For the past seven years, Labor Day weekend has been synonymous with RACE WEEKEND for Sue. The Marquette Marathon & Half Marathon is a very special race to me; it was my very first half marathon…which got me started running in the first place; often I will run it with my step-daughter, daughter-in-law, or a friend, but sometimes alone; it’s my home course as the trail literally runs through my small neighborhood; and we usually have a family and friend race/birthday(s)/end of summer party afterwards.
So to say I was looking forward to Saturday, September 3 would be a bit of an understatement. As it ends up, I would be running alone this year, but I knew there would be several familiar faces out there on the course cheering me on. I must say, it was rather relaxing to sleep in my own bed, eat in my own kitchen, and get ready in my own bathroom/bedroom all at a much later than usual time of morning. Since the race didn’t start until 9:00 am, I convinced my hubby to drive me to the start, which is five miles from my house. This meant I didn’t have to drive into town, park, get on a bus and wait for it to fill, then ride half an hour only to get back to just about where I’d started my morning travels an hour or so earlier. This also meant I didn’t leave the house until 8:20 am. I was doing a happy dance in my head remembering the many 4:00-5:00 am departures of the past several months. I didn’t even need to use the porta-pottie at the start – my wait was that short.
Bud dropped me at the gate to the Michigan Iron Industry Museum where the race starts and I walked the quarter mile or so in. After a short warm up and half a Honey Stinger waffle, I took off my jacket, turned in my gear bag, and walked the short distance to the start line to join the other 400 or so runners. The first mile is mostly on a narrow two-rut trail that brings you down to the actual Iron Ore Heritage Trail and I knew this part would be slow with the usual race start bottleneck. Therefore, I just took it slower than my normal pace and didn’t use any walk intervals until we hit the wider trail and managed to spread out some.
The weather was perfect, I felt good, and that day it all just fell into place. I easily settled into a good rhythm of 2 minute 30second running/30 second walking intervals and the miles seemed to pass quickly. As I said, I know this course, I know it has a significant net elevation loss, and I know exactly where the losses and gains occur. As my Garmin watch beeped at the end of every lap, I would glance down and see I had run yet another sub-10:00 minute mile. That certainly is not speedy, but it is something I haven’t seen in a long time. Five and half miles into the race, I crossed the road I live on and high fived my neighbor Jamie; I was feeling really good and was sure my best few miles were ahead of me. And I was right – miles 7, 8, and 9 were all under 9:30!
Shortly we were in town with a lot more spectators along the way. My daughter-in-law and grandchildren were there for quick hugs and “Go Gramma Susie!” I was waiting for the cramps to start, but hoping maybe – just maybe they wouldn’t this time. I’ve been working hard on adjusting my fueling and hope I’m finding the right mix. As anticipated, I started to tire more the last few miles and the dreaded Third Street finish delivered that one quad cramp I can’t seem to finish a race without. (The final half mile or so of the race runs up a bear of a gradual incline to the finish line.) However, I barely noticed it the last few blocks because my grandchildren were there cheering and running the sidewalk alongside me. Along with Sarah and the kids, my friend Rebecca was at the finish line waiting to congratulate and give me a ride home. I glanced at the timing clock and said to myself, “well done!” It turned out to be my best time for a half marathon in four years. My fastest race since several injuries and surgeries. And I felt good. I was so happy to be doing this for a special reason. One more Labor Day weekend Marquette Marathon Half in the books. I’m hoping there are several more in my future.