I was on the fence for a few days before the race trying to figure out what I would wear for the race. (Major girl moment…haha!) The forecast called for the low 40s and pretty much stay there for the entire race. I couldn’t decide to wear my winter headband, arm sleeves and/or gloves. Walking out my friend’s apartment, who let me crash on his pull out couch for the night, a chill hit me hard. I brought my winter gear, still unsure though. After I parked at the race, sitting in my car listening to music to pump me up and pinning my bib to my singlet, I just said screw it and went with just gloves.
Hoping out the car, I jogged to the starting area and that was enough to warm me up so I wasn’t shivering before the race standing around. I did this race just as a training run leading up to my 50K in November. So I wasn’t running this hard. My goal was to run anywhere from 3:35 to 3:30. There wasn’t a 3:30 pacer for some reason. There was a 3:25 and a 3:35 pacer, but no 3:30. The 3:25 was really really tempting but I wanted to take this race easy. The goal was to keep it steady and relaxed and not to push myself. (Side note: running a race is a great way to do certain workouts. If you need to do a 3 mile tempo run, do a 5K. If you need to get in a long run, a half marathon is great as well. You don’t have to race every race. Something to keep in mind.)
The race started about 5 minutes late, which really bothers me when that happens. That could effect your performance based on when you ate, stretched or warmed up. Anyways, the gun goes off and I stayed close to the pacer. It was a fairly small race, so there was no need to weave around a bunch of people. We had a tight group together for this pace group. Not much chatter going on, which I prefer. But the pacer was chatting it up with a friend and I could tell she wasn’t paying any attention to pace. We hit the first mile well off our pace. I like to ease into pace anyways, so this was good. But right after that the pacer just surged, I followed and so did everyone else. A girl mentioned we were going way too fast now, so we slowed up.
Miles 2 and 3 were pretty close to pace and then I was feeling great. I decided to pull away from the group. Two people followed me and we had some small talk here and there. My plan for the race was to stop every 5 miles at the aid stations because I’ll be doing that in my ultra next month. But the first part of the race just flew by. The two other people and myself stuck to a steady pace and time seemed to be forgotten.
I made my first stop at mile 8. Sipped a cup of water and thanked the volunteers. Of the two people one just kept going and the other got some water too. We headed out together. Eventually we passed a bunch of people and we were really picking up the pace. I had to tell myself to ease up and reminded myself it was just a training run. I didn’t say anything to the guy I was with, I just slowed a tad and he kept with me.
The first part of the race was pretty nice. I remember around mile 5 we got on a small stretch of highway. To the west were the mountains that circle around Chattanooga and a full moon hung over the morning sky. The skies were clear and blue. I couldn’t help but stare at this instead of where my feet we about to land. It was one of those moments when running and the scenery were perfect together. We ran around the city, passed over a few bridges (hence the race name) and passed AT&T field (I have no idea who plays there).
But from mile 8 to about 15, was a long stretch of boringness. Mostly on one highway. Around mile 13 the guy I was running with couldn’t keep up with me. And around this time we were coming up to the 3:25 pacer. So maybe we we going a little too fast. I really wanted to catch them and stick with them. I was getting really close. My second stop was at mile 14. I took a little more time at this one. This stop though killed my chance of catching the 3:25 pace group. This was fine though, it was only a training run.
The course was mostly flat. You wouldn’t really expect that though being in Chattanooga. Just after mile 15, we climbed up one side of a long bridge. This was a beast. I love up hills, so I just pumped my arms and pushed myself up to the top. Then coasted on the back side. Then it was back to flat highways. We finally pulled off and made our way to a park. From mile 18 to about 25, we ran on this paved path that ran parallel to the Tennessee River. This was a treat compared to the highways.
My next and last stop was at the aid station right before the 21 mile marker. When I got going again I passed the 21 marker…and maybe 50 feet later passed a 20 mile marker. Ummm what the fuck? So that kind of threw me off. I was certain we were at 21 miles. If I were having a tough time at this point, that would have been demoralizing and pissed me off. Coming up to a few runners after that we had a good laugh about it.
I kept a consistent pace throughout the whole race but the last mile I was getting tired. Marathons aren’t ever easy. It’s a loooong way to go. I held it together and didn’t let the pace slip too much. My feet were getting tired and the rest of my body was too. I wasn’t really thinking much about my overall time. With about a half a mile to go I looked at my watch and knew I would be cutting it close to 3:30. I thought it would be awesome to go under that, so I tried my best to not let up too much.
I made the last turn and could see the finish line. I glanced at my watch and was in the 3:29 range. Coming up to the finish line, the clock read 3:34. I really didn’t care, but how could my watch be off that much? I figured I might have stopped it when I stopped during the race, but I remembered that I didn’t. Hearing people talk after the race, everyone was saying the clock was way off. So I guess my watch was right. I did it in 3:29:23 (and it is the official time as well). About a 25 minute marathon PR. That’s a huge jump, which you’ll read about later. Basically my first one was awful, then my second was really just to finish without walking. The others I’ve done as training runs as well.
Freezing from my sweaty clothes, I changed into clean dry clothes at my car and went back to the finish to cheer people on. After that, I found a nice spot in the sun. Did a few stretches, then I laid down and took a nice hour long nap. I woke up starving, even after I stuffed my face with oranges and a Twix just after finishing. Then I made my way back home to Atlanta. All in all, it was a great run. Nothing went wrong on my end, as far as training. The start and finish area of Chattanooga looked really cool and I’d would some day like to go back to visit for a weekend. And I would recommend this race if you don’t like the big crowds of major marathons, and still want a flat and fast course.