I finished a marathon last Sunday in 3:33:30 (8:09 minutes per mile). Or in 3 years (41.8 days per mile). It all depends on how, or whether, you count it.
I first ran the Washington's Birthday Marathon in 2002 in 4:59:53 (11:27). It was my 3rd marathon and I had never broken 5 hours before. How big do you think my eyes got while I watched the seconds tick off the finisher's clock as I ran that last 100 yards? (Right: Last year I struggled running the anchor leg for the G-Force.)
This is a venerable race, a club marathon that runs through a rural nature research park in Greenbelt, MD. Three times. You go down this steep 3/4 mile hill to get into a forested bowl, run three 7.3-mile loops down there and finish by climbing the monster hill you ran down in the first mile in the last mile. After thinking about it for 25 miles.
This marathon is in its 47th consecutive year. It is known to be cold, windy and hilly. It is also dirt cheap, costing $25 (for which you get a technical shirt beforehand and a bowl of chili afterwards).
In 2006, L put together the G-Force to be a coed entry in the Relay part of the race. The three legs, being 9.7, 7.3 and 9.2 miles respectively, correspond to the three loops, obviously, with the first having a nice downhill and the last a nasty uphill. (Above: After the 2007 race with L and D.)
In 2006 I led off, L got the usual woman's leg and D anchored the effort. I ran my 9.7 miles in 1:17:23 (7:59), my first sub-eight effort ever at any distance over 10K. It was a breakthrough run for me. L ran her 7.3 miles in 1:01:55 (8:36) and D knocked off his 9.2 miles in 1:14:08 (8:03). We finished in 3:33:16 (8:08), 16th out 46 teams, or 6th out of 24 teams in our division. L picked up one spot for us after my 19th place effort, while D picked off two more teams. (Below: Volunteers at last year's race. This February marathon is often frigid.)
The next year D and I swapped positions. I didn't run very well. D put us in 15th place with a 1:18:35 (8:06), L knocked off two teams during her 1:00:49 (8:27) run and I went to pieces on the last big hill, losing one place while finishing in 1:17:32 (8:26). We finished fourth out of 12 teams in our division, in 15th place out of 29 teams with a 3:36:56 (8:17).
This year L dropped off the team and Sasha replaced her. I insisted on doing the short middle leg so I could "complete" the marathon by running all three legs in three years. D had to do the first leg since he wanted to do the full mary this year, so Sasha was given the hardest leg. She was imperturbable about it, shrugging off our warnings about "the hill." (Left: Despite suffering from an injury, D finished the marathon in under 4 hours, less than 12 minutes behind the team.)
D ran the marathon in 3:52:17 (8:52). Talk about consistency! He ran the first leg in 1:25:49 (8:51), passing off the red sash in 32nd place. Talk about guts! He was running with a stress fracture in his right foot, which has him sidelined indefinitely now after a visit with the doctor this week. (Above: Jessica and Ellen from the National Half Marathon training program, volunteering at this year's race. It's a long day for volunteers.)
I ran really well this year, doing a 58:35 (8:01) while trying to do sub-eights. Nobody passed me during the entire 7.3 miles and I picked up six places. Fresh, I ran by a lot of tired marathoners on their second loop. (Left: Finished with my poor man's marathon after three years!)
Then Sasha threw down a 1:16:35 (8:19), picking up a spot. We finished in 3:40:59 (8:26) in 25th place out of 43 teams, 17th out of 28 teams in the coed division. (Below: Sasha anchored the Gee Force this year.)
Marathon relays are a lot of fun.