2008 Harrisburg Marathon Report

Well, this thing's overdue. Heck, I'm almost not sore now. In fact, I was 80% unsore yesterday and wore one of those detox patches on the bottom of my foot last night, and today I'm feeling near perfect. Yesterday, I even wobbled two miles. But still, there's a story to tell...

When I got to Harrisburg, the forecast was good... low 50's and "breezy." Not too shabby. The plan was to go out @ 7:15 pace until the wheels fell off. However, let's recap how I came to that decision:

* I really really wanted to get to Boston (7:26) 3:15.
* I decided to aim higher (7:18) 3:11

Before the race started, I bumped into Marc Buckwalter's wife... Marc was the fellow who I'd done my best 20 miler with a few weeks prior, and he's decided to take it easy for this race to spare his winter racing season. "Taking it easy" for him meant 3:10, so I had a bonafide pace group on my hands. In fact, here we are early on:

Now the problem I tend to have is that if I set a goal of 7:15, I want those miles to be under 7:15. So they were. In fact, ran the first six miles @ 7:12 pace. And when we turned into a stiff "breeze," I kept up that pace (though did duck behind Marc as much as possible). Marc kept a steady pace, and I played a game of let him go and catch him again.

In fact, I came through the 1/2 marathon with a 1/2 marathon PR of 1:34 and change.

About this time, Marc asked me how I was feeling and I admitted I didn't feel as good as I'd hoped. Last year on this course, I started feeling bad around 17 miles. This year, I was starting to worry at 14. At about the 15 mile Marc, though, he pulled away for good, as this pic shows:

Soon after, my pace started to falter. I mean really falter. It got ugly and uglier and when the tutu guy passed me, I knew that my hopes for a 3:15 were gone.

At this point, I started to worry about my blood sugar, too. My legs were crazy sore, which is somewhat uncommon for me. I decided to test my blood sugar at the 20 mile mark. Because I expected to need a gel at this point, I expected I'd be right around 120. Instead, I was 227. How many miles I ran high is anybody's guess.

The last six miles were awful (no surprise) and I considered quitting many many times, but knew that I'd have some sense of pride if I finished. So I did and I do. Exactly five minutes slower than last year - eight minutes out of Boston.

The day after the race someone asked me how it went and I said I did some stuff wrong. They said, "What stuff?" I said, "All of it." In no particular order:

* Before I go for a 3:10, I should've gone for a 3:15. I should've gone out @ 7:20, eased up to 7:25 during the headwind and hoped for a strong finish.
* My blood sugars were all over the place during my long runs, and I should've tested more during the race.
* Related to the last one, I should've come up with a gel/water plan - not a gel/sports drink plan.
* I think my taper was too long and too easy.
* In short, I think I peaked too soon... (3 weeks ago, when I did a 20 miler @ 7:30 pace with plenty left in the tank) With such a strong, long aerobic base, I should've done a shorter plan.

So that's that... DON'T read this and think I'm depressed... one of the things I do love is analyzing the successes and failures and learning from them, and I learned a ton this time around.

Special thank to Bill Hathaway for the pics, Dave Gordon for training w/ me for four months, father in law Steve Gingrich for flawlessly executing three bottle switches, Marc Buckwalter (who finished in exactly 3:10) for setting the pace, all of you who read the blog and especially the wife and kids for putting up w/ me.


  1. Congratulations on finishing a tough race. I have been there.

    After many attempts to qualify for Boston, I finally did in 2005. My finishing time was 3:39:30 (much easier than 3:15!) and people were telling me, "Wow you barely made it" and my response was "Are you kidding? I had 90 seconds to spare."

    I think figuring out when you will peak is tough. The standard seems to be to start tapering 3 weeks out. For Ironman Wisconsin, I seemed to peak 2 weeks after the race, so I needed more like 4-5 weeks taper. It's hard to figure this stuff out sometimes.

    I'm running Disney World Marathon in Jan with a bunch of folks from CWD. What is your next race?

    Congrats again.

  2. Marcus, Great story and pics too! Keep your head up- you trained like a madman for this one race and sometimes #$@*^& dosen't quite fall into place.Every race is a building block for the next one and there is no doudt you can run close to 3 hrs. You just need some more long racing miles under your belt.Please check out the Hammer Nutrition products, they might work a little better. Give me a ring anytime for a run and for what's it worth, my 2nd marathon was 14 minutes slower than my 1st. They take a while to figure out!Later, Marc B (P.S. tell Dave congrats on completing his first marathon)

  3. Congratulations on reaching your C goal, I know it doesn't mean much now, but it will be that much sweeter when you get your BQ. I didn't get very emotional finishing my first 2 marathons, but when I BQ I think it will be quite the moment. Keep Running!


  4. I think I might be able to run a marathon if there was a man in a tutu chasing me.

    Then again, maybe not.

    You did it! Congrats, Marcus ...

  5. Marcus, When my rear tire exploded at Ironman this year, the best thing anyone said to me all day was the rider who was right behind me. He said, "I know exactly how you feel!" That pretty much sums up my thoughts when I read your report. Sounds like you have a great attitude. This minor setback will make your eventual BQ all the better (or should I say sweeter!).
    P.S. Wouldn't mind running sometime if you have any interest...

  6. You are still circling the block on the BQ. It's only a matter of time when all the factors come together...training, conditions, blood-sugar, etc. Keep on rockin'!


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