Columbia Marathon 2012 Review

Mar 11, 2012 by

Columbia Marathon 2012 Review

On March 10, 2012, I ran in the inaugural Columbia, SC Marathon.  The event had around 550 runners in the full marathon and 750 in the half.

Here are my thoughts on the race in general:

First, let me start out saying that Dan Hartley and his team did a wonderful job organizing this event.  Organizing a race of this magnitude is quite an undertaking and it seemed to go off  smoothly.  I did not experience any major problems and did not hear any complaints. Also, I don’t know what kind of deal he made to bring  the “Chamber of Commerce” weather, but that was an added bonus.

Headquarters: The Columbia Convention Center served as ground zero for all the marathon activities. This proved to be an excellent choice -plenty of room for the race expo and other activities. Plenty of restroom facilities (at least for the men. Do women ever have enough?) Also, this was a nice place to duck in before the race to get warm. That was a cold wind whipping down Lincoln street before the race!

Race Swag: Easily one of the best race shirts I have received (or will receive. I signed up right before the deadline for shirt guarantee, so mine hasn’t arrive yet). The medals were really good, too, with the Columbia Famously Hot, Surprising Cool slogan and a cutout  of the city skyline (see below). I believe everyone received a State Farm happy sack, too, with the obligatory coupons and other race announcements.

Aid stations: Plenty of stations with water, Gatorade and Gu. One minor suggestion I’d make would be to have the water coolers more easily accessible for people carrying their bottles to refill.

Race Bib With Name

Misc: The race bibs had our names on them. That is always a nice touch and appreciated, especially when the three cute girls at mile 5 yelled “Go, Greg”.

The bibs also had the lightweight timing chips applied to the back. I like this system much better than the shoe chips.

The post race spread was pretty good, too – bananas, granola bars, mini bagels and water.

Weather:  As I mentioned in my preview, I was concerned about the weather. Mid-March in Columbia can have a wide variety of weather. I was mostly concerned about too hot – this is the Famously Hot Columbia Marathon after all. Thankfully, the weather was just about perfect, ranging from about 40 degrees at the start to the mid-50’s, I think, when I finished.

Here are a couple of minor changes I suggest:

1. As mentioned earlier, put water and/or Gatorade coolers at the end of the aid stations to allow easier refilling of personal water bottles.  I carried my own to better judge fluid intake and this would have been helpful.  I used the coolers that were there, I just had to wander back behind the tables. The Kiawah Marathon encourages people to bring their own bottles to reduce cup waste and provides easy access to coolers.

2.  If the post race spread had any sports drink, I completely missed it.  So, I’d like to see a sports drink option.  I’d also like to see chicken noodle soup.  Yep, chicken noodle soup. Myrtle Beach had this last year and it may have been the best cup of soup ever.

Am I just missing the finish clock?

3.  A bigger clock at the finish or at least above the finish line.  Unless I was too out of it (entirely possible) I don’t remember seeing a clock at the end of the race.  In the picture to the right, I’m not sure what that clock on the left means that says 7:49.

In summary:  As you can see my suggestions are very minor picky issues, which hopefully tells you this was a good race.  I think it was an excellent start to what hopefully will become a popular southeastern race.

For additional coverage by The State newspaper, click here.

My Experience: I get by with a little help from my friends

OK, now the part you’ve been waiting for. How was my race? There are 3 Chapters: Going Strong, Going For It, and Going South.

Chapter One: Going Strong

I arrived in plenty of time to get a good free parking space at the Colonial Center, a few blocks from the Convention Center. The 39 degree pre-sunrise temperature made for a chilly warm up, especially with the brisk wind whipping down Lincoln Street as I headed toward the Convention Center.  After trying to get loose by walking and some easy jogging, I hung out in the Center for a bit to stay warm.  About 7 am, I headed to the starting line. The race started right on time (7:15) with some pre-race 2001 and Sandstorm music to get us pumping.  Oh yeah, the young girl, 12?, who sang the national anthem was amazing.

