Adversity on Race Day

I travelled to Pocatello, Idaho Labor Day weekend to run the 12th Annual Idaho State Journal Marathon, known as “Running the Gap”.  The course runs the gap between the mountains that covered wagons travelled through on the Oregon Trail.  The race has a reputation for being organized and offering runners extra perks like a free gym bag (instead of a plastic bag) to be use on race day for gear check, men’s and women’s cut (instead of unisex) race shirts, and quality post-race food by Ruby Tuesday’s.

Pre-race instructions stressed that the first shuttle bus to the start would leave at 5:10am sharp, and the last bus would leave at 5:30am sharp.  I got to the shuttle bus location at 4:50am, and the first three buses didn’t show-up until 5:35am.  Long story short, I got dropped off at the starting line, on a dark, dead-end, mountain top road, a little after 6:00am for the 6:15am start.

Runners were already lined-up at the starting line, and the line for the gear check was long.  I found an open spot near the gear check truck, and put my bag down to find everything I needed for the run, which was a struggle in the dark with a mostly black gym bag.  I took off my warm wind pants and jacket (it was 47 degrees for the start), and I put them into the bag, so I could get in line.

About that time, the race director announced with a mega phone that the marathon would start in 5 minutes, and the wheel chair athletes would start 2 minutes before the runners.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t read my watch in the dark to check the time.  After dropping off my bag, I went to the very back of the starting line, about 20 yards behind the pack of 600 runners, to finish my pre-race preparation.  I determined that I could wait until the first or second water stop to use a porta-a-pottie, so there was no need to waste time in the long line for them at the starting area.

I was halfway through my pre-run dynamic warm-up when I heard a light cheer.  I looked up to see runners stating down the course!  The marathon had started.  There was no announcement for the wheel chair start, no one minute to go announcement, no starting gun or horn.  What happened to the mega phone?  I continued my warm-up and watched the field of runners funnel through the starting line.  I knew that the race was chip timed, and my official time would start when I crossed the starting line, so there was no need to rush.  When the back of the pack reached the actual starting line, I started to run myself.

I kept telling myself to relax as I gradually worked my way past the slower runners.  By mile 4 or 5 the sun had come up and so did the temperature, perfect for running.  I had caught up to the other runners keeping the pace I planned to run, so I was finally able to settle into a normal pace.  The first half of the marathon was the most enjoyable and scenic 13 miles I have ever run, and I was only 2-3 minutes of my goal pace.

I would hit the wall around 20 miles and struggle to finish, but because I didn’t panic with the bus issues and confusion before the start, I gave myself the opportunity to possibly make my goal time.   For those runners that didn’t deal with the adversity well, there was little to no opportunity for them to reach their goal’s.