Tobacco Road Marathon

When I 1st started training for the ATT marathon, I had a goal of 3:15.  (ATT = American Tobacco Trail, which is what I tend to call the marathon, even though that’s not its name!)

I knew 3:15 would be a big stretch for me, but I thought with Lucho coaching me, I might have a chance.  However, throughout training, it seemed like 3:20 was going to be more realistic.  But I never fully gave up on the 1st goal.  Even when, about two weeks out, my legs felt a bit achy and tired on every run, especially when I bumped the speed to under 8:00/mile pace.  And even when, a week out, my lungs started feeling congested and wheezy.  Two days out, and one day out, I was definitely on the upswing.  So what was in store?

I’ve not got a lot of pictures — only the ones Kelly and the kids took of me at mile 19 or so, and at the finish.  But here I am at 19, still looking happy!

mile 19

I came up on Tom, who has an amazing story as a brain cancer survivor.  I was really surprised to see him, as I figured he’d be under 3:15, but there he was.  We didn’t run together long as he was struggling a bit with too fast of a start, but still finished in a BQ time of 3:22.


So, what happened to me?  The splits tell the story…  I put the mile splits from my GPS next to the perfectly even splits of a 3:15, and show the time difference…

Now this isn’t quite fair — the mile splits are from my GPS, which was slightly off.  It showed a total of 26.44 at the end, not 26.2.  But this shows I had a conservative start (negative difference for the 1st few miles).  In fact, I jumped in behind the 1:40 half marathon pace group for the 1st couple of miles — until they split off south on the ATT and the marathoners headed north.    And then the differences pick up, where I’m fairly far ahead of a 3:15 as much as 2.5 minutes!

At the point the half marathoners turn south and the marathoners turn north, it’s a slight downhill — if you can call any rise or fall on the ATT a hill!  As an old railroad bed, it’s never more than 1 or 2% grade max.  But I let gravity pull me along, and even tried to hold back a bit.  I wasn’t wearing a heart rate monitor, but just ran by feel.  And the pace felt solid, but good.  I know come mile 18 or 19 or 20, that pace would no longer feel so good, but it’s at that point when you have to rise and hold it..

I did have the GPS on so I could use that as a pacer, and I steadily saw my average pace go down, down, down.  All the way until about mile 21, when it was 7:18/mile.  And I thought “I’ve got 3:15!  Unless I have an epic collapse!”

I even thought briefly at that time that 3:10 was within reach, but I wisely decided not to push it at all.  In fact, I thought I’d back off a touch, to preserve the 3:15.  But little did I know that the “climb” at mile 22 – 25 would do me in…  It got really hard to hold the pace, but I was doing it!

And then we left the ATT and hit the roads.  And there was this little hill, but this killer head wind. And I had to walk.  Twice!  You can see it in the elevation profile and pace graph below the splits.  And you can see in my splits… I began to really suffer, and the buffer I had built faded oh so quickly…

Mile Split Cumulative 3:15 Marathon Splits Difference
1 0:07:45 0:07:45 0:07:26 -0:00:19
2 0:07:27 0:15:12 0:14:52 -0:00:20
3 0:07:17 0:22:29 0:22:18 -0:00:11
4 0:07:15 0:29:44 0:29:44 0:00:00
5 0:07:04 0:36:48 0:37:11 0:00:23
6 0:07:23 0:44:11 0:44:37 0:00:26
7 0:07:05 0:51:16 0:52:03 0:00:47
8 0:07:16 0:58:32 0:59:29 0:00:57
9 0:07:01 1:05:33 1:06:56 0:01:23
10 0:07:09 1:12:42 1:14:22 0:01:40
11 0:07:12 1:19:54 1:21:48 0:01:54
12 0:07:16 1:27:10 1:29:14 0:02:04
13 0:07:29 1:34:39 1:36:41 0:02:02
14 0:07:28 1:42:07 1:44:07 0:02:00
15 0:07:18 1:49:25 1:51:33 0:02:08
16 0:07:03 1:56:28 1:58:59 0:02:31
17 0:07:20 2:03:48 2:06:26 0:02:38
18 0:07:31 2:11:19 2:13:52 0:02:33
19 0:07:06 2:18:25 2:21:18 0:02:53
20 0:07:42 2:26:07 2:28:44 0:02:37
21 0:07:19 2:33:26 2:36:11 0:02:45
22 0:07:37 2:41:03 2:43:37 0:02:34
23 0:08:04 2:49:07 2:51:03 0:01:56
24 0:08:08 2:57:15 2:58:29 0:01:14
25 0:07:52 3:05:07 3:05:56 0:00:49
26 0:08:31 3:13:38 3:13:22 -0:00:16
27 0:03:07 3:16:45 3:15:03 -0:01:42 26.44 vs 26.2

That last line shows the unfairness of using the Garmin mile splits, which were steadily increasing past exact mileage.  Otherwise it would imply I lost 90s on the last 0.2 miles!

See those two jumps on the blue line?  Just a few seconds of walking…  You can see after I stopped kicking myself for walking I did pick up the pace back to sub 7:30, at least on the downhill, but it was too late…


Ah, it was so good to be done.  The last 2-3 miles, I was hurting.  Not a bonk — nutrition was solid, but I was so tired.


So, was I mentally weak?  Or was the body really done?  I feel I’m strong mentally — when it’s just about keeping going.  Paddle for 38 hours straight?  Sure.  Run 24 hours around a 5k loop? Sure.  But hitting that last 800 on an 10×800 interval session?  That is hard!   Or fighting through the pain and fatigue on mile 25 of a marathon at sub 7:30?  Ugh.  So I will be working on that aspect of my running!

Here are the official numbers.  I’m quite happy with all the placings!official results 2

And official splits:official splits 2

Now I am in no way disappointed with a 3:17.  3:15 was always a big stretch for me.  And yeah, to almost get it, only to fade so quickly — bummer.  But I am happy with 3:17!  An 11 minute PR!  And such a great run for the 1st 2:50 or so.  🙂

(I really did want the cool BQ shirt, though!)

kelly kids


3 thoughts on “Tobacco Road Marathon

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