Running – City of Oaks Marathon, Raleigh, NC


This was my second time running the City of Oaks Marathon…last year I was surprised by my wife just prior to race start. This year I would also receive a big surprise, but this one scared the oaks right out of me.

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The 2016 edition, the 10th anniversary of this race was held on a beautiful day to run.

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Before I get into the details of the race I must say how well supported this race was, everything went off without a hitch.  The expo was just the right size, the race day management was perfect and the course, challenging but rewarding!  <<spoiler alert>> BOOM….a new marathon PR and my second sub 4-hour marathon finish.

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My Gear:
Pearl Izumi Road N2
Race Ready Long Distance Shorts
Tobacco Road Marathon Finisher’s Shirt
Running Buddy Pouch (not pictured, held my phone for the walk to race site and 26.2 miles)
Swiftwick Maximus Socks
Julbo Eyewear sunglasses
Garmin 201
Sleefs arm sleeve
GU energy gels
Recovery Drink Cocoa Elite
Race Dots

Race Start:
I made the start video…red shirt starting my GPS watch.

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Mile Splits, 1 -20:
1 – 9:13, 2 – 8:57, 3 – 8:51, 4 – 8:54, 5 – 8:18, 6 – 8:55, 7 – 8:37, 8 – 9:29, 9 – 8:55, 10 – 8:57,
11 – 8:35, 12 – 9:02, 13 – 8:46, 14 – 9:09, 15 – 8:55, 16 – 8:43, 17 – 9:05, 18 – 9:01, 19 – 8:46
20 – 8:57

I followed my pre-race plan to a “T.”  During the opening maylay, AKA the opening miles, I simply wanted to conserve some energy and keep the 4-hour pacers sign in my field of vision.  Around the 6th mile the pack thinned out and I was able to pull up within a few strides of the pacers, and there I stayed. I hung with the 4-hour pacers, who did an OUTSTANDING job, up till the 20-mile point then I left the security and comfort of the pack and took off on my own.  A move like this can be kind of scary for two reasons. #1 I had to manage my own pace, with my 50-year-old eyesight and my 15-year-old Garmin 201, it was near impossible to tell if I was running a 8 minute pace or 9.  #2 if I got caught from behind by the 4-hour group during the closing miles of the race because of my pace mismanagement or lack of fitness it would be embarrassing and a down right ego killer. Still I stuck with my pre-race plan and made a left turn around the pacers and broke free.

Mile 20 and on:
I made my move with the goal of building on the great start and taking time off of my 4-hour goal finish time.  After I made break and taking on some smaller hill climbs I felt like I was clear of the pace group and chipping time off the  4-hour finish. A finish I wanted so bad.  Then I hit the long climb at mile 23…

Mile Splits:
21 – 8:34
22 – 8:50
23 – 9:09
24 – 9:52
This mile has maybe the longest and toughest climb of the day, I could feel my legs were falling off here.

Once I reached the halfway point of this climb I glanced over my shoulder and got the scare of the day.  I could see the neon green shirts of the 4-hour pacers coming up from behind.  My heart sank, my chest became restricted and my legs got heavy. The 4-hour pace group wasn’t off some distance behind me but were within 50 yards of me and one of the pacers was making up ground fast.  I settled back into my own personal attack on this hill when I heard the sounds of heavy breathing from someone coming up from behind.  I thought for sure I had been caught then heard some encouraging words which I thought were for me but one of the pacers was motivating another runner up the hill.  I hooked onto this breakaway pair and followed suit.  Once we crested the hill my mind went to work on me, was my worst fears coming true?  I feared I could not keep up the push and would eventually fall off my 4-hour goal.

Running Scared:
I’ll admit I ran scared for the rest of the race.  For the next 2.2 miles, I could hear or I thought I could hear the pace group footsteps coming up from behind me.  Once past the 24-mile marker, I knew it was time to run with my heart.

14915151_10154658893633334_8314230430144375978_nI’m not sure what was harder the first 13 miles trying to ensure I was on target or the last two miles when I knew I had a good finish in hand, but could tell my legs were feeling the effects of the day, the miles, and the numerous rolling hills of the City of Oaks Marathon course.  They don’t look like much on a course elevation chart but these so called rollers, they take the zip out of you.

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The Finish:
25 – 8:47
26.2 – 8:48
The finish was tough my legs were spent.

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The last .2 of the marathon 26.2-mile distance had my number.  Somehow I knew I would lose 10 minutes in the .2 to the finish. Then I heard a familiar voice calling my name.  That slight distraction from the growing shortness of breath and tightness in my thighs diverted my eyes from the roadway in front of me enough to see my beautiful wife standing in the road encouraging me.  Because of the logistics during the Niagara Falls Marathon, she missed my first and only sub 4-hour finish (3hr 56m 57sec).  Today, there she was standing in the middle of the road cheering me on…this kicked my butt into gear and allowed me to keep up a strong finish.

#BOOM  3:56:06
I finished my 18th Marathon, set a new marathon PR and deposited my second sub-four marathon finish into the Bank of Pheidippides!  When Michele hugged me at the finish I was brought to tears caught up with emotions of the day.

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