2008 Thunder Road Marathon

Date:  Saturday, December 13
Location:  Charlotte, NC
Times:  2:51:11 (chip); 2:51:16 (gun)
Pace:  6:32
Place:  7th overall, 2nd Master (4th Master if truth be told…)
Temperature:  27 at the start, 40s at the finish
This was my very last race in the 40-44 year-old age group.

What I liked about this marathon:
  • The friendliness of volunteers and spectators.
  • The conversations with and camaraderie of runners.
  • The ability to stay inside — and warm — just prior to the race start.
  • The challenge of the course, which includes many sharp turns, long uphills, and the pounding on the pavement and concrete. The first half of the marathon went through some very scenic neighborhoods.
  • The start and finish were less than two blocks from our hotel!
What I didn’t like about this marathon:
  • The pavement and the concrete. This was the first road marathon I’ve run in over a year.  
  • The course was at times confusing, as many of the police officers were not directing runners. Better this, I suppose, then the officers not directing traffic! Also, at one turn a volunteer told us to take the next left when it was actually the second left. Fortunately we didn’t heed her advice.

I arrived early Friday afternoon to pick up my race packet and tour the expo, which took all of 20 minutes. We’ve all heard it before, but I’ll state it once again:  it would be nice if technical tees were provided instead of a cotton tee.

I awoke at 5 and began my pre-race routine, including consuming much coffee, a honey grain bagel with peanut butter and honey, and a banana. At about 7, I walked the two blocks to the Convention Center, and there were already many runners going through their own routines. I checked in my bag. That’s when the looks began because, yes, I was once again wearing the Zensah shin/calf (as well as arm) sleeves. And once again, I’m very glad that I did! I wore Sugoi racing shorts (with mesh pockets for Gu storage), Nike loose compression shirt, Pearl Izumi hat, and Mizuno gloves. My hands were nonetheless painfully cold for most of the race. This isn’t because of the gloves; it’s because of my genes and my low body weight. 

Most importantly, I wore Belega socks (made specifically for left and right feet) and Mizuno Ronin racing shoes. 

This is the first marathon I’ve run wearing a racing flat, and I’m most pleased with the results. In the past, I think I’ve worn too much of a shoe for road marathons. This often resulted in hots spots and very bad blisters. At no point during the race was I even aware of the shoes, which is a true testament to how well they fit. The same can be said of the Zensah sleeves. In fact, I almost didn’t wear the arm sleeves, as I was concerned that I would become keenly aware of them during the race. I had planned on removing and discarding them if they did become uncomfortable. They didn’t! Oh, I also carried my own bottle with 2/3 Gatorade and 1/3 water. I discarded it at about mile 24, as my shoulders were beginning to tighten.

I did not take my antibiotic with breakfast as prescribed, as I didn’t want to upset my stomach. I had a difficult time consuming Gu during the race nonetheless, and consumed 4 instead of my planned 5. I had to force myself to down the last one, and couldn’t even manage to do that until mile 24. I know, I know, it was probably too late…

On to the start! I left the Convention Center at about 10 minutes until 8. You can’t do that at New York or Boston. While there weren’t any official corrals, runners did indeed line up by pace. However, just minutes before the start there was still a large contingent of runners who were entering from the front, not the rear, of the corral. The race announcer had to repeatedly request that people enter the correct way, but to no avail. I and most other runners around me were getting a little anxious, as there is little worse than a crowded start that includes slower runners. There was much chatter and even more confusion. It was obvious that slower runners had indeed stopped as soon as entering the corral, and I found myself about 6 rows back from the front. No disrespect to slower runners meant. I was very pleasantly surprised how quickly the faster runners (including yours truly) were able to get in front of the pack. I did, however, have to maneuver around quite a few other runners.

