So. Hi. Yeah.
One thing or another and my running had fallen by the wayside. For years and years I’ve been running maybe 15 miles a week (on a good week) and not racing at all. A big part of it was having a daughter in 2014. It turns out the rumors are true: children take up a lot of time and energy.
So it’s been seven years since I’ve run a marathon. I’m 49 now. Old for a dad of a five-year-old. Old for a runner?
The Portland Marathon has been a mess for years. After a series of poorly-managed races and financial scandals, the old organization folded up shop for good in 2017. Good riddance. The Run With Paula folks put on a replacement run called The Portlandathon in 2018, but they were saddled with some pretty awful constraints, like being forced to use a route even worse than the bad old normal one.
For 2019, the city picked a new race manager: Brooksee, an organization out of Utah, known for their Revel running series. Both Brooksee and the city seemed committed to addressing the problems of the past: the gross old route, the problems with train crossings, the general sense that the Portland Marathon itself was totally more important than mere runners and shouldn’t have to listen to opinions or ideas.
Toward the start of May, they finally announced the new course for this year’s marathon. I took a look and it got my interest. I read about their plan to avoid all train blockages. I saw they were doing free race photos. I had a crazy idea. I wanted to run it. I’d have to train up for it, almost from zero, in just five months. With Sweetie’s approval, I started the process. My first weekend’s “long run”? Six miles.
Relevant side-note: I do figure skating now. Have for a few years. I started taking classes with my daughter when she was three-and-a-half. I think it’s been a real help with strengthening various muscles that running doesn’t. That means it’s also helping with injury prevention.
Then again, I took a nasty fall on the ice more than a year ago and wrenched my right ankle something awful, spraining it pretty badly. My foot bent up, so I overextended my Achilles tendon and messed up a bunch of other stuff down there. I thought I was all recovered when I started training, but…
I guess not? Through the entire five months of training, my right foot, ankle, and calf were problems. I’m stubborn and just kept running. It seems to have worked out OK so far.
Other than that, my training cycle was pretty remarkably good. I didn’t miss any long runs, I got my weekly mileage up above 35 for a month-and-a-half, and I wasn’t sick much. I started getting faster thanks only to just running more. My only injury issues were the aforementioned chronic right ankle problems.
I enjoyed training. I enjoyed getting up at 6am every Saturday and getting out the door for a long run. I enjoyed running in Portland. One weekend, we were on a trip and staying in Everett, Washington. I was doing an 18 miler. During that 18 miles I saw one other person running, and one race walker. I’m grateful Portland isn’t Everett. In Portland people don’t look at you funny for running.
To get some idea what pace I should run, I participated in a one-mile fun run at my daughter’s school three weeks out from the marathon, and did a 5K Parkrun one week before. I managed a 6:25 mile, mostly on turf, after a 13-mile “warm-up” run. For the 5K, I huffed and puffed my way to 21:12 on a mildly hilly course. The equivalent-effort running calculators said I could do a 3:25 marathon or something crazy like that, so I decided to try for 3:35.
The weather was perfect — maybe 46 and cloudy. I thought the sun would come through while I ran, but it mostly held off. At 7:10 we started running from downtown Portland.
Three miles in, in the heart of the Northwest Portland district I call home now, I got caught up in a conversation with another runner in the 3:35 pace group. She kept creeping forward, though, and I did a bad thing and kept up with her. By mile six, during our loop around the Moda Center, we’d caught up to the 3:30 pace group. When she kept moving up, I finally let her go. At this point I was feeling fine, and of course I stuck with the 3:30 group.
I felt good for the next 15 miles. We went back down Front, then made our way down to Macadam, over the Sellwood Bridge, around Westmoreland, then did a circuit around the neighborhood near Reed College. A lot of beautiful areas to run. I have a few nit-picks about the course, but overall it is an enormous improvement from the old one.
Around mile twenty it was starting to take some effort to keep up with the 3:30 pacers. That’s OK, I can do effort. A steep little uphill followed by a sharp little downhill at mile 22 finally did me in. My quads were in screaming pain on any slope, and not super-happy about running on the level, either. One of my usual marathons, then. I let the 3:30 pacers recede into the distance and focused on making constant forward progress through the hurt.
Those last four miles sucked. Using my legs hurt. I got a little nauseous. I walked quite a bit of mile 26. I got there in the end.
- Chip Time: 3:36:36.04
- Gun Time: 3:37:21.12
- Pace (min/miles): 8:16
- Overall Rank: 303 out of 2115
- Gender Rank (Male): 244 out of 1268
- Age Division Rank (M45-49): 24 out of 126
I am proud of that time, given my long time off. I wish I had got there a smarter way. I wish I had stuck with the 3:35 pace group. That’s OK though.
The rest of the day was really something. I got over my nausea in 30 minutes, but the overall fatigue was somewhat more crushing than I remember it being before. I spent the rest of the day taking a bath and lying in bed. I did hobble over to a restaurant three blocks away for my traditional burger and martini with my family.
The new marathon organization should be very proud of the job they did. Instead of accolades, though, if you Google 2019 Portland Marathon, you’ll find a bunch of articles about how 15 or 20 of the front-runners lost sight of the lead runner (and the lead motorcycle he was following) and ended up off-course. The race director has handled it with class, taking all the blame and giving these runners their money back and free entry into all future Portland Marathons he puts on. (Compare to the old race organizer who infamously called this kind of thing “not a big deal.”)
I’m so frustrated with this bad publicity. This time around, I can tell you it’s undeserved. This was a great race with great organization, put together on a whirlwind time-frame. I’m positive it’ll be even better next year.