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2012 Manchester City Marathon Race Recap

2012 was almost the year of the marathon that wasn’t.

Funny because it started off with so much hope and excitement. I had big goals for 2012 — one of which included running a 3:10 marathon.

But then my knee injury happened and I spent Marathon Monday in Boston on the sidelines, just like I did in 2011. I was still dealing with that injury when I signed up for New York City Marathon, hoping a November marathon would give me enough time to get back into shape.

Summer came, and I slowly recovered from my injury and started training again. It wasn’t easy. I was out of shape and overly cautious — fearing that one misstep would put me right back to where I started. But as the months progressed I started picking up steam. And I began to believe that I could actually make it to the starting line of one marathon this year.

And then Sandy happened. We all know that story at this point. You also know about the scrambling on Saturday that led to me finding myself on the starting line of the Manchester City Marathon alongside Ali and Emily on the windy morning of November 4th.

So let’s talk about the race!

Marathon Morning

The Manchester City Marathon was a first in many ways.

  • The first marathon that I didn’t specifically train for.
  • The first marathon that I went into virtually blind with very little preparation (to give you a sense of this — the drive up to NH on Saturday included several unsuccessful pit-stops in search of GU so that I’d have some sort of fuel on Sunday morning).
  • And…embarrassingly…the first marathon in which I wet my pants. Yep, I am admitting to the entire internet that I peed my pants on Sunday and kept right one running, mostly because it’s relevant to the story. So now you know…

I woke up Sunday morning not really feeling like I was about to run a marathon. The events of the prior week combined with the fact that I had spent all day Friday and Saturday before the marathon traveling (not ideal to be crammed in a car for 2 days before a race), and the reality of knowing virtually nothing about the race I was about to run helped create a nice, warm, comfortable state of denial. I sort of recommend it.

The drive to the start was short and uneventful. We easily found parking and  went through the usual pre-race preparations…like, you know…figuring out which of the bibs you have in your possession is actually yours.

DSC 0320

The energy in the Athlete’s Village at Veterans Park on Sunday morning was incredible. The small town race that was originally expecting 700 total runners had just exploded. There were people signing up for the race that morning. No matter the circumstances that brought them there, it was clear that everyone was just so excited to run. As we stood on the starting line and the gusts of wind started picking up, it suddenly hit me. WE ARE RUNNING A MARATHON!! I could barely contain my excitement.

MCM_start

I felt amazing in that moment. There was absolutely no pressure on this race. I was just heading out on a long run through hilly Manchester with a big group of excited strangers. No matter what happened along the course of those 26.2 miles, it was going to be a good day.

The Race

At 8:50, the race started with very little fanfare, and I took off. A downhill first mile combined with my inability to contain my excitement to be running a marathon resulted in a fast first mile. I reeled the pace in and focused on running easy for the first few miles.

I knew going in that the course would be hilly. My only plan for the start was to keep my pace under control and not push too hard on the uphill sections. The only real issue with this was that I didn’t really know where those hills were or how hard they’d be. I still haven’t decided whether this was a good thing or a bad thing…

MCM 2012 Elevation

I remember two things from the first 5 miles:

1.) I was really, really excited to be racing. Like – more excited than I had ever been in my entire life. With the exception of Boston 2009, I don’t think I have ever smiled so hard during a marathon, or been as emotional about running as I was on Sunday.

and

2.) I really, really had to pee. This wasn’t such good news. I normally make sure to use the porta-potties several times before a race…just in case. This obsessive strategy has served me well. I’ve never had to go to the bathroom during a marathon. But there weren’t really enough porta-potties on Sunday to accommodate the last-minute increase in the field. The lines were long and I didn’t have the time I needed for my pre-race “ritual.” The second I got on the starting line, I felt that uncomfortable sensation…and just prayed it would go away when I started running.

No such luck.

I suppose the benefit of having to go to the bathroom during a race is that it occupies your mind. For the first hour, my thoughts switched between “This is amazing!!!” and “Yikes! I need to use the restroom. Should I stop? Could I just go if I had to??”

I was trying not to look at my watch too much and just run by feel. At the time, I was proud of myself for holding back and running so “slowly.” The numbers, however, tell another story.

