Sometimes the best things in life are unplanned, at least thatís what my mother used to tell me!
I have had a funny year so far. I have stopped following preset training plans, tried to spend time running with friends and my dog and slowly recover from the injuries that have held me back over the last few years. It has been interesting, to say the least.
Two weeks ago I broke the big toe on my left foot running the Muddy Marathon in North Jersey. "Rocky Marathon" would have been a better name! The majority of the race was held on a boulder infested section of woods and mountains which made for some great photos but poor running conditions. I had to withdraw at mile 20 on the GPS. I will save that report for another time. I'm still scratching my head about that one!
I drove up to Northeast PA Friday to spend some time with my father. We had a nice dinner overlooking the lake in Northeast PA where I grew up. My sister and her husband joined us on the deck and I could feel the temperature dropping from the mid 70s to the sixties while we ate.
Saturday a line of Thunderstorms barreled through the state but the forecast was for a cool blast from the northwest Sunday morning.
My right foot was starting to throb and turn red. I was having a gout flare! For me, the only thing that seems to rid me of gout consistently is a run over 20 miles. I put two and two together and drove up to the Pocono Marathon Expo and registered there. Two of my friends from the Pineland Striders were running the marathon but they had no idea I would be. The expo was small but everyone was friendly and helpful! When was the last time you could register at the Expo of a marathon for only $75.00 including a free pasta dinner! I originally wanted to take my dad to the pasta dinner but he wasn't feeling well so I got takeout pizza and we watched the Saturday night NASCAR race together at his house.
I got up at four in the morning got packed and drove an hour and a half to Stroudsburg arriving early enough to get a parking spot close to the stadium where the finish is. They had busses lined up to take us to the marathon start at the Clear Run Elementary School. I walked in to the gym to see a very surprised Wil and Keith with Wil's wife Amy taking candid photos.
We shuffled out to the start and Keith asked me what time I was going for. I told him I had no idea I was running this as a training run to get rid of my gout. He said he was looking for sub 4:00 so I said "Lets take it easy in the beginning and run 9's for the first few miles." It was so windy we didn't even hear the national anthem until a few people in front started singing along. I quickly took off my hat and heard the last couple bars. They sounded a horn and we were off!
As soon as we were out of the driveway turning on Rt. 611, we were met by a strong 25 mph headwind and a half mile up hill. We turned right onto Echo Lane; a rolling side road that had some trees to block the wind a bit and passed the mile in 8:30 I told Keith we may be going a little bit fast for up hill into the wind but he was on a roll! I slowed down a bit but still went by 2 miles in 17:07. We came back out on Rt. 611 just in time to see the leaders go by. We made a right into the wind and up another hill to the turnaround point.
We turned downhill with the wind at our back and passed the 3 mile mark at 25:00. Keith was ahead a bit but he ducked into the woods to briefly add moisture to some of the botanical wonders of the Pocono Mountains and he was back along side me a short time later. We were running with a lady we met the last time we ran Pocono named Teresa. She was also looking to break four hours. We were all making an effort to run lightly down the hills knowing the worst down hills lay ahead.
We went up and down a series of rolling hills up to around mile 8. Our split times leveled off around 8:30 but occasionally an 8:08 would sneak in there. I joked to Keith, "I should take off my shirt and we could hold it between us like a sail!" The tailwind was strong! We started the long drop through Mt. Pocono. I missed the 8 mile sign; the wind had blown it down. I hit the split at mile 9 as we continued descending. I tried to run the grass between the road and the side walk but gave up on that after almost hitting a telephone poll on a narrow spot! Just before mile 10, I pulled off the longs leave shirt I had been wearing only to have it get stuck on my watch, gloves and GPS! It stopped my GPS and reset my watch! I felt like a dumb@ss having to stop in the middle of a downhill!
We went by Amy taking a few pictures and turned off on Grange Road, a nice, winding country road. Keith and I were running easy and enjoying the scenery. We ran the next 3 miles each at 8:34 on the nose. The course turned right on Rt. 940. The tailwind had left us and in a few places it felt like we were going into the wind.
We passed the half in 1:53 and were treated by some great views of Caesars Paradise Stream, vacation lodges and resorts. Mile 17 we ran through a tunnel.
I told Keith, "It feels like we are running a Richards!", a Sunday morning training run we run to train on. The course was gently rolling and I remarked to Keith about the overabundance of aid stations. It seemed like there was one every mile for a stretch. I would grab a cup of Gatorade and walk while I drank it then continue up to Keith who would wait for me. I told him not to let me hold him up. He looked very fresh still. The big down hills were behind us and there were several significant climbs ahead. I guess they all look significant in the later stages of a marathon!
Mile 20 went by at 2:51:00. I still felt pretty good but I have crashed too many times to get cocky! The sun came out and the wind was in our face again but wasn't blowing as hard. We ran rolling hills the next few miles. It seemed like you were either going up or down! I attacked the hills and it even felt good to use different muscles. There was a steep 100 yard hill at mile 24. Most people were walking it but I just ran right up it.
We entered the town of Stroudsburg. My mile times had fallen off to the low to mid 9:00s but I knew if I could just get my legs to turnover I would finally break four hours in a marathon.
We turned up on Main Street and I could see Keith in the distance so I concentrated a little harder and let him pull me along. We turned into the high school access road but there is still a half mile to go at that point. I was passing runners and could see Keith getting closer. I crossed mile 26 with an 8:50 split and entered the Stadium. You run the last .2 on the track.
The soft cinder track felt wonderful! I leaned into the turn; something about a track always gets my legs going! I was mid backstretch watching Keith finish. I turned for home and picked it up for the finish line picture and crossed in 3:53:29 gun time. Will was there yelling and Amy was taking pictures. Our friend Teresa got her sub four also finishing with a 3:55.We all got together for some pictures before enjoying the nice food they set out.
Wil missed his BQ by 4 minutes but ran a 3:14 PR! I ran a PR by 9 minutes and finally got under 4 hours in a marathon! Keith finished in 3:51:55 Chip time mine was a 3:53:15 Chip this was his 32nd marathon. And my remedy for gout has worked again! The feet looked identical after the run.