrets, and want to state this at the top of this blog post, because the remainder of the text isn’t going to appear to contain much joy and happiness and I don’t want to create a wrong impression. And one more thing. A marathon is a distance and not a time, and I went the distance. I am a now a repeat marathoner, and proud of it.
I arrived downtown at 6:30 am and got to the starting line well before 7:00 am. The weather was 46 F and dry, forecast to gradually rise to the lower 50’s F with occasional rain. I was wearing high quality running shoes, shorts, shirt, and cap, with two more disposable cotton shirts over the top. A racing bib and timing device were pinned to my shorts instead of a shirt so that I could remove layers easily, and a running watch was on my wrist. My breakfast had consisted of a Quaker fruit bar and a half cup of coffee around 5:00 am and a Clif bar and the other half cup of coffee at 6:30 am, and I was carrying three GU gels to be consumed at miles 8, 13, and 18. I had a carefully developed race strategy and knew exactly how I wanted the race to unfold.
The race started at 8:00 am, with the elite and sub-elite runners going first and the remaining runners being launched in five waves. I lined up in the back of the fourth wave and crossed the starting line around 8:16 am. I discarded one of the shirts at the start line, since I would generate some heat once I was running. The course wound around downtown, from the State Capitol building, through the Wholesale District, around Monument Circle, along Mass Ave, and to Fall Creek. My split times were 11:50 minutes for mile 1, 11:17 minutes for mile 2, 11:29 minutes for mile 3, 11:08 minutes for mile 4, 11:19 minutes for mile 5, and 11:00 minutes for mile 6. Because I was concerned about the left knee injury that prematurely ended my last two long runs of the training program, I was trying to avoid trouble in the race by running a slow 11:26 minutes per mile pace that would be the equivalent of a five hour marathon instead of running the 10:57 minutes per mile pace that was my target of long runs in the training program. In fact, I was running with the five hour pace group provided by the marathon organizers. I was also running with a friend who lined up with me before the start, but he moved ahead of the pace group after a few miles, and after a few more miles I drifted slightly ahead of the pace group too.
The rain started, but it was more of a mist than full-on precipitation. The course followed Fall Creek Parkway to the Indiana State Fairgrounds and went north through the SoBro and Broad Ripple neighborhoods and cultural districts. My split times were 11:13 minutes for mile 7, 11:18 minutes for mile 8, 11:38 minutes for mile 9, 11:45 minutes for mile 10, 11:47 minutes for mile 11, 11:47 minutes for mile 12, and 11:35 minutes for mile 13. Passing through the event gates in the seventh mile was dramatic, as the mass of half-marathoners turned left and went their own way, leaving me with the much smaller group of full marathoners. The course after the ninth mile up to the nineteenth mile followed many of the Indy Runners training routes that I used in the past few months, and it was comforting to be in familiar territory again. My speed was extremely steady and I let myself drift back into the five hour pace group. My carefully crafted race strategy was to speed up to my normal 10:57 minutes per mile pace after the tenth mile, but my left knee was feeling just a little bit funky and I decided to change the strategy and be conservatively slow for a few more miles.
The rain stopped and I discarded another one of the shirts, leaving me wearing my main racing outfit. The course turned through the Warfleigh neighborhood and went on a long stretch south through the Meridian-Kessler and Butler-Tarkington neighborhoods. My split times were 12:44 minutes for mile 14, 13:12 minutes for mile 15, 13:49 minutes for mile 16, 13:14 minutes for mile 17, and 13:56 minutes for mile 18. It was a major disappointment when the left knee injury from recent training runs returned at the halfway point of the race. I kept running slowly but inserted walking breaks several times per mile, hoping to keep going as best I could and not lose too much time. I gradually dropped back from the five hour pace group, hoping I could keep them in sight as long as possible and maybe try to catch up later. I still had trouble imagining that it would require more than five hours to complete this marathon.
The wind picked up and light rain returned, and I would have taken back one of my discarded shirts if given the chance. The course went down White River Parkway East and Burdsal Parkway on its way toward downtown. My split times were 14:48 minutes for mile 19, 14:51 minutes for mile 20, 15:06 minutes for mile 21, 15:07 minutes for mile 22, and 15:50 minutes for mile 23. My heart sank in the nineteenth mile when my left knee stopped cooperating and I couldn’t run anymore. I braced for the painful and humiliating walk to the end. In the previous night, I had reviewed all of my training log entries leading up to this race, in which I wrote about a person who increased his level of performance such that he could run as fast as 8:30 minutes per mile in a fast run, and run as long as 19.31 miles while maintaining a pace of 10:58 minutes per mile in a long run. Where was that person on this weekend? I felt betrayed by my training program. If I had skipped all the training and simply maintained my normal level of recreational running, I would have remained healthy and had a much better result.
The rest of the course was Meridian St to the Indiana State Building. The ending of this event for me was not pretty. My split times were 18:43 minutes for mile 24, 16:16 minutes for mile 25, 16:16 minutes for mile 26, and about 6 minutes to finish. That twenty-fourth mile surprised me when I suddenly had trouble walking, and I realized that limping quickly for six miles while favoring my left knee caused my left hip to add to my problems. I found myself standing on the side of the road barely able to move and in an emotionally dark place for several minutes until I could pull myself together and find the will to get going again and make it through two more miles. No finish line was more appreciated when I finally arrived.
My official elapsed time was 5:49:01 hours for an official average pace of 13:20 minutes per mile.
And what is the conclusion to all this? Well, I haven’t decided yet. I will step back and write a proper conclusion to this race report in a few days, because I’m having a lot of conflicting feelings right now and wanted to publish these details before the weekend is over. Stay tuned for one more short post on this blog.