MCM2012_Miles1-7

Not awful, but not exactly the 7:40 – 7:45s I had planned

The course wasn’t especially scenic but it did have a lot of variety. We started off running through the “historic” mill district, turned into neighborhood streets and then (around mile 6), along a wide gravel trail that bordered a pond. The rolling hills kept my legs occupied and helped the miles go by quicker. I remember being impressed by how many fans were out cheering…it was no New York, obviously, but way more than I expected at a small town race.

downtownManchester

Right around Mile 8, in the middle of a long climb, I got to see our cheering section for the first time.

DSC 0402

I was so excited to see them while still feeling so incredible. Evan asked how I was doing and I believe my first response was, “I’m so happy!!”

MCM_Mile8_thumbsup

…followed immediately by: “I have to go to the bathroom!”

LB EC_mile8_1

Evan laughed, ran with me for a few steps and left me with these words of advice: “Just let it flow, LB.”

That’s true love right there, folks.

LB EC_Mile8_2

And so that’s when I decided — no matter what, I wasn’t going to stop. I passed an empty porta-potty at the top of the hill and told myself this was it. I was committed to running through anything. I still wasn’t sure what my overall time would be, but I knew that if it came down to it I would be so mad if I blew the chance to PR because of a stupid bathroom break. On top of that, I was afraid of interrupting the momentum that I had gained during the first hour of the race. So I focused instead on getting to Mile 10, and re-assessing my pace/goals from there.

It worked for a little while. The next 5 miles were awesome. I was running strong, and the rolling hills of the course hadn’t yet taken their toll. A sign a little after Mile 10 that read “Welcome to Queens!!” brought tears to my eyes. We got to run along another trail — dirt this time — through the woods and along another body of water. The only thing that had started to concern me a little was the wind. The gusts seemed to be picking up, and no matter what way we turned, I felt like it was always in my face. I tried not to stress about the toll a hilly PLUS windy course would have on my legs.

Besides, I was feeling great — both physically and mentally. I went through the half in 1:37:xx and was on Cloud Nine. I had been trying not to think about my pace the whole time, but after some quick calculations in my head, I realized that I was on track for a potential PR. Even if I happened to slow down a little bit….I could do it. I knew that I really had no business thinking this, so I stayed cautiously optimistic. But I was just feeling so good. I thought about running Marine Corps last year, and how early I had started to struggle in that race. How tough it was for me mentally. I was doing way better now than I had been then…certainly I could hold my pace for the second half of the race.

MCM_Miles8-13

And then Mile 15 happened. We began an almost 3 mile climb that doesn’t look like much on the elevation chart compared to the first 8 miles. But the wind was blowing hard, I had been running for almost 2 hours, and I was starting to get tired. I tucked my head down and told myself that now was the time to start pushing. Mile 16ish of a marathon is always tough. The first part had only been a warm up. This is where the race started. I just needed to hang on for a few more miles until I could see Evan again.

MCM_mile18

Finally, around Mile 18, we started going downhill again. I said a quick prayer of relief and tried to use the descent to pick up some speed. In the middle of all of this, I saw Evan waiting. He ran alongside me, giving me another gel and pumping me up. I think he could tell that I wasn’t quite as strong as I had been 10 miles ago, but he told me that I looked great. When I told him that I had a chance of PR’ing if I could just hang on, he simply said, “Then you do that.” I left him feeling renewed and determined.

MCM_miles14-18

Which lasted approximately one mile… Because I had no idea what was waiting for me at Mile 20. A place where many marathoners hit the proverbial wall, even on a good day. A place where the course went from challenging to absolutely brutal. We climbed up what seemed to be a never-ending hill. It was windy. I still had to go to the bathroom. My legs were tired. And despite all my protests for my legs to keep moving, I couldn’t fight it. My pace slipped below 8:00 for the first time during the race.

DSC 0447

I tried not to get too discouraged. There was still time. All I needed to do was focus on running one mile at a time. The only mile that mattered was the one I was in. If I ran an 8:xx during the previous mile, it didn’t matter. I would shake it off and try again during the next one.

