Steamtown Marathon: I got my PR…Where can you get yours?!
Finally! I broke 3 hours in a marathon! It has been one of my “original” goals in the running for a long time. I crossed the mat, seeing 2:58 tick over to 2:59, and overcame emotion. I sat in a chair just past the finish line and broke into tears.
The only time I can recall crying emotionally (as opposed to being in pain) at a race was at the Dome (48-Hours). This was so meaningful to me. It culminated in hard work, guts, pushing, believing, and lots of support from my family.
I didn’t know going into Steamtown if I could do it or not. My training cycle wasn’t perfect by any means. I had raced Burning River 100 miler in early August. In the subsequent two-month training cycle, I recovered for 2-3 weeks from a nasty contusion of my right tibia.
A week after my contusion was resolved, my left knee hurt so bad I couldn’t run on it until my PT taped it. I had an MRI and found out that I had a Baker’s Cyst burst (rare that it bursts). I had a stomach bug for 1-2 days somewhere in there too. I didn’t feel like I was set up for success.
In addition, I had a runny nose the week before the race. I slept as much as I could to be rested and recover from my head cold. Plus, ten days before race day, I was on vacation in South Dakota and Iowa and eating out every day. My steamtown marathon race weight was 3# higher than I wanted it to be.
So, I did my best to track my calories while we were on vacation in hopes of still losing a tiny bit or at least not gaining. I have attempted to break three on two other occasions and weighed closer to 130 than the 133.6 that I weighed on race day.
What was I to do? My training was done. There was nothing I could do about it. It is what it is…
I made up my mind. I was going to go for it. What’s the worst that could happen? I would blow up and walk it in. I talked to my coach the week before with a proposal to run the race.
Now, I know that the best way to run a steamtown marathon is even pacing and would give that advice to anyone I know. But, I have never done anything the “way” one is supposed to do it.
So, I proposed to my coach that I take advantage of the downhill in the beginning to bank time and conquer the three sucky hills at the end. He agreed, so long as I didn’t go too fast. I had hoped to do the first 13 in 6:38 pace, which would mean I only had to average 7’s for the last 13.
Mentally, I knew that would help me if I got tired and had time to bleed. Plus, I am mental with speed work, so 7’s sounds A LOT EASIER than 6:anythings.
We drove the course the day before, which was difficult because, for miles 13-20, it hops on and off paved trails where you can’t drive a car. What I did see was; the downhill for the first half was mile 1, and 3-8 being a mild down (not steep, like I had hoped), 2-3 was rolling, and it flattened out after that. The hills at 23 (.25 miles), 24.5 (.45 miles), and 25.5 (.25 miles) were legitimate hills that were going to suck, especially due to their placement towards the end of the race.
Race morning came, and the weather was perfect—Low 50’s and cloudy. After running in the 80’s and 90’s throughout the summer and a hot fall, I was going to have the best chance possible. At the start, I saw my friend Keith Straw who was pacing the full.
I got a boost from seeing him and a hug which is always good to calm my nerves. I met Paul Kentor, a FB friend who was also trying to break 3. We visited and talked about our race strategies. I told him I was happy to run with him, but please don’t be offended if I didn’t talk much. I knew it would be a push, and I wanted to focus and conserve energy. It was nice to meet him in person finally!
We headed to the starting line, and “BOOM”, the cannon went off, and away we went. Paul and I ran together for the first 3-4 miles. He was chipper and talking to spectating people. He was so upbeat; it helped me relax and smile. I looked at my GPS watch for the first 3 miles and saw: 6:32, 6:34, and 6:48. Good, I thought…that’s where I want to be.
I wasn’t going to look at my watch anymore (it psychs me out). Speedwork has always stressed me, and I have finally learned to just run by feel, and I do better without looking at it and am more consistent. I figured that I just needed to run hard all day and hope for the best.
By mile 5, I didn’t see Paul anymore, figuring I had gained on the downs. I came upon a group of 4 people; 2 solo guys and a girl and guy who looked like they were planning on running together. The girl discussed how she wanted to break 19 in a 5k (she had broken 3 in a steamtown marathon) and how her friends had all broken 19, but not 3.
I had to laugh because I could semi-relate. She said she felt like she could run 6:50’s all day but didn’t have a faster gear. Within a mile, she looked down and said, “let the fast people go,” and she and the guy she was with let up.
So, away I went with the other two guys. After a couple of miles, one of the guys slowed, and the other guy and I ran together through mile 13-ish. We didn’t talk. We just ran together, silently supporting each other. I would later find out that his name was Steve Szaki, and he PR’d.
I got into the rails to trails section, and it was beautiful with the fall leaves and ever-changing scenery. The turns and the different views helped me take my mind off things. Things became hard around mile 15, so I implemented my counting regimen (counting 1 to 100 and repeating). It calms me somehow and takes my mind off of being uncomfortable.
Between my iPod and counting, I was doing ok. At mile 18, there was a clock (there had been a clock at mile 10 too, but I purposely hadn’t looked at it). I had no idea what my time was (since mile 3), so I couldn’t resist looking now. It said 2:01 on the clock. I did the math (7×8=56 +1.5 minutes more for the .2 = 2:58:30).
