Last Sunday I saw years of hard work and consistency pay off with a 25-minute marathon personal record and Boston Marathon qualifying time. Just for fun, here is my recap of the event.
The GO! St. Louis course was point-to-point with few hills. I boarded the shuttle to commute to the start line around 5:15am. 1 silver lining that came with COVID racing restrictions is that I had the option to start early, before temps began to climb for the day. Spring weather in the Midwest can heat up abruptly so I was glad to have lessened my chances of dealing with it. The other masked runners and I found our seats and off we went to the “Chain of Rocks Bridge”.
GO!: We staggered and took off on the bridge with a gorgeous view of the river under overcast skies. Miles 1-3 were uneventful, just the usual start to a long race trying to keep adrenaline in check and paces conservative. I saw my amazing friend and Girls on the Run coordinator Kristin cheering with a “GO LAURA” sign. There was a tailwind pushing me along and temps were perfection.
I was on track with my A-goal: a BQ qualifying time via negative-split pace strategy + a 5-minute buffer (so that I might stand a chance at actually running the Boston Marathon if I managed to qualify).
Conditions took an unfortunate turn after that. Miles 3.5 – 7 brought the other runners and I to the gravel levee trail along the “Chain of Rocks Canal”. Suddenly the wind picked up a lot. Gusts were so strong without any trees or buildings to shield us that I actually witnessed a volunteer being blown to the ground. We were all fighting not to run sideways.
Mile 6: I’d been following a man who was going my pace, and I could tell he was starting to struggle. “I think we just have to get off of this levee and we’ll be okay,” I said trying to channel some optimism. He laughed! But I booked it once we got close to the end of that portion and learned that I was mostly right.
My legs felt like Jell-O after the ordeal with wind. I considered switching to my B-goal which would have landed a PR and a perfectly respectable finishing time. I saw Kristin cheering again around mile 9. Kristin is one of my runner heroes and a finisher of the 2018 Boston Marathon. If she believed in me, then I had a shot.
Photo by Kristin Clark
Miles 11-13 were spent running along the paved Mississippi Greenway trail. I was out of the awful wind. Pacing, and fueling were going according to plan.
My “Jell-O legs” had subsided, and I knew I was going for it. No turning back now. Let’s go A-goal.
1 of the few spots along the course with real crowd support was courtesy of Big River Running around mile 13. The NICEST woman who sells me running shoes regularly was there cheering! That gave me such a boost! So much love for my local running store.
Miles 13-18 I spent mostly solo. I turned on my Aftershokz for a bit and ran to my favorite throwback playlist featuring “Wannabe” by the Spice Girls and “Sir Duke” by Stevie Wonder. Paces went from 8-8:20 to just under 8 and trying to keep it there until mile 20.
I hit mile 18. “Cautious confidence …. you’re still feeling good… just get to the finish” were a few thoughts that occurred.
The next thing I knew, I was running towards the mile 20 marker. HOLY MOLY! Time to unleash! I was so excited that I turned to the runner near me and yelled “WE ARE ALMOST DONE!!!”. The sun came out from behind the clouds.
I’d gone through my handheld water bottle and began grabbing cups of Gatorade at aid stations, trying to get some sugar in me for the finish. I took my final caffeinated Maurten gel.
Mile 22 brought another needed boost of crowd support from local coach, athlete, and running friend Mark Spewak along with the crew from Running Niche.
My daughter was waiting for me at mile 23, ringing a cowbell and holding out her little hand for a high-five. I could’ve stopped and just scooped her up right there, but I was almost done.
Close to mile 24, I saw Mark and the Running Niche people again as I looped back towards the finish line.
Mark wins the award for most enthusiastic crowd support of the day as I could hear him the entire way up the most brutal hill of the course shouting “GO LAURA!!!!! LET’S GO!!!”.
There’s no community like the running one. So many unconditionally kind people.
My pace dropped, uh-oh. I ran rolling hills plenty in training. They don’t scare me, but nothing can totally prepare you for a hill at mile 24 unless you practice hills at mile 24.
I turned into the city streets and was met with a tunnel of powerful headwind. This was the only moment during the race that I started to feel defeated. I had already fought through so much. Why wouldn’t the wind just stop already?!
More thoughts: “Okay… fight ‘til it’s over… pump your arms and swing those elbows back …. try the 2-2 breathing thing… no, oh my gosh, don’t even think about your breathing right now. That’s torture.”
These along with, “Pretend you are @sarahall3 and you are going to get paid if you run fast!” Fatigued thoughts can be so silly, but whatever it takes, right?
I continued to battle through miles 25-26. I glanced at my Garmin and realized that the 5-minute buffer was not happening, but I knew I could still salvage a sub 3:30, which was something I never thought I could do until recently. No way was I giving up now.
Photo by official GO! St. Louis race photographer staff
Chestnut street came I could finally see the finish line! I poured out whatever was left which didn’t feel like much. My energy to smile for the race photographer was non-existent (and I always smile for race photographers).
I crossed the finish line with a Boston qualifying time 3:29:25, no 5-minute buffer to help ensure I can go to Boston, but a new personal record of more than 25 minutes. A massive success that’s been 3 years in the making.
I’m over the moon & I can’t wait to see where my legs will take me next.