As if all that wasn’t enough, somewhere around this time was when I stopped questioning whether I’d actually be able to go to the bathroom while I was running if things got desperate (In case you’re wondering: the answer for most of the race was: no. It’s not in your body’s natural impulses to want to do this.) I was running down a steep hill when the voluntary suddenly became involuntary. There may have been a brief moment of panic, a slight slowing down and then, I literally said out loud: “Screw it.” What did it matter anyway? I was already hurting, my legs were already slowing down no matter how hard I yelled at them not to, so what was one more bit of discomfort in the midst of all that?

Around Mile 22.5 or so, we turned onto a bike path and I exhaled in relief at the thought of a few flatter miles. We were a little more protected from the wind, and I tried to use that to my advantage. I couldn’t get my pace down to the 7:30s that I wanted so I switched my goal — just keep the miles under 8:00 minutes. That was all I needed to do.

MCM_miles19-24

 

But marathons are unrelenting beasts of a race. You can hold on for 24 miles, only to have everything slip away in the last 2. And that’s exactly what happened on Sunday. The last 2 miles of the race were awful. The course turned back toward the familiar starting area. We ran up the same short, steep hill that we had walked that morning on our way to the start. I knew that the finish line was waiting for me around the corner. And then I saw runners going in the opposite direction and panicked. Why were they running downhill, back toward the mills?! The finish was the other way! I wanted to scream at the officials when they pointed me downhill.

From there, the course only got worse. In an effort to add more mileage to the end, the race organizers basically had us weaving around the mill district — along the river and through parking lots. We were essentially making large loops around the finish. The wind had picked up so much that I felt as though I could barely push against it. All the positive feelings and resolve that I’d held onto for most of the race disappeared. Suddenly 2 miles seemed like an impossible distance. A distance that I could never make without walking.

Somehow I reigned the panic back in and focused on running one mile at a time. All I had to do was make it to Mile 25…then I was essentially done. From there, I just had to get around the next corner, up the next hill, through the next gust of wind. The steps seemed to stretch out forever and my pace continued to drop. Finally, I came around the corner and spied the finish. I gritted my teeth and tried to pick it up over the last seemingly endless stretch.

MCM_miles25-finish

And on that note, I present to you this entertaining series of finish line photos:

MCM_finish_1Coming down the final stretch. Please note the girl to my right. At this point I have no idea she’s there.

MCM_finish_2Girl comes flying by. I still do not notice.

MCM_finish_3Where the heck did she come from?!


MCM_finish_4Flying gazelle runner vs. the clomping elephant. So pissed.

 

MCM_finish_5Please note that at this point, I am STILL not looking at the finish. I do NOT notice my husband screaming at me. I only have death stares for this girl who is out-kicking me in the final stretch of a marathon.


MCM_finish_6

MCM_finish_7And there she goes… I just don’t have it in me. Next time, Cambridge Running Club. Next time.

I crossed the finish line of Marathon #7 in 3:18:43. 

There was no PR…in fact, I technically ran 34 seconds slower than I did last fall. But the success of a race is not always measured by a PR. And on that day I was (and still am) proud to have run a 3:18:xx.

IMG 7136

Final Results (Official)

3:18:43 (7:35 pace)

15th woman overall (out of 316)

10th in Age Group

MCM_finish

Final Thoughts

The Manchester City Marathon was definitely more challenging than I had expected. Even training in Vermont did not prepare me for the hills, especially with the strong headwinds. I know it’s dangerous to play the “what if” game when it comes to marathons. Anything can happen on marathon day. But…doesn’t mean I still don’t wonder if things would’ve gone the same on a less windy day. Regardless, I am incredibly proud of the effort. And overall — I loved this race. Besides the last few miles, the course was great. The organization was top notch – water stations with Gatorade and water every 2 miles. Gu being handed out along the course, and pretty strong crowd support. I’d highly recommend MCM to anyone looking for a late fall marathon in New England.