As in my previous two marathons, the first half went really well. I didn’t notice too much wind as the race went on and the temperature warmed nicely into the fifties. The dreaded Trenholm  Road and Gervais Street climbs went very well, and I made the first loop in 1:55, right on target.  At this point, though, the race became pretty lonely as the half marathoners finished up.

Greg and Ben After the Race. Photo courtesy of Ben’s wife, Ally.

My first sign of trouble came at the Saluda Avenue hill as I climbed toward the mile 15 aid station. I didn’t remember it being very steep the first time around, but this time was a different story.  On the first loop, I had run this section with an old friend and former co-worker, Ben, who was running his first marathon.  That and early race adrenaline helped.  No Ben and no adrenaline now.  I told myself the easy part was officially over.

My friend Craig was working the mile 15 aid station and had my gels I needed for the rest of the way.  I had changed gel brands during this training cycle, so I was not taking the Gu’s provided by the race.  Carrying the four gels I had planned for the race was too bulky for my race belt, so Craig’s placement at this station worked out well.  This was right at my 2:15 mark, and I was due my third gel of the day. That and some water perked me up a bit, but by the 16 mile mark, my mind was starting to drift as I ran alone.

Chapter Two: Going For It
At this point I had not paid much attention to pace. I had been feeling good, but being alone now, my mind was starting to drift. This is when I made a decision that probably contributed immensely to the Going South part of this story.  The 3:45 pace group passed me, and I made the impulse decision to hop on board. New friends!

Before the race, I had no expectations of beating my personal best on this course.  I felt breaking 4 hours would be considered a victory, given the tough hills.  I certainly don’t usually recommend changing strategies during a race, but I felt good and felt I had sub-4:00 in the bag.  Why not, I thought.  Let’s go for it.

For the next 6 miles the excellent pacer lead us up and down hills, shouting out technique instructions that really helped keep me focused. This was actually a lot of fun.  If I could keep pace with this guy, a PR would be in the books on a brutal course. Unfortunately, Trenholm Road awaited.

Chapter Three: Going South
As we approached the 22 mile mark and the beginning of the long climb up Trenholm, only a couple of the 10 or so people at mile 16 remained with the pacer, and I was done.   The legs were protesting mightily!  I stopped to walk a bit and watched the pacer’s bright yellow shirt start fading into the distance. A run/walk strategy got me up Trenholm, but it seemed twice as long as the first time. I managed to average 10:12 per mile on this two mile stretch, a far cry from the 8:40 or so I had been logging.

Mile 24 brought a much needed break from the hills. A this point, I started keeping my eyes out for another friend, Bobby. He planned to meet me around here to help me finish up. He was doing the same thing for a faster finisher and would be coming back to meet me. I spotted him around mile 24 1/2.

At this point 3:45 was out of the question, but I held a bit of hope for 3:50. I don’t think I was too coherent as Bobby encouraged me and led the way home.  After the final steep hill up Gervais and another 10:00+ mile, 3:50 was no longer the target. Now, I just wanted to finish. When the finish line FINALLY came into view, I just let the downhill take me in. I wanted to pick up the pace but couldn’t.

At The Finish – Finally!

My final official time was 3:53:03, an 8:54 per mile pace and 134th place out of 545.

Final Thought

I don’t know if I’ll do the full marathon again.  My marathon training is usually limited to one a year, and I like to change venues each time.  However, I will probably make the half a regular part of my spring season.  If they figure out a way to flatten Trenholm Road, I might change my mind!

You can view the final results here.

For my additional ramblings on the Columbia Marathon, click here.


PS.  In reference to last week’s post, Final Marathon Details. If you are wondering what I chose for my target playlist Grand Finale song? It was Queen’s “Somebody to Love”.  I had it finishing about 3:52, so I just missed timing it right.  I had to go into overtime with Night Ranger’s “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me”!

1 Comment

  1. Wylie

    Good job!


  1. Columbia Marathon 2012 – Additional Ramblings | Palmetto State Runner - […] this week, I posted my Columbia Marathon review.  Now that I’ve had a few more days to reflect, I…

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