I signed up for this race on a whim, and I couldn’t be happier with the result. After having just an incredible experience at the Boston Marathon I felt completely ready to jump into another marathon right away. I have previously considered doing this marathon in the past so I knew some general information about the course as well as what to expect from some other race reviews. In addition, I also knew of another Bentley Student on the Triathlon Team who would be there running his first marathon!
My training for this race remained mostly unchanged from that of the Boston Marathon in terms of mileage. I averaged around 30-35 miles during the 6-week training cycle after Boston, which did include a week of recovery mileage after Boston and a week of taper before Vermont City. I put in several long runs of 12-18 miles while training, but my big addition to this training cycle was adding more speed work and weight training. Previously, I haven’t spent very much time on weight training, but I have found that it has helped me to feel stronger later in my workouts.
Before I knew it my 5:00 AM alarm had sounded and I was throwing on my running clothes. Once again I went with my HOKA ONE ONE Clifton 3s, and my Zensah Compression Socks, both of which I wore at Boston. I had also planned on carrying and taking 4 GU’s during the race at Miles 6, 11, 17, and 22. One of the best parts about the race was that public parking was free for the entire day so we were able to park close to the race and had no problem at all leaving afterward.
I arrived at the race around 6:15 am, 45 minutes before the 7:00 am start time. Like Boston, I did not end up doing any running to warm-up pre-race, instead, I focused on collecting my nerves, hoping in the bathroom line, and staying properly hydrated. My overall goals for this race were to beat my time from the Boston Marathon (3:01:34), run under 3 hours, finish the race strong, and have fun and enjoy the course and the beauty of Burlington. Before I knew it I was on the start line and the gun was sounding!
One thing about the Vermont City Marathon that is different from any marathon that I have previously run is that a large number of runners are competing in relays. The race is billed as a “Marathon and Relay” with relays of anywhere between 2-5 people breaking up the marathon distance. I had to be extremely mindful of this, especially in the first several miles of the race as I controlled my pace. As I expected, I was immediately swallowed up by many more runners than I had anticipated during the first mile. This first mile features one of the 3 “major uphill’s”, albeit the smallest, of the course, but thankfully my adrenaline from the start of the race made it feel effortless.
|At the Start!|
The first few miles went through the streets of central Burlington and were largely covered with shade, which I was thankful for after being scorched during the Boston Marathon. I passed Mile 1 in 6:44 and entered a long downhill for the second mile. I still had people streaming by me, but I was determined not to let this impact my racing strategy. I wanted to hit approximately 1:30:00 at the half-marathon mark and close in at even or negative splits. I hit Mile 2 in 6:44 as we headed back through Burlington and passed the starting area.
The Vermont City Marathon Course is comprised of four distinct “loops” and you actually pass through the starting area several times, the reason for this being so that there is a clear place for most of the relay exchanges. I hit Mile 3 in 6:46 as we began to enter the section of the race that runs out and back along the highway, which is only closed once a year for this very race. This loop is slight downhill for the out section and then slight uphill for the entire way which back so I focused on not expending unnecessary energy on the downhill section. I passed Mile 4 in 6:41. By Mile 5 I decided that I needed to stop very quickly and use the bathroom, which ended up costing me about 20 seconds. I tried hard not to make up time after the 7:00 fifth mile, but the downhill and my urge to “catch-up” lead to a 6:31 Mile 6. At this point, I was able to watch the top runners, who were flying, run back along the other side of the highway which was pretty neat as it’s not usually something you get to see while racing a Marathon. Shortly afterward I made the turn at the end of the loop and headed back up the highway. I was a little surprised by Mile 7 split of 7:10. I couldn’t tell if Mile 6 had been a little short, the course was heading more uphill than I expected, or I had stepped off the pace accidentally while trying to locate my friend who would be coming on the downhill section of the race. Regardless, I quickly got back on pace and passed Mile 8 in 6:50 just after seeing my friend Jake who looked strong early on! I had just taken my first GU a few minutes prior, but I could feel a little fatigue creeping into my legs which I attribute to the long uphill for the previous few miles. I was ecstatic to finally crest the top of the highway and head back into town where there would be much more shade.
I felt much better as soon as I crossed the start area again and headed back on Main St. One of the best things about the course, was the spectator support, as you could see the same people three different times: Mile 3, Mile 9, and Mile 15. Usually, I, am lucky if I see my girlfriend or family once between the start and end of the race! After running along Main St, I turned down Market St and began to coast on a nice long downhill as I began the third loop of the course. At this point, I was running with two of the Elite Women and we were holding a pretty steady pace so I decided to stick with them. For some reason I had difficulty locating several of the Mile Markers during the next section of the course, so all I have is my three-mile split time between Miles 9-11, which ended up being 20:24 or a 6:48 pace. Around this time I took my second GU and performed an overall assessment of how I was feeling, which turned out to be great! My breathing was under control, the weather was perfect, my legs felt strong, etc. Our group began to splinter around Mile 12 as we entered a shaded greenway and I was now on my own at this point. I hit Mile 12 and Mile 13 both in 6:52 and then the halfway split in exactly 1:29:00. After the race, I was able to count up and see that I was in around 95th place at this point.