MCM_medalshot

In one way, I ended 2012 right back where I started — as a 3:18 marathoner. But in another way, it’s completely different. I’m a stronger, different runner than I was last year. I have more confidence in my ability to push myself beyond my limits. And so once again, I have hope. Maybe 2013 will be my year…

If nothing else, the Manchester City Marathon taught me three things:

1.) Sometimes the best races are the ones you didn’t plan for.

2.) Never underestimate the value of good friends who are up for spontaneous races — and a supportive partner who will go along with your craziness.

3.) When it comes to marathons – always (always) wear dark running shorts.

MCM_celebration

**A huge thank you to Evan and Brian for being such amazing sports all weekend, for letting us drag you around the East Coast and for being the best cheer squad we could ask for. And to the amazing Feller family — for taking us in and making the weekend possible.

MCM_LB EC_finishphoto

 

 

44 Responses to 2012 Manchester City Marathon Race Recap

  1. congrats lauren! i have no idea how you managed to run 20 miles without peeing! that’s the worst feeling ever.

    the best races ARE the ones you don’t plan for!
    Kristy´s last post ..congrats

  2. and a thank you to Ali’s brother/sister in law for letting me steal their baby…….haha

    • Oh shoot! WordPress must have eaten that part of the post! I swear that used to be in there… ;)

      But really – thanks for letting me steal your baby. Tyler is the man. (And it was awesome meeting you and Michaela as well!! Thank you so much for making the trip up!!)

  3. Ahhh congratulations!!! So happy to hear that this marathon is as hard as I thought back in 2010 when it was my first one!

    Also, I loved that Evan told you to just let it flow. Best husband ever.
    Steph´s last post ..Fast Legs, Free Heart: Running for Oiselle

    • He definitely is :)

      And that course was definitely rough. I enjoyed the rolling hills at first…but 26.2 miles of them is a lot!

  4. Congratulations! This post made me feel a little less crazy for coming out of one porta potty and getting in line for the next one.

  5. Congrats on a great race! The girl who passed you in the final stretch is in my running club, and she had been training really hard for NYC and like you, made the decision to run Manchester instead (and got the PR she had been training for). Anyway, just wanted to let you know that I recognized the recipient of your home stretch death stare.
    Great job again!

    • No way!! That’s too funny. Well you can tell her I said congratulations!! She did awesome! I’m so glad she got her PR. And in all seriousness, I really wasn’t mad — just surprised. But because I’m gritting my teeth in pain in the photos, it looks like I’m giving her the worst death stare all the way to the finish…resulting in of my favorite photos from the race. :)

  6. During the first hour of my first half marathon I had to pee SO badly, and every porta potty we passed had really long lines. It really does consume your thoughts so you aren’t thinking about running. I actually did try to just go but my body wouldn’t do it. I ended up seeing a long line of empty porta potties around mile 6 and used one, definitely lost a couple minutes there. Congrats on a great marathon!
    Dori´s last post ..Hey 2012 NYC Marathon Runners: I Loved the Richmond Marathon.

  7. You write so well, I was completely into this post! I’m a very new runner, so I have no idea what it’s like to run a marathon. But didn’t “letting it flow” chafe you?
    Lisa´s last post ..True or False: The Older You Get, The Harder It Gets

    • Thank you!

      And yes…haha…a little. It definitely wasn’t comfortable. But I think ample body glide before the start kept it from being worse than it was.

  8. Congrats on ANOTHER great marathon! That elevation profile looks scary. I’m amazed that you could hold it in that long! The finish line stretch pics are the best! Haha!

  9. Three cheers for black shorts :)
    XLMIC´s last post ..Tomorrow is a special day…and other random things

  10. Congrats on making the best of a crazy situation! So glad you were able to run and get a race in. You are crazy fast. I know it’s not a PR for you, but coming off an injury on a windy day? I’m impressed!! :)
    April B.´s last post ..March into April

  11. CONGRATULATIONS, my little pants-peeing clomping elephant. 15th female!!! So impressive. I’m so happy you had a great race and I love this: “The only mile that mattered was the one I was in. If I ran an 8:xx during the previous mile, it didn’t matter. I would shake it off and try again during the next one.” That is fantastic advice for runners of all distances.

