Joe’s Run for the Red Pocono Marathon Recap!
This past Sunday I had a successful run in the Pocono Marathon. My goal was a solid and steady 9-min mile pace, and to finish simply feeling good with no injuries.
The Run for the Red Marathon takes place in the Pocono Mountains in the town of Stroudsburg, Pa. Since this is only a 2 hour drive it was a strategically good place to run a marathon. Katie and I drove up the day before in time to hit up the “small” expo, get my race number, and have a nice dinner at a little Bistro on Main Street. My pre-race meal was a simple grilled chicken and pasta dish.
The marathon start was 8am and was about a 25min drive to the start so the wake-up call came at 5am. I was ready for my pre-meal and packed some Rokit Fuel as well as the standard toast with peanut butter and banana. The hotel was ready for the marathoners and had a continental breakfast starting at 5am. This was great, and allowed me to get toast and some hot water for some tea.
The start was organized well as it took place a local high school; so there was plenty of room and space. Not to mention there were only 958 runners, so there wasn’t the congestion or “corrals” of a major race to contend with. The race started on time and we were off.
A little background on the Pocono Marathon: It’s noted as a fast course and favorite for Boston qualifiers. This is mostly due to the extreme net downhill elevation change. However, this occurs on a rolling basis and is not a gradual downhill. This is tough if you don’t run a lot of hills. I found my quads definitely burning from all the steep up and down climbs.
Another issue with the marathon is the weather. Normally, it is very mild and cool in the Poconos this time of year. The website states on the weather “The temperature in the middle of May in the Poconos averages a low of 45°F and a high of 72°F.” Unfortunately on Sunday it got into the 80’s.
The first part of the marathon wasn’t bad at all, lots of tree cover. My goal was to try to maintain 9 minute miles for the entire race. I felt this would be good training for my eventual goal of running a 50-mile ultra marathon. I also wanted to experiment with using a hydration pack, since I will probably be wearing one for the ultra. The hydration pack would prove to be a huge help toward the end! Here I am at mile 9, right on pace with 9 min miles, feeling great.
While the first half of the marathon was under some shade, the last half was mostly in the open on the highway. The sun really started to bake in and by the time I got to mile 20 I was out of fluid with my hydration pack. Fortunately my great “crew” (Katie) was there to take away my hydration pack and give me a nice cold hand held bottle with Nuun. This is me at mile 20 signaling to Katie that I need to get rid of this empty pack.
I really think this was the difference between a good marathon and a walking finish. By the time I finished around noon, the sun was hot and blaring and 78. About 50% of the runners were walking the last couple miles, mostly due to heat (in my opinion). I was able to finish strong at 3:58 with an average pace of 9:05. Not a PR, but considering the heat, I was happy
So, as a whole, this was a pretty good run for me. NO injuries, hit my pace time and felt pretty good. I think I could have gone faster without the heat, but the weather made me really focus on maintaining a consistent pace, so that was a positive. The race itself was done pretty well (for a smaller race). Some of the aid stations were not staffed very well (one station ran out of cups), but for the most part things went pretty well. I did not really enjoy the steep up and downhill climbs, even if it was a net downhill, so this was probably my last Pocono Marathon, but I enjoyed it.
You all know I love spectating, and the Poconos Marathon was no exception. I had a blast. Plus, I am “auditioning” to be Joe’s “crew” for his potential ultra, so I took my job very seriously. I woke up with Joe before 5 AM, and walked to the Wawa down the street to grab some extra fluids and a coffee for myself.
I dropped him off at the start, and helped him sort through some fuel options.
I planned to meet him at miles 9, 20, and the finish. I know this sounds aggressive, however it didn’t seem like too big of a deal considering the course was an “L” shape, plus the field was so small. However, they had SO MANY roads closed blocking accessibility to the course, so it was much more difficult than I had planned. I easily made it to mile 9, but barely made it to mile 20. Thank goodness I made it because (like Joe said) his hydration pack was empty and he was in need of fluids. (phew!) As instructed, I also had a Picky Bar waiting for him at the finish.
I have to say, this was one of the most fun I’ve had while spectating. I often find during larger marathons, most spectators just stand on the side of the road and stare at the runners like zoo animals. Usually I feel like I’m the only one clapping and cheering. However, all the spectators around me were totally into it, too. Plus, since the field was so small, I feel like the runners really appreciated us! I made eye contact with a lot of them, got many thanks and waves, shared smiles, and a bit of banter. And I have to mention, I always get emotional when watching marathons – I got teary-eyed while watching a few first time marathoners finish. Because, as they say, you never forget your first time.
Joe failed to mention that when we got back to Philly on Sunday we ventured out to one of our favorite spots - Pub & Kitchen for a little post race reward. You know it – burgers and beers.
Yes I had a burger & beer too because I deserved it. #1 Spectator!