And now for a tale of triumph! Comparatively speaking!
My traditional fitful pre-race night’s sleep led to me bouncing out of bed before my alarm (still got to sleep until very nearly 5am which for a runDisney enthusiast is a tremendous luxury). I quickly dressed and gathered my stuff, then bolted down some breakfast and headed out.
Race day weather promised to be beautiful, partly cloudy with a high in the upper 60s, although chilly to start. My dad dropped me off at the start about 45 minutes ahead of gun time, and I wrapped myself in my leftover runDisney space blanket and walked laps around the staging area to keep the blood moving.
About half an hour before the scheduled start there was a muffled announcement; what I think happened was that the shuttles from race parking broke down or something like that? And they were delaying start to make sure they got everyone to the corrals in time. We only ended up waiting an extra ten minutes, which wasn’t too bad. A quick national anthem from a violinist, a race prayer (awww, the South!), and we were off.
At which point I immediately needed to pee. This happens to me WAY TOO OFTEN of late but I need to figure out how to better manage my fluids, but there wasn’t anything to do except hold it until I found a suitable porta potty. Meanwhile dude were stopping off to the side to demonstrate their superior aiming abilities; maybe I should just start lugging a funnel with me.
Aside from that, the first few miles were uneventful. The half and full started together, so the course was a bit crowded, but not debilitatingly so. We were directed into the local gated community, Landfall, which I thought was sort of interesting; apparently the rich people of Wilmington are okay with letting a bunch of runners clog their roads for several hours? And it seemed like they were indeed largely fine with it, as many people were out spectating.
We emerged from Landfall, and I hit the bathrooms around mile 3, where the first relay handoff was – a bit early if you ask me, but nobody did. I multi-tasked by shedding my throwaway layer and took off again.
The next area of note was downtown Wrightsville Beach, and this is probably a good time to apologize for not taking any photos. That’s ’cause my phone battery has SUCKED lately and I needed to conserve it for later if I needed to call my parents or an Uber. That being said, we never actually saw the beach OR the ocean, marathon name notwithstanding, and aside from a few piers and a lake nothing was all that noteworthy from a visual perspective.
Where was I? Oh yes, the downtown area. We passed multiple shops and restaurants before running across a bridge and through some neighborhood areas… and then somehow we ended up downtown again? And also somehow it had turned into an out-and-back?
I saw a pace group leader headed toward me, on the back part as I ran out. I craned my neck around to see what his timing was.. and he was doing 3:40. Almost an hour ahead of me. One of the longest out-and-backs of my life.
But at least there was reasonably interesting scenery, and I was amused to see the same restaurants and shops three times in a race, not to mention the bewildered tourists who were just trying to swing into town for some breakfast. Super bonus points for the girl in the inflatable T-Rex suit, who was there for all three downtown drive-bys and gave me an enthusiastic high-five.
Points to the race organizers: at the turnaround point they had officials carefully taking note of which bib numbers were passing by, lest anyone try to cheat. Gotta keep those race results honest!
From there we cruised down some streets until about mile 8, when the half split off to head toward the finish while the marathoners (and relay folks) trudged on. Those of us in it for the long haul were directed into a pretty back neighborhood along a marina. As I emerged from a wooded trail onto the street, I was greeted by a small cheering section of locals. “You don’t even look tired!” declared a very nice man who really should’ve stuck around to see how I looked around mile 24.
A few streets over and I was hitting that halfway point, and feeling pretty solid for all that. I was a little sad not to have music (battery conservation again), so I cheered myself up by pretending I was running the WDW Marathon again. Since it’s mile 13, I said to myself, you’d be passing the Thirsty River Bar and Expedition Everest right about now. I continued to use this tool to bolster my spirits throughout the race and it even kind of worked.
Through the whole race aid stations were solid, offering water, Gatorade, and gels at reasonable intervals. Which reminds me, just before the mile 16 station I saw a girl stop suddenly and blow chunks onto the road. She apologized to me – I assured it it wasn’t necessary and asked after her status – and she assured me she was all right. I hope things ended well for her.
I plodded on, beginning to feel the length of things but still in decent spirits. So far I was on track to PR – and, if I was very lucky – PR hard. I adjusted my A goal to be 4:35 or under, a new record by well over ten minutes but some quickly mental math told me as long as I didn’t slow down too much I could do it!
Mile 20 brought with it music, a pirate randomly positioned by the side of the course, an aid station – and confusion. See, I saw the 20 mile marker, took like 10 more running steps… and saw the 23 mile marker. Fearful I had missed something important (like, oh, a few miles), I backtracked just a little and asked a bystander if they knew what was going on. She assured me that I would be running the same section twice, and like that the course map lit up in my head – she was totally right and I had just forgotten.
So I marched forward, my feet beginning to hurt a bit but enjoying the lakeside scenery. From there we wound up in neighborhoods again, some with just enough incline to make me a bit sad; but seeing as how the course had been fairly flat overall, I couldn’t really complain.
The course split again a bit later, with those who had already completed two loops of the completed portion bearing left to head toward the finish (lucky jerks). Those of us on loop one headed to the right, and as we neared completion of lap 1 a group of volunteers gave us wristbands. These wristbands were our ticket to head toward the finish upon lap 2 as described above. As I said, the race organizers were very on top of potential cheating. And hey, free wristband!
So I made it to the final stretch, slowly but steadily pounding toward UNC Wilmington. As it always does, by mile 25 my spirits were lifting, and I actually found it easier to get through than some previous miles.
When we turned onto the UNCW campus for the final stretch I was feeling pretty spent. But the sight of the finish line galvanized me, and somehow without even thinking about it I picked up significant speed, powering past the finish line for an official gun time of… wait for it… 4:33:06. BAM. New PR by like 14 minutes!!!
And so as you might imagine I finished my tenth marathon feeling rather more pleased with myself than I probably deserved. All that running outside has paid off, people? … Oh, crud. Now that I run outside, how can I improve more? Is there, like, a outer-outside I can start running in?
Unfortunately the medals had gotten lost in the mail, so I didn’t receive one upon completion (they’re sending it to me). I did get a small reusable tote with some snacks, and there was also a runners-only room set up with additional food, including sodas, chips, muffins, and hot oatmeal. One of the pre-race emails had warned there would NOT be pizza this year, which leads me to believe that there HAS been pizza in previous years, and I was kinda bummed by its omission. Maybe next year!
The runners-only area also had a massage area, and there was a beer tent somewhere around, but I was tired and kinda just wanted the Reese’s egg and coffee I knew were waiting for me at my parents’ house. So I picked up an Uber and headed home.
And that was my Wrightsville Beach Marathon experience! I liked it – pretty flat course, good volunteer support, good location. I could do with some better scenery, but hey, they can’t all be at WDW. I would probably do it again.
ASSUMING THERE’S PIZZA.
|Do you think anyone wants to take a roundhouse kick to the face while I’m wearing these pants?!