    As for the 3:18: You’ll ditch it soon enough. In the meantime, you may be a consistent runner, but you are SO far from where you started the year. Despite the setbacks, there’s so much good to remember from 2012. Like spending two quality weekends with Emily and me, and I guess that whole marriage/live in a dream town with cheese thing.
    Ali´s last post ..From 4:13 To 3:51: My Manchester City Marathon Recap

  12. So many things to say! First, this is an awesome race report! I loved it. Reading your thoughts and what you were feeling for every section of the race makes me feel like I was there with you. Second, Evan is awesome. I have never met him, but I love the pics of him running next to you and how he is always so supportive (of your running and peeing :)). Also, I am dying laughing at the the pics of you giving that girl the death stare! SO FUNNY! If looks could kill… Finally, I totally support peeing your pants :) I have tried during triathlons so many times and never could do it, but once during the Nashville 1/2 marathon, I didn’t even KNOW I had to pee and all of a sudden as I was running up the hill at mile 13, I was peeing on myself. WHAT?! It smelled.
    Congrats again on an awesome race. You WILL get that sub-3:10 this spring!!! Can’t wait to hear your plans!!
    Corey´s last post ..Woofstock 2012

  13. So unbelievably awesome in so many ways.
    alyssa´s last post ..Stepping My Tiny Toe Back Into Training

  14. Congrats! I loved reading this, as I have every piece of your marathon journey this year — as unexpected as its finish may have been!

    And you are so right about bathroom needs being a great way to occupy your mind. I think I spent about 10 miles of Berlin debating when to hit a porta-potty, and which one, and whether I’d stop if there was a line or not. All this without actually stopping (though I eventually did…maybe next time)
    Kimra´s last post ..Moving and Running and Running and Moving

  15. Great race! So funny… the girl at the end of the race is one of my running buddies, Julia. A fun surprise to see her as part of your recap!

  16. [...] were other marathons out there: Health on the Run, 2012 Manchester City Marathon Race Recap. Just so you don’t think that I’m all about the marine corps, here is Lauren’s [...]

  17. Congrats on a strong marathon under very unique conditions! If I was in your position I too would have quickly looked for a nearby alternate marathon … most of my friends displaced by NYCM are just waiting until spring. Enjoy your hard earned recovery week.
    Runshorts´s last post ..And if it was warm she wouldn’t wear much more

  18. so this is why runners need dark shorts :) the tweet makes total sense. 1. i am in awe of your determination and come back from this summer. 2. i don’t know if i could ever pee on myself (again, awe). 3. your hubs seems like the sweetest and most supportive man 4. I hope to meet him when i come to VT to run someday :) congrats on another marathon!!
    elizabeth´s last post ..October Recap

  19. Love this, so funny and so exciting. I also love the death match at the finish line. If it’s any comfort, you have a better tan than she does ;)

    I hope you dedicated that pee to your Dad. If he gets the glory, he also gets the pee as well, surely ;)
    Cathryn Ramsden´s last post ..Running in So-Cal: Long Beach

  20. Congrats miss pee-pee pants!!!

  21. First of all, CONGRATS!! Secondly…I loved that you included the peeing incident. I think it’s something that all runners encounter at some point and you’re right – peeing your pants while running is NOT something the body naturally wants to do. In last year’s NYC half, I was so uncomfortable that I actually tried to make myself pee my pants (can’t believe I just admitted that on the internet). However…my body would just not cooperate. Luckily, the urge subsided by the second half of the race, but believe me – I tried. Hehe.
    Megan (The Runner’s Kitchen)´s last post ..How to run 80 miles a week (or 60 or 40)

  22. I LOVED this recap… Maybe because it reminded me so much of my situation. I was either going to run that one or the one I ended up doing in PA. (My cousin lived right by the one we did.) I never imagined running a marathon without knowing the course, etc. You had such a great attitude and I’m so glad it worked out for you to run this one. How on earth did you go 20 miles needing to pee?!!

    The one I ended up doing in PA was on a scenic trail but NO crowd support. The RD said it was NOT a spectator friendly course and she could not have been more right. I found myself playing the “what-if” game but in the end I know I ran the race I was meant to run. It all worked out and there is something to be said about being a little spontaneous! :-)
    Tia @ Arkansas Runner Mom´s last post ..Delaware and Lehigh Heritage Marathon- Race Report!