The marathoners, half marathoners, and relay marathoners all began at the same time. I generally don’t like this, as it can be difficult to assess pace (see mile 1 split). This time around, I knew what to expect, so I ran steadily with runners (both marathoners and half marathoners) who were running at my similar pace. With the exception of seeing my friend, George, aka Monk, at about mile 4, the first miles were uneventful. I struck up conversations with many runners, and they generally did the same. At about mile 6, however, I had a thought I’ve never had before: I’ve run many races in the very recent past, maybe even too many. This hurts. I’m not enjoying myself. Maybe it’s time to take a break from running. Wow, where did that come from?

I ran pretty steadily for the first half, and experienced no unexpected discomfort. No calf, knee, hip flexor, or feet pain. Psychological pain, yes, but that is to be expected.

The racers split at about mile 12, and the half marathoners took a turn to run a mile to the finish while we marathoners continued onward. I was suddenly running by myself. I caught a couple of runners, always wishing them luck — and hoping they didn’t catch me! My next negative thought: The way I’m feeling, I’ll be lucky if I finish under 3 hours. In fact, it feels like I’m running a 3:20 marathon. 

At about mile 16, another runner caught up with me and began a conversation. More than anything I could tell he was trying to determine if I was an older runner, like him. He is from Charlotte, and this was his 91st marathon. He’s run many more than I have! We traded places until mile 24.5 (more about this in a moment), and spectators let us know that we were in 9th and 10th places. It never dawned on me that some of the runners ahead of us might be relay racers. That’s why they blew past us!

At mile 24.5, my running companion did something very smart. He had 2 pacers join him, and they ran with him until close to mile 26. He dropped me, and I didn’t (maybe couldn’t?) respond. My last negative thought occurred at mile 26, with just 2/10ths of a mile left: I. Am. Done. I have nothing left. Fortunately, there’s nothing like a cheering crowd (and the thought of public disgrace) to get you motivated, and I did indeed sprint to the finish. I congratulated the 6th place finisher, got some water, met up with Jeff, changed, walked but a block to the hotel, took a shower, and returned to the Convention Center for the awards ceremony. Jeff was convinced that I had finished in 7th while I was convinced that I finished in 10th place.

This was a very competitive race, particularly for us older guys. Finishers 4 through 9 were all men older than 40. Truly amazing. As they gave overall awards to the first 5 finishers and master awards only three deep, I feel very sorry for the man who finished 9th, as he had to settle for 1st place in his age group. Still most certainly admirable!

I was very pleased with my time (2nd best marathon time), particularly considering the psychological pain of the race. There were numerous times throughout the race that I thought: This is why I like trail much better than road racing. 

1 | 5:53
2 | 6:30
3 | 6:10
4 | 6:12
5 | 6:39
6 | 6:12
10K time | 38:50
7 | 6:28
8 | 6:22
9 | 6:37
10 | 6:23
11 | 6:24
12 | 6:41
13 | 6:40
Half time | 1:24:01
14 | 6:42
15 | 6:30
16 | 6:40
17 | 6:40
18 | 6:38
19 | 6:27 (Saw Nascar auto with 19 on the side. I thought it was the mile marker. May be Dale something-or-other’s number. Not sure. Sorry all you Nascar fans! I had to combine split taken at car and actual mile marker.)
20 | 6:47
21 | 6:48
22 | 6:49
23 | 6:29
24 | 6:42
25 | 6:40
26 | 6:37
Last 2/10ths | 1:30

My second half was indeed slower than my first. The second half was also harder, if not physically than certainly psychologically.

They say you’re not ready for your next marathon until you’ve forgotten the pain of your last marathon. The Mt. Mitchell Challenge is consuming my every thought. I ran the Carolina Godiva Track Club Winter Series Couch Mountain run today. I promised myself that I would take it easy and not race and, for the most part, that’s what I did.

My thoughts/feelings post-race. I wonder how fast I could run on a flat, fast course…

Posted in Run

One thought on “2008 Thunder Road Marathon

  1. what is a 'Nike loose compression shirt'? Wouldn't loose and compression cancel each other out, leaving you with a 'Nike shirt'? Just checkin' 😉


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