I started the 2016 Savannah Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon too fast. Despite the amazing weather, I couldn’t manage the tail-end of the race and finished 16 seconds outside my goal.

Pretty darn close.

I crossed the finish line with a personal record of 4:16:15, beating February’s marathon by 12 min, 42 sec.

2016 Savannah Marathon Recap

2016 Savannah Marathon Recap

Space blanket FTW


I woke up before 5AM and jumped on the treadmill for a slow, 10-minute shakeout run. A first for me, but I’m now a believer!

It woke me up, got blood and oxygen flowing to my legs, calmed me down, warmed my body up for the cold morning, increased my appetite, and probably sped along my gastric system.

Runners Connect recommends a shakeout run 2-2.5 hours before your race. Read about it here.

I ate oatmeal with a bit of cheese, and took a coffee and 2 pieces of toast with peanut butter and honey to-go. And yes, I managed to get honey on my race clothes.

Heat cut last year’s race short, but low 50’s greeted us this year. I wore extra clothes and a space blanket until it was time for me to warm up, which consisted of running and skipping in the back alleys of Savannah in the dark.

2016 Savannah Marathon Recap

Me in a back alley

After I used the port-a-potty for the millionth time, they were releasing the 1st of ~20 corrals. I weaved through the crowds to find the 4:15 pace group and then moved to the front of that same corral.

The 4:15 pace group would be running 9:44 pace, and I wanted to aim for 9:40 so I could have time to use the bathroom, fill water bottles, fall on my face, etc. And if they passed me, I’d have a visual marker for 4:15.

2016 Savannah Marathon Recap

Corrals behind me

The marathon

I used a plain stopwatch with a split button. I also used my Nike+ app, but started it 30 seconds too early. I didn’t catch the race-clock time at the start, either.

2016 Savannah Marathon Recap Starting Line

Starting Line

The start went smoothly. But about a mile in, there were an excessive number of walkers who should not have been in the first half of the corrals.

I will chalk it up to inexperience, but I think it does both parties a disservice. I have to move laterally around you, and you seem discouraged that you’re being passed by everyone. Wait for your assigned corral to start. You can gain a lot of strength by running with a similarly paced community.

I missed the first mile marker and when I hit the second mile marker at 18:31, I glanced and saw “18:XX” on my watch and assumed I was doing OK. But that was too fast.

I did the first 5K in 29:18 (9:26 pace). But all I saw was that I ran 9:42 on mile 3, which was perfect.

Ok, so time out.

2016 Savannah Marathon Recap

Knowing and adjusting pace during a marathon

If I had known what times I needed to cross milestone distances, I would have known that I was running too fast when I reached the 5K, 10K, and 10 mile clocks.

I didn’t write them on my arm or even look them up, because going TOO FAST was never on my radar. I didn’t think I was going to be able to keep 9:40 pace. I figured knowing those times would be saddening, and not helpful.

It wasn’t even in my routine to write them down, because in February I aimed for 10:00 min/mile and the math was easy.

So, I just ran mile by mile. Sometimes I went too fast and sometimes I went too slow. I figured it was balancing out.

But it wasn’t. I was straight-up going too fast.

Race Highlights

1. Oglethorpe Avenue & surrounding squares

2016 Savannah Marathon Recap

TH getting creative with his photos

The downtown spot at 6-8 miles is always one of my favorite sections. Oglethorpe Ave is part of an out-and-back and the median is filled with plenty of cheering spectators. (Except for that one guy smoking a freaking cigar.)

The Half Marathon Relay transition there gives an influx of fresh runners and the bands are jamming.

Between the 5K and 10K mark, I averaged 9:37, but in this downtown section between 10K and 10 miles, I averaged 9:34 in part because of the excitement in the air.

It’s also what probably did me in later in the race.

2. Gordonston Neighborhood

The Gordonston neighborhood throws a big block party during the race, passes out beer to the runners, and has a great time.

When it was so blasted hot last year, they had coolers full of ice and turned their sprinklers onto the road.

I stopped to pee in a port-a-potty with no line. A spectator was heading that way and jumped out of the way so that I could go first.

Way nicer guy than Cigar Guy.

After you leave the Gordonston Neighborhood, you approach the half marathon split off near mile 12.

2016 Savannah Marathon Recap

3. Harry Truman Parkway, Pt 1

At the half marathon split off, the marathoners immediately run up the ramp to Harry Truman Parkway, which is a unshaded, unrelenting highway.

This year there were more volunteers to help with water, but it still feels like such a lonely stretch.

Running the highway, and then along DeRenne Ave in the sun and near traffic took a lot out of me. But I knew we were heading to a great cheering crowd…

4. Savannah State University

The absolute best part of the full marathon route is Savannah State University! The students come out and cheer and the bands are great.

Despite the wonderfulness of Savannah State at 16-18 miles, I was quickly arriving at the intersection of “the toll of past miles” and “wow, there’s a lot left to run”.

Miles 10-20, I averaged 9:53. When I hit mile 20, I did the math and knew I had to run a perfect 9:40/mile to finish up the 26.2 for 4:15:00.

And then I saw TH! He drove out to see me at mile 20. He confirmed my math and encouraged me to keep pace.

2016 Savannah Marathon Recap

4. The last six miles

My legs began to feel like cement and it was hard to pick them up. All of my energy was directed forward.

I was slowing down.

A lot of runners were falling apart around me.

At a turn-around point at mile 22, I saw the 4:15 group. They were not far behind me.

I felt past the danger of hitting the wall. I knew I could finish the race running, but not sure at what speed.

In mile 23, I began to understand that I needed to find some reserve, sheer will, or something else inside me if I was going to make the 4:15 time goal. It was still within my reach, but not at my current pace.

In mile 24, the 4:15 pacer (who had managed to lose all her runners in the 2 miles since I had seen her) passed me on a hill on the freeway. She spoke a few encouraging words as she took my goal up the hill and out of my reach.

Shortly after, I tried to pick up the pace twice.

I revved up my legs and focus on my posture, but I didn’t have enough oxygen in my system. It felt like my current pace was aerobic, the pace I wanted was anaerobic, and I couldn’t do it.

I have exercise-induced asthma. I use my inhaler before I go run and that’s typically the end of it. This is the first time I’ve ever experienced issues during a run after preventive measures.

I averaged 10:02 pace for the last 6 miles with the fastest mile being mile 25 at 9:50.

I finished the race at 4:16:15.

2016 Savannah Marathon Recap Forsyth Park

Near the Finish

2016 Savannah Marathon Recap

Lessons learned

There were a few issues that kept me from running 4:15:59.

Time and energy management was one. Next time, I will keep a list of milestone splits and hopefully have a more advanced watch. And then, I need to reel it in if I’m going too fast.

That lack of oxygen feeling at the end of the race was real.

Despite using my inhaler post-race, I kept minor asthmatic symptoms for most of the weekend. (Don’t fret, I monitored it closely and was ready to treat it if needed).

If I had managed my energy better at the beginning of the race, it might not have been a problem. But I’m still going to discuss with my doc some more preventative measures.

Overall, I’m dang happy that I was that close.

16 seconds.

I left it all out there with no big explosion of effort. Just quiet solo discipline mile after mile – just like in my training.

Thanks to TH for running all over Savannah just to wave at me! He provided great support before, during, and after the race. And thanks to all of you for following along and cheering me through another training cycle!

2016 Savannah Marathon Recap Medal