After the 2003 Washington D.C. Marathon debacle, Melissa & I decided to run the Frederick Marathon in Frederick, MD (just outside of D.C.). It would be her first marathon (the debut) and my second (the redemption). This race was only one week after we planned to run D.C. so the change in plans didn’t really affect our training that much.
Neither of us had ever been to D.C. before, so we went there first to see the sights. The day before the marathon the sun was shining and the temperature was 70˚. We awoke the next morning for the race only to find rainy weather with a temperature of 33˚. And dropping. It’s always something.
The marathon was fairly small (452 finishers). As we lined up at the starting line the rain turned to snow, and it continued to shower us for the next four hours. The race started well. For the first 8-10 miles I was slightly faster than my target pace of 8:00 per mile (3:30 marathon pace) and I felt great, despite the cold and wet conditions.
Around mile 10-12 I tried to eat an energy gel packet handed to my by a race volunteer but I quickly realized my hands were too frozen to work properly. I couldn’t squeeze the packet hard enough to tear the top off. Not a good sign. A little while later I was looking down at the ground for a few seconds and a huge pile of snow fell off the bill of my hat. I hadn’t realized just how hard it was snowing.
This whole time I was learning the hard way that Maryland is much, much hillier than central Illinois. The Washington D.C. Marathon course was flat. This one, not so much. Around mile 16 we headed out of town into the country, where the hills were worse and the wind was howling. This was the absolute low point of the race, as the conditions were truly miserable.
I was slowing down considerably, but I felt okay until mile 21 or so when I completely bonked. Not good, but it was a whole seven miles farther than at Chicago. What is wrong with me? Can I not run a freaking marathon?
I struggled the last five miles. I was soaking wet. I was freezing cold. My muscles were cramping. The race was really spread out at that point so there were no other runners around me. There were no crowds watching the race. I’m still not sure how I managed to keep going forward. I guess I knew that I would be even more uncomfortable if I stopped than I would be if I just kept going.
By the finish I was in no mood to run a full lap around the high school track before crossing the line. I mean it was right there, why would they tease us like that? I finished in 3:49:53. It was a half hour P.R. over my first marathon but I was still pretty disappointed. More importantly I was cold. Very cold.
I hobbled into the high school gym, where food and drinks awaited the runners. I could barely move my legs. I wanted to sit down on the floor but I was so sore I couldn’t bend my knees enough to even do a controlled fall. And I didn’t want to simply collapse. I was shivering. A volunteer took pity on me and mentioned that I could take a hot shower in the locker room. I was unable to get undressed so I just stood under the hot water with all of my clothes on. I’m pretty sure I had mild hypothermia.
What happened after that is kind of a blur to me. I remember having a difficult time finding Melissa, who finished a little while later. I remember wanting to put on warm, dry clothes, but they were all the way across the parking lot in our car and I could barely move. It was truly a miserable experience, though it still wasn’t as bad as the first marathon.
Frederick in 2003 was the last road marathon I ran. I have since run a trail marathon (which also took place in a snow storm) and a few ultras. Frederick is still my P.R. In both of my first two marathons I was very unsure of my abilities and scared of the distance. Older and wiser, I’ve learned some lessons. I have a good feeling about Saturday.