  23. I did read this as soon as you posted it, but am just now commenting. CONGRATULATIONS, Lauren!! You had a great race and I still love you regardless of peeing in your shorts.

    I hope we do get to run the relay together in June because I know that it will be tons of fun!
    Jamie @ couchtoironwoman´s last post ..Running Scenes Instagram Style

  24. Congrats!! I love that you peed your pants!
    Emily´s last post ..Restaurant review: Native Foods Cafe

  25. I’m in the Cambridge Running Club. That’s Julia! Great race :)

  26. [...] love is telling your wife to pee her pants. See Lauren’s race recap for more on [...]

  27. Hey, there and congrats! Came here via Ali’s blog and loved your recap. Well done!!! :)

  28. Haha…just let it flow…I love it!! Still, you rocked it! Congrats on an awesome race! I would love to run this race one day!!
    Chels R.´s last post ..TGIFriday Faves.

  29. Congrats on your race! You did a great job especially with all of the last minute challenges and changes you were given!
    Blogging Runner´s last post ..Sucker-Punched

  30. Great recap!! Such a great overall time, that is amazing!

  31. Congratulations, Lauren!! I actually read this earlier in the week but was holding the little guy and couldn’t comment =)
    You are seriously amazing. You ran such a strong race despite everything you dealt with this year. I’m bummed I didn’t get to see you in NYC, but am so glad that you were able to find a race to run last weekend!! =)
    Michele @ Nycrunningmama´s last post ..Race for Recovery 5k/10k

  32. Congrats on an amazing marathon! I’m pretty sure 3:18 is going down sooner rather than later…especially now that you’ve mastered the pee while running trick.

    Love the death stares at the end, ha.
    Susan – Nurse on the Run´s last post ..a couple days in nairobi

  33. Fantastic job and what a great race report! I just came across your blog, and am so glad I did. You’re so inspiring! (Especially coming off injuries, as I’ve also been dealing with…) Can’t wait to see what the spring holds for you.
    Laura @ Mommy Run Fast´s last post ..To marathon, or not to marathon?

  34. GREAT JOB! Excellent post. Your thoughts are very encouraging to me, another non NYCMer. I visualized Philly for the first time Thursday during the run; trying not to go in blind, but I’m excited for a very scenic route and some fun crowds!!! What’s next for ya?

  35. I Loved your story! I found it Via Ali’s Blog, and found the pee story so funny :) I can’t run marathons(in my current state of athleticism) due to being a sprinter and hurdler for a track team, but I would love to be a great marathoner like you one day! Im sure you will get the 3:10 soon. Keep up the great work, and say hi to your hubby for me :) (hes so sweet for how he encouraged you along the way!) –Elle

  36. Congrats on pushing through the last two miles and still kicking my marathon PR’s butt. Seriously, I can’t even imagine running one mile at your pace. Awkwardly, did you have much chaffing after peeing your pants? I almost did it during Marine Corps last year but was too nervous that my shorts would rub so I copped a squat in the woods next to the reservoir. And on one other note, I think it’s awesome you did MCM last year and another MCM this year. Sounds like things worked out pretty well for you guys.
    Amanda @ Running On Waffles´s last post ..6 Months at Rasika

  37. Awesome job on the 3:18 marathon. I am glad you enjoyed the race! I know you’ll be able to reach the 3:10 goal!

  38. That pesky 3:18. I’m right there with you. Though now I’m “inspired” (ha!) to try and piss myself in a race, something I’ve still never been able to do. Actually, when I ran NYCM a few years ago I had to go the WHOLE TIME and it never went away and I had a cramp for days as a result so I must know the secret. :)

    • Ugh seriously. But at least you’re moving (slightly) forward! One more second and you’re there.

      And I’m honestly not sure what sounds worse…letting go or living with a cramp for days after the race. But I’m seeing a whole new challenge in running – how long can you make it before your body takes over during a race. Right now my record is 20 miles, let’s see if I can make it the whole way next time… :)

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