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Simply put: I had the best run of my life yesterday.

In my 6 years of running, I’ve never strung together a long run of this caliber; the fact that it took place at a sanctioned race is a silver lining. I ran a 3:29 on a course that featured over 2800 feet of elevation gain – good for a 20 minute road marathon PR.

Nailed it.

Nailed it.

The marathon has eluded me for some time now. Although my results have steadily improved, I have a history of underperforming – whether it’s going out too fast, failing to execute my fueling strategy, or simply showing up underprepared. This time was different: it was easy. I had fun. There was no pressure – I just let loose and soaked in the experience, and it was awesome.
When I registered for Morgan Hill Marathon last Thursday, I knew that a PR was well within reach – even if it wasn’t the priority. As I mentioned in my post last week, my goal for the weekend was to log a 3-4 hour self-supported training run for North Face 50, but I opted for Morgan Hill Marathon instead. I planned on running a pace that I could comfortably sustain for the full marathon – a pace that would also allow me to bounce back in time for Mt. Tam 50K on 11/15. I held a steady 7:55 pace – 30 seconds slower on the hills, 30 seconds faster on the descents, and drank at every aid station.
For those of you who are interested in running Morgan Hill Marathon one day, just do it. It’s a very challenging course – the first 16 miles consisted of substantial climbs, and the final 10 miles were not flat by any means. Morgan Hill was my first “small” road marathon – I’ve run NYC, Philadelphia, and SF, and I really enjoyed running a race with less hype and congestion. The 14 aid stations made fueling a breeze, the volunteers were extremely helpful, and it lacked the ostentatiousness that’s sometimes present at big races.
Start-mile 6: Before the gun went off, I consulted with the 3:35 pacers regarding whether I should start with 3:25 or 3:35. They both agreed that the course is much more difficult than the SF Marathon, and that I should err on the side of caution for the first 16 miles. Erring on the side of caution works for me – within reason – and I felt that 16 miles was simply too long to hold back.
I ran the first 3 miles with the 3:35 pace group and felt great. The miles were ticking by effortlessly, and I felt that I had room for improvement without overdoing it. I could still see the 3:25 pace group, and decided to crank up the pace for a mile as a test. I caught up to the 3:30 pace group, ran 2 miles with them, and eventually pulled away at mile 6.
Miles 6-12: These were the miles that made my race. Most of the elevation gain came in these miles, including 4 miles that averaged roughly 100′ of climbing a piece. The climbing was reminiscent of the run leg at Wildflower – grades that exceeded 10% at points, and slight downhills that provided very little reprieve. I averaged around 7:45 for these miles, and knew that I was not far from the “flat” section of the race.
Miles 12-16: I held on for dear life. I knew that a major downhill would bring me back down to the flatlands around mile 15, and I kept a steady pace from 12-15. I used this as an opportunity to refuel and rehydrate before my final push on the flat miles.
Miles 16-22: Gut check. Unlike marathons past, the wheels didn’t fall off around 16. In fact, when I hit the 16 mile split, I was running a sub-7 pace and feeling strong. The course began to flatten out and the sun also made itself known – I needed to hold steady until at least mile 22, and I did.
Miles 22-26: I hit the 3 hour mark with 22.5 miles in the bank. I didn’t want to get ahead of myself, but I knew that sub 3:30 was well within reach if I could manage to hold around a 8:30 pace. It was tough – extremely tough. Mile 22 featured a large climb and I almost slowed down to walk. I pushed as hard as I could through 23 and 24 – 7:57, 7:56, knowing that there was one final hill at mile 25. I was passed by the 3:30 pacers and knew that something was wrong – they were ahead of pace, and I stuck to my game. I hit the downhill at mile 26 and needed to run a sub 10-minute mile to break 3:30 – I was home free. I caught a glimpse of the clock – 3:29:30, knowing that I had a buffer from the chip timing, and sprinted home. I crossed the line in 3:29:08 – a moment that I will never forget.
Finish time: 3:29:08
Overall: 24/411
Age group: 4/18