After crossing through the greenway and the area where the 2-Person Relay Exchange Zone was, I was on my way back up towards central Burlington. I hit Mile 14 in 6:47 and was just able to see my friend from school again as he was nearing Mile 11 still looking strong! The next mile featured a return on Pine St. which I had been running down around 30 minutes or so ago. It was cool to once again see other runners heading down the street as you were heading up and to have people cheer you on. In addition, I had an idea for the first time in a few miles as to where the next group of people ahead of me were. I hit Mile 15 in 6:37 as we turned onto Battery St. This mile of the course is by far the hardest and is nicknamed “Assault on Battery St”, as it climbs around 150 feet over the course of this mile. Had I started too fast, this mile would have been absolutely debilitating to me, as Heartbreak Hill during the Boston Marathon was. Instead, I was “flying”, up the hill and enjoying the spectator support. I crested the hill and hit Mile 16 in 7:09 and then focused on controlling and regulating my breathing after the hard uphill. At this point, I had been steadily passing a few people and was not being passed at all. In fact, I was not passed one time after the half marathon mark.
I was finally on the fourth and final loop of the course and was feeling strong. I took my third GU around Mile 17 which I hit in 6:43. The next mile featured some rolling uphill’s and downhill's, but was straight almost the entire way which allowed me to hit my second fastest split of the day with a 6:29 at Mile 18! Next, I turned into some winding neighborhoods and caught up to a larger group of about 4-5 runners. Normally, I may have tried to stick with them, but I was still feeling strong and decided to pass on. I hit Mile 19 in 6:39 and entered another short section of greenway. I had been getting water at pretty much every single stop except for maybe two or three miles and was taking in Gatorade every 3-4 miles or so. At around Mile 19, there was also a GU station sponsored by CLIF bar with a bunch of younger kids handing out GU’s who were all screaming for me to take one. Definitely a highlight of my race! At Mile 20 I was still cruising and came upon another large pack of five runner’s right as we passed the last timing mat on the course. I ended up hitting this mile in in 6:34. Another runner and I went by this pack and I focused on sticking with him. What I did not know, however, was that he was running the relay. He dragged me to a very fast 6:30 Mile 21 and 6:31 Mile 22 before I decided to let him go ahead. At this point, I could feel my energy flagging a little bit. While my legs still felt decent, the general fatigue of the race and the increasing temperature were starting to get to me. I took my last GU at Mile 22 right as we turned onto the greenway that was a straight shot to the finish. Normally, I do not end up taking the last GU during marathons, but this time I felt like it was necessary. It was also a huge relief that the last four miles of the course were almost completely shaded.
|Final Sprint! Photo by Scott Mason|
After a few minutes, I felt much better than I had before and was starting to pick up the pace. I had slowed down on Mile 23, which ended up being 6:48, but I still felt like I had a good shot at that point to finish right at 2:58:00. I was still taking water at pretty much each aid station and I was beginning to close ground on quite a few people and fly by. I passed some absolutely incredible views of Lake Champlain and the Adirondack Mountains during these miles and couldn’t help but appreciate the beauty even during the middle of a marathon. I hit Mile 24 in 6:40. By now I could feel that the finish line was getting close and I was still feeling exceptionally strong. In almost all of my previous marathons, I would pretty much be running mid to high seven minute miles at this point as the last 3-4 miles of the marathon has been a work in progress for me. I hit Mile 25 in 6:33 and continued to pick up the pace. I was now on the last mile of the course and began to exit the Greenway and head towards Battery Park. I could hear the roar of the crowd from almost half a mile away so I knew I was close! Finally passing Mile 26 and seeing that I had split a 6:24, my fastest mile of the race, and one of my fastest splits in a marathon ever was an incredible feeling. I had never run that fast after that long before. I just enjoyed the last quarter mile of the race and soaked up the atmosphere and as I turned onto the grass for the last 100 yards I could see the clock ticking into the 2:56:xx range still! I raised my arms and finished in 2:56:29, a 6:44 Pace and good enough for 47th overall officially.
|Finish! Photo by Scott Mason|
After finishing the race I collected my medal and found my girlfriend who had been able to capture a video of me finishing! Afterward, I grabbed some water and sat down in the shade underneath a tree to cool off. This was also the first of my fives marathons that I did not have to go to the medical tent after finishing so that was quite the accomplishment! We hung around the post-race festivities for about an hour longer at which point we went to grab lunch before beginning the long drive back home. I will say that driving for 6 hours after finishing a marathon is not a fun experience!
Overall, this race was a bigger success than I had anticipated. I was most happy with my negative split, 1:29:00 on the front half (6:48 Pace), and 1:27:29 (6:40 Pace) on the back half. In addition, I moved up approximately 50 spots from the halfway point and was never passed. I also managed to finish my last 10K at a 6:35 Pace and had the 18th fastest last 10K split of the race! As far as my next marathon, I have not entirely made a decision yet. I would love to actually run some more miles, put in a few more long runs, and add more weight training and see what my real potential can be. For now, I am looking for a fall marathon in either September or October and I am definitely open to suggestions!
Finally, I want to say thank you again to everyone who reads my blog! I also want to give a big congratulation again to my friend Jake Gehrung, a freshman at Bentley University, who finished his first marathon in 4:22:20!