I’m gonna make like NASA and term my 2023 Wilmington Marathon a successful failure. Did I get exactly what I wanted out of it? No! Did I still come away with some valuable takeaways, a triumph of technicality, and, y’know, survive the ordeal? Yes, yes, and yes! And so it is in a fit of positivity that we dive straight into my race recap.
Good news: race morning started out about ten degrees warmer than the previous weekend, in the mid-forties and creeping toward the low sixties. Bad news: there was rain in the forecast. So I donned a rain jacket overtop my race clothes, slapped on the some gloves, and off we went.
Hot tip: if you’re getting dropped off at the start line of this race, add at LEAST fifteen minutes to your travel time budget! There were major backups along the last few miles to the race start at Johnny Mercer Pier. Luckily we had left in plenty of time, and I had a good half hour to stand around with everyone else under the parking garages to hide from the sporadic showers.
The race started a bit late, although I’m not sure why. There was a little trouble getting the pre-race anthem to play – we were briefly treated to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” instead, which people around us joked was the runner’s anthem anyway – but they finally got it sorted out. The star-spangled banner yet waved, and we were off!
THE RACE BEGINS
We started on the main drag of Wrightsville Beach, a road I am fairly familiar with – I was able to wave at Tower 7 as we passed (if only they’d left out some margaritas). The course quickly turned away from the beach town and onto local roads. “Stay on this side of the cones!” said a cop. “If you get hit by a car on the other side, I can’t help you!” General laughter.
There was more of that to come – roads, roads, highway. The first half of the race was point-to-point – not the most scenic route, but it was the only way! There were rather more hills than I would have liked, but it was hardly Big Sur.
Believe it or not, the solid first nine miles or so were basically a straight shot; shortly after that, we found ourselves hanging a sharp left, then a right, and then we were approaching downtown Wilmington.
For the half marathoners, this was great news – almost done! For the full marathoners, ooh, tough luck and keep on trucking. Us full people ran past the eventual finish line and continued down MLK Parkway.
FOR SOME OF US, THE RACE CONTINUES
And how were you doing so far, Jenn? Eh… eh. I had kept up a pretty good clip for the first half, but my legs were feeling it rather more than I had hoped they would. My biggest issue was my digestive system, which for whatever reason came unsettled (I have some operating theories, but I’ll get to that in a later, dedicated analysis post). Regardless, my gut was a touch unhappy, and two separate attempts to use the porta potties were in vain.
There was a part of me, however fleeting, that thought, what if I just finished at the half…? But it wasn’t like I was truly down for the count; I was uncomfortable, but not in pain. So I kept on keepin’ on, like I came to do.
And can I tell you something? That old chestnut “run the mile you’re in” REALLY REALLY helped me. I am someone who is susceptible getting overwhelmed. Compartmentalization is a real godsend sometimes, and it was here. Rather than thinking OH MY GOD TWELVE MORE MILES, I instead kept my brain trained on “I am currently running mile fourteen. I shall continue on and finish mile fourteen. Oh good, mile fifteen! I am on mile fifteen. I shall complete mile fifteen.” Rinse and repeat, etc., etc.
I was not, sadly, running strong miles, at times devolving into the poor man’s intervals of walking to the next cone before picking up running again. Yet it was getting done, and that’s the important part, right? Look how happy I clearly am! 🤪
One other bummer element: the larger majority of the second half of the marathon course was the dreaded out and back. Yup, not only did you see the same scenery coming and going, you saw everyone who was ahead of you streaking on by, the jerks!
Still, with my little “run the mile you’re in” coping mechanism and turning on some music to help, I trudged along. We stomped around Greenfield Lake, then turned and stomped around Greenfield Lake in the opposite direction. The rain had gone, but the wind kicked up; I put my gloves back on. All around me people were wearing tank tops and shorts. Seriously, what is wrong with me, or alternatively, what is wrong with them???
I will say that spectator support was excellent throughout, even in the second half of the marathon where they could’ve easily phoned it in. There were a couple sorority groups out using their powers for good; they could scarcely have cheered any harder with pompoms and megaphones. Many people with signs popping up in more than one place. Volunteers at the aid stations were excellent, with bonus points going to the tent that offered Bud Light. I took mine from a guy dressed as Buddy the Elf, because why not?
Soon I was in mile twenty; I continued until I finished mile twenty. Then I was in mile twenty-two, which I focused on exclusively until it, too, was behind me. Then twenty-four, and twenty-five, at which point we approached the river boardwalk and I knew I was almost home.
I can’t say I kicked it for the finish, but I did pick it up a bit with the knowledge that the finish was in striking distance. What I find funny is that they never close down the boardwalk during these races, so I inevitably wind up confusing and/or frightening some unsuspecting pedestrians!
With like .3 miles to go, Pat called me, having forgotten this race was not on Sunday. “ALMOST DONE!!!” I shouted into the phone, and then hung up on him. 😅
Then there she was: the finish line! I can’t say I sped up as such, but I kept it steady as I swept under the banner. I grabbed my medal, beverages, snacks, and drinks, and took an immediate seat. Yeah, yeah, you’re not supposed to. Ever the iconoclast.
So. All in all, per my stated goals, an ENORMOUS failure. Like, swing and a big, big miss. 0 for 2. Far AND no cigar.
Yet I wasn’t too upset. I managed to bring it in comfortably under five hours. There was a time that five hours was my standard marathon time on a good day. I did it on a bad day, and I feel like that’s kinda sorta progress, you know? A PR would’ve been much BETTER, but it’s something. And I have some thoughts on how I can improve for the future, which I will get to. No injuries. All in all, coulda been worse. Hooray!
Although I will never forgive them for running out of cake for the finishers. The cake is a lie!
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