I have never been more excited to write a race recap! The Myrtle Beach Marathon went better than I ever dreamed it would. Every single detail came together and I ran the strongest race of my life, both physically and mentally. I beat all of my goals by a landslide and scored myself a 13 MINUTE PR! Here are all the details.
Best race photo of my life! At mile 26 too!
This race kind of snuck up on me. I have been super busy with work and home stuff that our trip to Myrtle Beach felt like it came out of nowhere. All of a sudden it was time to pack up and head south, and before I knew it I was at the expo picking up my stuff and then at the starting line the next morning. I think this was a huge blessing in a way, because I didn’t really have time to get myself all worked up and stressed about the huge challenge ahead of me. I also went into it with sort of low expectations, since my #1 goal was just to finish this time after my DNF here two years ago.
I was very excited about the weather forecast, which looked absolutely perfect. High 30s at the start and low 50s at the finish, with minimal wind for a coastal race. I was so thankful that wind didn’t seem like it was going to be a big issue this year, because it has been really tough the last few years which caused me to expend too much energy. Everything seemed like it was starting to come together.
Even despite all of these positives, I still woke up on Saturday morning with a very nervous tummy. I focused on doing my pre-race routine – bathroom, coffee, eat, get dressed, bathroom again… but my breakfast made me feel a little nauseous so I couldn’t get much down. I left the house around 5:30 to drive about 20 minutes to the start, and once I got there I pumped (#momlife), used a porta-potty (there were a TON this year with no lines – so much appreciated!), and made my way to the start. I felt like I had a ton of pent-up nervous energy that I needed to get out. I couldn’t wait to start running to release it.
Luckily, I knew Andrew, who was pacing the 3:45 group, which was my ‘Gold’ goal, and I was able to say hi to him when I lined up in his corral at the start. Seeing a familiar face made me feel a lot more comfortable. I knew he would be running about an 8:30 pace, which I thought was doable based on my training and recent half marathons. However, I still had some fear lingering in the back of my mind from two years ago when I had to suddenly stop at mile 21, so I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to hold that pace the entire time. I decided to go for it and see what happened.
Finally it was 6:30 (super early race start!) and we were off. There was a big wall of people with the 3:45 pace group so I hung a little behind them to give myself some space. Since we started toward the front, the course wasn’t super crowded and it was easy to keep the pace I wanted. As expected, an 8:30 pace felt really easy, and almost too slow. I was SO tempted to pick it up a little bit – but I have made that mistake so many times before. I kept telling myself to be patient and hang out here at this very comfortable pace for a while. We ran out to a shopping area called Market Common, did a loop around there, and then headed back out toward the beach to start running back the other direction.
- Mile 1 – 8:32
- Mile 2 – 8:26
- Mile 3 – 8:34
- Mile 4 – 8:28
- Mile 5 – 8:32
- Mile 6 – 8:29
- Mile 7 – 8:32
I passed the 10K timing mat at 52:06, but it was a little off from what my watch said. Actually, all the mile markers were about a tenth of a mile short from what mine and the other people around me had on their watches. Not a big deal, and I knew it would eventually even out at the end. I had set my Garmin to show my overall average pace while I was running and it stayed steady at 8:30-8:31/mile the entire time, so I knew I was right on track.
I have run the full (up to mile 21.5) and the half here a couple times, so I know the Myrtle Beach Marathon course very well. I practiced visualizing it on my long runs. I knew every long stretch, every turn, every mile marker, every timing mat. I knew there would be two parts of the course that would be the hardest for me. The first would be the 9 mile stretch along the water from mile 8-17. Not only can this be hard physically because of the wind that comes from off the ocean and between the buildings, but it’s also very tough mentally because you’re running straight for so long without any change in direction. I knew this was my first big test, and if I could get past this part feeling strong I’d be in really good shape.
- Mile 8 – 8:28
- Mile 9 – 8:33
- Mile 10 – 8:35
- Mile 11 – 8:24
- Mile 12 – 8:25
- Mile 13 – 8:33
I passed the halfway point at 1:51:05, still keeping a very steady 8:30 pace. I have never run a more consistently paced race in my entire life, and I really owe that to our pacer Andrew. I have never run an entire race with a pace group before, but it was very freeing to be able to just run and not expend any extra energy worrying about looking at my watch and crunching numbers. It really helped me enjoy myself and take in my surroundings better. I also loved the pace group for the support and the camaraderie. The miles were just flying by as I spent time talking with the people around me and getting to know them and their stories. It was amazing!
- Mile 14 – 8:36
- Mile 15 – 8:34
- Mile 16 – 8:31
- Mile 17 – 8:30
- Mile 18 – 8:33
From miles 15-17 we took a very slight turn bringing us even closer to the water, and the wind really picked up once we did that. I tried to focus on not fighting the wind too much so that I didn’t waste too much energy. I knew it would be over soon and that we would be turning and running inland at mile 17, so I just hung in there. I never let myself feel mentally defeated. Something that really helped me was to think of the saying, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” Yes, I realize that’s kind of funny to say since I am a vegetarian 🙂 But for me, the mental part of running is huge and it’s very easy to get caught up in that and get overwhelmed. I kept reminding myself to eat the elephant one bite at a time. Rather than stress about the 26.2 miles ahead of me, I broke it up into smaller more manageable “bites” – just make it to the 10k timing mat, then the half, then mile 17 when we finally turn away from the beach and the wind, then mile 18.3 where another timing mat is, and so on. This made it seem less scary and more doable!
