Now that I have almost recovered from the Grand Rapids Marathon, here are some of my thoughts from that day.
I brought stuff to eat during the race. I was planning on carrying them until I ate them, but I read the race pamphlet and saw that the aid stations provided food in addition to water and Gatorade. And not just any food – the Grand Rapids Marathon takes care of you with pretzels, bananas, orange slices, Gu packets (maybe not a food, but good anyway), pickle juice, and Oreos. Not all at every aid station, but about half the aid stations had one food item.
My favorite was the Oreos at mile 22. Although probably just about anything would have tasted good at that point, other than pickle juice.
The pretzels were actually the worst, because they are so dry. I ate the first pretzel without any water. Not only does it dry out your mouth, but the pretzel flakes go down your windpipe too easily. Make sure you eat pretzels with water, like take a mouthful of water and then eat the pretzel.
My favorite aid station worker was a boy about 12 years old who was handing out Gu (mile 12.5-ish). Most of the other Gu-ers were calling out “Blackberry Gu!” as they should have, but this kid exceeded expectations by calling out “Blackberry Gu! I tried it myself and it’s not too bad!”
As a side note: we do appreciate knowing what you are handing out. Sometimes I want water and sometimes I want Gatorade, depending on what I ate just before that aid station. Race volunteers, please remember that you can’t announce your item enough. Keep calling out what you’re handing out.
My second favorite aid station worker was a guy who I would guess was a college student. Everyone else was calling out “Water!” but he was calling out “The Wettest Water!” Of course, I took a cup from him instead of the other guys.
Start-line music is also important. The GRM did not have music for the start, that I remember, but they were playing “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” by The Proclaimers when I came to the starting chute about 15 minutes before the gun. I commend them for their choice in songs.
Some other races play “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen. I’m not much of a fan of that song, so I appreciate when races play something other than that.
During the race, maybe around mile 8, there was someone playing “The Distance” by Cake. That was a good one to have.
“He’s going the distance.”
Well, I’m certainly planning on it
“He’s going for speed.”
That might be stretching it a little there, Cake
“He’s all alone”
That’s funny, considering as I’m trying to weave my way through this pack of runners
“All alone, in his time of need”
I don’t feel needy, but okay.
And then we turned a corner and I didn’t catch the rest of the song.
Signs, Signs, Everywhere are Signs
The “Worst Parade Ever” sign was clever when it first started, but I think it has lost its luster now. Jumped the shark, as they say. I lost count of how many “Worst Parade Ever” signs I saw. And I felt bad for the people who brought them, because they did at least go to the effort of making a sign and spectating at a marathon.
There were also too many “Run Like You Stole Something” signs. First of all, if I stole something, I would not be following a marked course. Secondly, I would not be running back to the place I started. Thirdly, I would not be wearing a highly-visible number which identifies me. And finally, it should be obvious from my empty hands and lack of bags that I am not carrying anything which could be construed of having been stolen.
My two favorite signs were “Motivational Sign” and “You All Smell Bad”. I think both were held by kids, for what that’s worth. But next year, if I see two dozen “Motivational Sign” signs, it will drop in my estimation.
My third favorite sign was “Go, random stranger, go!”. I almost replied “Thank you, random spectator”.
If you are running and you want random spectators to cheer for you, wear a shirt with a slogan or logo that is easily read. At one point, around mile 9, I was running near a guy with a Calvin College shirt. He got a few “Go Calvin!” cheers.
I ran the first half with no problems – got to the halfway point at 1:52. Then I had to stop and stretch because my legs were tightening up and I didn’t want them to actually cramp like they did at the Holland Half.
I had kept George Bush in my sights until then, but I let him go when I stopped. I ran okay after that, but my pace dropped to 9-minutes miles for a couple of miles, then 10-minute miles for a couple of miles. I knew things were not going so well when Will Ferrell passed me, around mile 19.
I made it to mile 20 (at exactly 3 hours) without walking, but at that point I had to stop and stretch and walk because my leg muscles were not cooperating anymore. After mile 20, I walked then ran then walked then ran – a half mile here, a quarter mile there, to that aid station, to that mile marker.
Then P. Diddy passed me at time 3:50. I could only watch as they jogged happily by me. The next celebrity would be Oprah. I walked and ran and stopped and stretched and repeated, keeping a close eye on my watch to make sure I would stay in front of Oprah.
I got to mile 25 and figured I should be able to run 1.2 miles. So I did.
First hour: 7 miles
Second hour: 7 miles
Third hour: 6 miles
Fourth hour: 3.5 miles
Last 24 minutes: 2.7 miles
I finished in 4:24, which is a per-mile pace of 10:04. I did the first half at an 8:30 pace, and I was hitting each mile consistently. Then I did the second half in 2:32, which is a pace of 11:36.
Maybe I’ll stick to half marathons.
Among those nations you shall find no rest, and there will be no resting place for the sole of your foot; but there the Lord will give you a trembling heart, failing of eyes, and despair of soul.