Disclaimer: I received a free entry to the New Jersey marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!
Just a few days ago I finished my second marathon! It was an amazing day and I’m still on an emotional high from it. The weather worked out perfectly and it was an all around wonderful day. Spoiler alert: Goals were crushed.
Race day eve: The night before, my boyfriend and I enjoyed a dinner at Olive Garden, played some mini golf and billiards, then settled into our hotel. Harry Potter was on tv all night, which was great – however, the partiers throughout our hotel were not. I didn’t fall asleep until 1 and I woke up around 5.
Pre-race: By reading other runners’ recaps, I knew that traffic has been an issue at this race in the past. I arrived at the Monmouth Park race track just after 6 (for a 7:30 start) with plenty of time to use the porta johns (there were plenty), and wait. I started the morning a tad grumpy due to my lack of sleep. Checking my bag and getting settled into my corral (7, the last one) was painless. The race started right on time, and I crossed the start about 10 minutes later.
Miles 1-5 brought us on a long loop through neighborhoods around Monmouth Park. My plan was to run in the 12:00/mi range for the first 5, but I ended up being a little faster. I spent a lot of time on my phone trying to figure out tracking. The AthLinks app wasn’t working for my mom, so I turned on MapMyRun (I’m glad I paid for the MVP plan!). My heart rate stayed reasonably low, and after a couple of miles I was able to run with plenty of room around me. Splits: 11:21, :38, :51, :48, :47
Miles 6-10 – “mighty, strong, powerful”. I upped my intervals from 60:30 to 90:30 as I hit mile 5. I contemplated waiting, but my goals weren’t going to be met by me sitting back. These miles brought us closer to the water and through some nice neighborhoods with people cheering on couches that they brought outside to sit on. I felt great during these miles, despite a dull ache in my left ITB that almost sent me into a panic. This was eventually settled by finding the right place on the road to run. I lost about 90 seconds during a potty stop at mile 8, but aside from that, these 5 miles were pretty uneventful and (mostly) below goal pace. The best part? There was a girl singing potty songs outside the porta johns! Splits: 11:17, :18, :22, 12:23 (potty break), 11:08.
Miles 11-15 – “this is NOT Marine Corps (Marathon)”: I mentally faded a bit during these miles, especially 11-13. The half marathoners turned off, leaving the course much emptier. I struggled with remembering that this is where I started to lose it during Marine Corps, especially with my knee still bothering me a bit. I wasn’t really paying attention to my watch, but if I had been, I would have seen that it felt hard to run because I was running faster than goal pace. I kept repeating out loud “This is NOT Marine Corps!” and it really helped me keep going. I came out of it when I hit 15, and knew it was time for the last of “four 5-milers”. Splits: 11:10, :19, 10:58, 11:01, 10:43.
Miles 16-20 – “You’re doing this!” – As soon as I hit 15 miles, I started processing that a sub 5:00 was very possible if I kept running as well as I was. I was entertained by beautiful seaside houses and before I knew it I passed the 5:05 pace group, which started about 1:30 before I did. Next was Asbury Park, which was not nearly as nice as I had imagined. However, I was on cloud nine. I started passing people left and right. I also started feeling pretty hot, and dumped water over my head every 1-1.5 miles. I struggled a bit around mile 19, wondering when the turnaround would hit. Once I turned around, my quads started burning and I started to truly feel fatigued. Splits: 11:02, 10:57, 11:20, 10:52, 11:24.
Miles 21-26.2 (or 26.49): The miles north were riddled with challenges. I definitely hit a sort of wall. Around mile 22.5, 2.5 miles of side stitches began. I struggled so much during miles 22-25. People around me were having a rough time, and I started to feel like them (although I was still passing them all). At mile 24.5 (I think), the 5:05 pacers passed me. Oh no, I’ve lost my sub-5:00. At one point they got to be almost out of my view. I decreased my intervals to 75:30 and pushed forward. Around the 25 mile marker, my cramps subsided, but my legs were still dead. I turned off my interval timer and decided to do what I could. I caught up to, and passed, the 5:05 pacers! While I realized the sub 5 wasn’t happening, I was going to fight for a 5:05. The last mile or so is a blur of me looking for Jake and wondering where the finish was (my watch had been about .2 miles ahead all race long). As soon as I saw the chute, and Jake, I gave as much as I could. I just remember the announcer saying “Look at her smile! She is so exhilarated!” Yes, yes I was. Splits: 11:15, :44, 12:19, :19, :43, 11:26, 5:17 (.49)
Final time: 5:03:43. I met my C, B, and A goals and set a PR by 28:32. I can’t say that I “couldn’t believe it”, because I could. I trained hard, was in great shape, believed in myself, and executed my race plan pretty well. I had the race that was truly for me, and despite having a 5 at the beginning of my time, I couldn’t be happier.
Post race: I made my way through the chute pretty quickly, getting boxed water (why boxed?), gatorade, and a snack box. I skipped the photo station, which I regret, as I decided to buy my pictures. Reuniting with my boyfriend and getting my bag was painless, however the fact that you couldn’t bring bags into the finish festival just created a hassle that I wasn’t up to. I changed out of my shoes, ate some potato chips that I had packed in my checked bag, and left pretty quickly. I felt great, but I was ready to go get some FOOD. Jake kept asking me if I felt good and said I “looked like I was in a lot of pain”, but I really was just so happy that I couldn’t do anything but smile and laugh. It wasn’t until after food and a nap when my body caught up with my emotions!
Swag: The medal is absolutely beautiful! It is a spinner with beautiful colors. I love that all of the towns the course runs through is on the back as well. The marathoners received a long-sleeved shirt that matched the medal (the half-ers got a tee that matched their medal).
Overall, this race was wonderful. The course support and volunteers were amazing. The course was mostly beautiful, aside from Asbury Park (which also smelled) and a stretch in Long Branch. The course was virtually flat, with only 2-3 gentle inclines over bridges. You also can’t beat boardwalk miles and a beach finish.
While the field was mostly half-marathoners, I actually liked that the course emptied out. It allowed me to focus on my run more. I also loved the out and back. Seeing the marathoners coming back was really motivating and kept me moving. I could also see how much time I had gained on those who I had passed!
Just a few days out, most soreness has subsided, aside from some quad stiffness. I’m already yearning to run another 26.2. I love the training and the pain that comes after mile 20, along with the pride that comes with meeting your goals. I’m not running until Sunday at the earliest, but I’m ready to get back to the grind. While the Goofy Challenge is the next marathon I have on my schedule at this time, I’m contemplating an October/November marathon as part of my prep.
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