This was my 5th year participating in some manner in the Akron Road Runner Marathon. This is a great event, they care about the runners, the course is beautiful (yet tough), the schwag is great (RT subscription, brooks shoes or jacket for full, technical tee for all, free beer at the finish), and nearly all of my friends participate. My first experience with the race was on a coed relay. We surprised ourselves and finished on the podium that year and started a tradition. The following year we had all females and once again made it into the top three. Then I joined pacer Jim's pace team and had to give up my slot on the relay to pace the full marathon the past two years. This year I didn't want to pace any fulls and potentially slow my own marathons down so I was stoked to be back on the relay. And since I've been getting faster they even let me anchor!
Before the race we emailed our predicted best case/worst case times and based on those it looked like our team would run between 2:47 and 3:07, a big range since many are coming back from injury, haven't been running, or just finished big races. I was fairly confident I could hold 6:05 pace for my 7.9 mile leg. Would have liked to been sub 6 but wasn't sure given the course is a bit hilly and I wouldn't have anyone to really run with since all those around me would likely be running the full marathon and I would be faster than them at that point.
We had pretty much perfect weather conditions. 50s or 60s, a little sun, and a little wind. Can't beat that. Had fun cheering on my friends in the half and full at the start and mile 3.5 then we hopped on our shuttle bus and got our butts to our exchange point. Warmed up and got to the exchange corral at the fast end of our predicted time. And watched as the first two all female relays went through, and the top 5 overall females in the full marathon. Whoa, time for me to go to work :) The first two womens teams had about a 6 minute head start on me so I was pretty sure I wasn't catching either of them, but I also was running this race as a gauge of my fitness for Columbus so I couldn't slack off!
First few miles I was flying right around 6 minute pace and picked off the 4th and 5th female marathoners pretty quickly along with some men. I felt pretty smooth and just kept clicking through. The course is slightly up these miles then you have a mile with a decent climb followed by a flat mile, followed by another climb before the 2 miles downhill to the finish. Thankfully I missed my 3rd mile split because it was shockingly slow, around 6:30. I was chugging away trying to catch up to my friend who was the 3rd female in the race, and she was moving. It took me at least 3 miles to catch her and she looked strong and relaxed!
Another super slow mile through Garman and I was not happy with that split as I saw it and it was also over 6:20. I knew the next section was flat and I tried to get back into a groove running by a few local guys I knew in the full. Then I was on my own. No one in sight so I just chugged along looking forward to the downhill. Lots of friendly spectators were out in their lawns cheering which was nice, but it was hard to push myself into the wind while flying solo. I reminded myself it could be like this at the marathon and upped the ante.
Around mile 24 of the marathon I noticed a small pack in the distance and was pretty sure one was my running friend who was in the 2nd place all female team. She had a cold and has been fighting anemia so I was sad she was having a bad day, but knew I had to take one for the team and try to catch her. The next two miles have some decent downhills and I let it fly getting back under 6 minute pace around 5:40 and 5:45 for the last two miles. Caught my friend with about a half mile to go and encouraged her before cruising into the stadium. The whole time I had been looking at the race clocks and trying to determine what our team time would be. I was fairly certain I could keep us under 2:53 and sure enough the clock was closing in on 2:52 as I raced to the finish. Tried to get it under but clock time was 2:52:03 good enough for 2nd female team and 2:51:56 chip time for the team. The first female team smoked us by about 6 minutes with their anchor running the last 7.9 miles 10 seconds faster than me. Drat! Too bad we didn't start together, that would have been an interesting race!
This was our relays best time to date and I believe each girl ran her leg faster than ever before so it was a success! Added bonus was enjoying the free beer and watching our friends finish the marathon after wards!
I was happy with my effort but would have liked that time to be a bit faster. Went 48:05 for 6:05 pace which isn't quite the predictor I would have liked to see for Columbus, but it is hard to compare a relay effort to that of a head to head race so we will see how it plays out for me in two weeks!