I passed the next checkpoint (18.3 miles) at 2:35:32, still right on my 8:30 target. By now my watch and the mile markers were perfectly in sync. I knew my next “bite” was to make it to the spot where I had to stop last time, at mile 21.38. This was the second part of the course that I was nervous about. I was feeling really great at this point, especially since we were now away from pretty much all wind. The pace still felt extremely comfortable and once again I was tempted to pick it up some, but I really didn’t want to push it until I got farther in the race. I think one factor aside from pacing that helped me feel really strong was my hydration and fueling. I actually decided to wear my Camelback just like I did in my last marathon two years ago, and I am so glad I did. I loved having water whenever I needed it, as well as a place to store my Honey Stingers (and my obsession – chapstick) that was out of the way. I never felt thirsty or like I had any sort of dip in energy the entire time. I drank when I felt like it and ate a half pack of Stingers at 1 hour, and then every 35 minutes after that. It was the perfect balance that left me feeling hydrated and fueled.
- Mile 19 – 8:30
- Mile 20 – 8:34
I really love hitting mile 20 in a marathon. To me, the two halves of a marathon are not 13.1 and 13.1. I think the first ‘half’ is the first 20 miles, and the other half is the last 6. If you run a smart race, both of those segments should take about the same amount of effort. The last 6 miles were such an out of body experience. I kept waiting for the wall to come (either mentally or physically) and it never did. I kept telling the pace group that I couldn’t believe how good I still felt, hoping I wasn’t jinxing myself. I got a little worried when the spout to my Camelback fell off at mile 21 and I had to stop to get it, but I was able to pick it up and get right back into it. I also got worried when our pacer Andrew had some IT band pain at mile around the same time and had to slow down. But the best feeling of all was running past the exact point where I had to stop and get medical help two years ago. I remember so clearly how terrible I felt in that moment, and today in this moment I felt so strong and unstoppable.
From miles 22-26.2 I refused to let myself think about how much I had left, and instead just focused on working on the mile I was in at the moment. One bite at a time. It got a little lonely, since our pace team had broken up quite a bit and I was now running alone. We were also in a more isolated part of town that seemed to drag on a bit, and I saw my pace slow a little bit in miles 22 and 23. I gave myself a little pep talk and decided that it was all me now. No pacer to take me the rest of the way, nobody to talk to and distract me. Nothing but me and the road and my own determination. I knew I was going to PR at this point, and it was up to me to decide by how much.
- Mile 21 – 8:27
- Mile 22 – 8:39
- Mile 23 – 8:38
- Mile 24 – 8:31
- Mile 25 – 8:35
I kept working on each mile, one at a time, and before I knew it I saw the flag for mile 25. I decided I needed to pick it up and finish strong, just like I had been practicing in my long runs. I gave those last 1.2 miles everything I had. Right after the mile 26 flag we turned right into the finish area, and I looked down at my watch and saw a time of 3:42. I could not believe that I had just run that fast. I started getting teary eyed once I saw all the people watching by the finish line, and when the announcer called out my name. I ran through the finish line and immediately burst into tears. I DID IT!!!!!
- Mile 26 – 8:21
- Last . 20 – 8:07 pace
- Finish Time – 3:43:10 / 8:31 average pace
I think this is my shocked face 🙂
What went right in this race? Sometimes everything just comes together and conditions are perfect. It happens very rarely, but I think today was one of those days. Everything from the temperature, the wind, how my body felt, the familiarity of the course, my fueling and hydration plan, my mental strategies, my slower than usual pacing, my strong finish. I tried very hard to stick to my power words of patience, discipline, and trust. Patience to not go out to fast. Discipline to stick to the plan and keep going when it starts to hurt. Trust in my training and my body.
Like I said in my goals post, this was more than just a race to me. This was a chance for me to get my redemption from two years ago and finally cross the finish line of the Myrtle Beach Marathon. This was marathon #10 in state #10 for me, which allows me to officially join the 50 states club and start working toward the other 40 (however long it may take!). And most importantly, this race was an opportunity for me to leave some sad, angry, defeated feelings on the pavement, and remind myself that I am strong and can do hard things. I could not have asked for a better experience for my 10th marathon, and I am so proud and thankful.
What’s next? Well, first I’m looking forward to a few months off from hard training! I jumped into training pretty soon after baby, and my body and mind are definitely ready to cut back a bit. Then marathon training will resume this summer for an undetermined fall marathon. I plan to keep chipping away at my time in order to hopefully get my BQ sometime in the next couple of years. We’ll see! Running has taught me that anything is possible with time and a lot of hard work!