I just had to run 7’s, and I’d be fine. At mile 18, there was .6 of a dirt trail and a tiny incline. My watch went beep at 19; I looked at my pace: 7:01. Crap. I started to stress. No more looking at my watch. I walked for 10 seconds through the aid station to drink and get my psycho heart rate back down and got back to it.
I had to laugh around mile 20 because I saw a sign that said: “candy stop ahead .25”. The sign had “gummy bears, M&M’s, cookies,” etc., written on it. I thought,…who is carries a quarter in a marathon to buy candy?…about a minute and a half later, it occurred to me that .25 may have been the distance to the candy stop…LOL! Getting tired and not thinking clearly.
Around 22.5, I started getting tired and knew I was close to the hills. My friend Paul Kentor came blazing by me as I stopped walking for a few seconds again. He told me to come with him, and I said, “I am dying, go get your sub 3!”. He passed me and told everyone at the next aid station to cheer my name. They did. It helped.
Another section and people cheered my name…I knew Paul had said something. It helped! I had still doubted myself and walked a bit at the first two hills, but then I told myself not to let it go after working this hard for so long. I put my head down and sucked it up.
As I was running into Scranton proper, some guy on the street said, “less than a mile to go” (I never really believe people on the street because they are rarely correct), but I looked at my watch and saw 2:52. I thought seven more minutes, and you’ve got it. I found another gear that I didn’t know I had… 
My race takeaways:
1. Run without looking at your watch in training and racing. You may be surprised at what you can do. Plus, running by feel is good. I have always had my head stuck in my…watch.
2. 104 marathons, 3rd attempt at sub 3…NEVER GIVE UP! I gave up a little from mile 22.5-24.5 but got my head back in the game. I am proud, even though it wasn’t perfect execution.
3. My training, weight, and head cold could have made me back off from the start, giving me a valid excuse that no one would have thought poorly of me for…GO FOR IT…What do you have to lose! Believe.
4. Family support is HUGE. My son and husband were there to watch and cheer me on. It helped to see them along the course! I was glad I got to share my elation with them at the end!
Want to find a fast course for your PR? Check out OregonHalfSeries.com. It’s a great website where you can compare courses search for the fastest by course or course in consideration of the weather. You can search by state, month, and more! This is a great place to check out races!
Someone asked me which courses I have done were the “fastest”…The times I ran there and commented about it:
1. St. George Marathon: If you love downhill and can, your legs can take a beating…but so much downhill it can’t count as an Olympic Qualifier.
2. Phoenix Marathon: Great course, as well as post-race food & swag.
3. Steamtown Marathon: Beautiful course. Be ready for the hills at the end. Great post-race food & swag. Hilarious, informative emails with all the info you could want!
4. Lost Dutchman Marathon 3:07:22 Beautiful course starts on a downhill dirt road. The suckiest up is at 8.5 miles. Two more hills are more gradual and balanced out with downhills.
5. Erie Marathon at Presque Isle: Flat two-loop course. Great value and swag.
6. Rock and Roll New Orleans: Flat course with lots of entertainment.
7. Wineglass Marathon: Great slightly downhill/flat course; I love the blown glass medal!
8. Walt Disney World Marathon: Flat course, but I always take a camera and stop for photo opportunities with the characters or ride Rockin’ Roller coaster mid-race 🙂
9. Fargo Marathon Uber flat, but it can be windy. Great swag!
10. Shamrock Marathon: Flat except for the bridges, can be windy, great swag, and post-race food.
11. Newport (OR) Marathon: Flat out and back course. Beautiful blown glass medals.
12. Texas Marathon: Flat four-loop course. Fantastic RD’s. BIGGEST MEDAL IN THE USA
13. Monumental Marathon: Flat course. The weather is usually perfect—nice swag and post-race.
14. Charleston Marathon: Flat course, but boring if it still goes through the industrial area in the end.
15. Marshall University Marathon: Flat course ends in the stadium where you get to carry a football over the finish line. Cool double-sided medal too.
Thanks soooo much to all of my Sponsors:
Best Half Marathon Shoes: I finally have shoes that I can run in that are comfortable, light, and keep my toenails intact! Anyone not IN LOVE with their shoes should give them a try! I wore the One2.5’s 🙂
Hammer Nutrition: I love their products! I took four gels during the race, Ant-fatigue and Race Caps before the race, Race Day Boost in the days leading up to the race, and Recoverite after the race.
Running Skirts: A comfortable skirt with pockets for wipes and gels that don’t chafe! PLUS super cute styles…who could ask for more? I wore the black ultra skirt. I used my compression socks after the race.
Drymax Socks: Also an enormous help with my blisters, Drymax socks are comfy and keep my feet dry. I wore the Maximum Protection Trail Socks. (You can check out Most Comfortable Socks for Runners here.)
Nathan Sports: Thanks for your excellent products. I have used my handheld and packs in training. I love that it feels like I don’t even have to hold onto them when I run; they just fit in my hand.
Sundog Eyewear: I love sunglasses. They have been the first to keep up with the humid summers in Indiana where I can see, and they do not fog up.
(You can search “Steamtown Marathon Results + 2011/2012/2013/2014/2015/2016/2017/2018/2019/2020/2021/2022…” To Find the Steamtown Marathon Results everyyear)
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