Motivation: Past and Present

Jul 16, 2013 by

Motivation: Past and Present

But it’s alright with me now
I’ll get back up somehow
And with a little luck, I’m bound to win
I’ll fall in love, I’ll fall in love again

I’ll Fall in Love Again, Sammy Hagar

In summer 1983, a young man moved to my town.  Let’s call him Jack.  Like most kids moving to a new town, Jack made new friends.  Being tall, blonde, and athletic, this wasn’t hard for Jack.

Problem was, unbeknownst to me,  Jack became really good “friends” with my girlfriend.   I was soon history.  Word traveled much slower back then in the prehistoric land line phone days, but eventually word got back to me there was a new kid in town that contributed to my demise.

So, school started back, and there they were, roaming the halls together, Jack, the football player, and my ex, the cheerleader.  They sure made a cute couple, at least to everyone but me.  One day word came that Jack was going to try out for basketball.  Word on the street was that he was pretty good. Might even vie for a starting spot. Well, guess who’s territory that was.  That’s right.  Mine.

To say I was looking forward to tryouts was an understatement. I had a new motivation and focus.  Poor guy showed up never had a chance.  There may have been more flagrant fouling than usual, but that’s could just be called aggressive defense.  I don’t remember for sure, and YouTube didn’t exist, so there’s no evidence. Jack did make the team, but he didn’t take my starting spot.  We are actually friends today, thanks to teammate bond trumping other issues.

So, that was my motivation all those years ago – girls, jealousy, pride, revenge.  Looks like there should be a sermon in there somewhere.

Has much changed since then?  I hope so.  I do get slightly motivated by girls, though, but that’s just when trying to speed up as I’m getting passed by one!  These days, I’m motivated by a few different things.

First is health.  I took up running in late 2008 because I was out of shape and the job was about to get stressful.  Running really helped me survive 2009.  I lost weight and became fit.  It was a big challenge to learn the fine line between being fit versus constantly injured, but I think I found that. I’ve not really mentioned it here before, but 2012 made 2009 look like a walk in the park.  Running helped get me through that as well.

Second is continuous improvement.  I took up running later in life.  I’m not an ex-high school cross county star coming back after twenty years.  So, I believe my best running days are still to come, and I suppose I’m on a quest to find out my limits.

So, how can you, dear reader, fall in love again (or maybe for the first time) with running?  Here are some tips:

  • Find a running/workout buddy.  Call this an accountability partner.  You don’t have to do all your runs or workouts together, but it really helps to check on each other’s progress and provide encouragement.
  • Go run somewhere new. Are you primarily a road runner?  Then go find a trail.  Like the trails?  Then go find a new one.
  • Enter a race.  Go ahead and pay for a 5K one month from now and start training today.  If you haven’t run in a while, don’t be concerned about time, just plan on finishing.
  • Don’t think racing is for you?  Volunteer to help at a race.  You may be surprised at the people out there and say “Hey, I can do that, too.”
  • Finally, set a stretch goal and let others know it.  This is what I’ve done.  And here it is: Beat 3:25:00 in my next marathon, which will qualify me for the Boston Marathon.  That’s quite a step up from my previous marathons. I’ll reveal more on this goal in my next post.

Until then, POFIFOTO!





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Race Report: Hewitt 5K aka Blind Squirrel

Jul 2, 2013 by

Race Report: Hewitt 5K aka Blind Squirrel

The Cause

Normally, my spring running seasons ends with the Jailbreak 5K over Memorial Day weekend.  After that, the warmer weather and higher humidity do a number on my already mediocre speed, and the number of events to choose from drops dramatically.  This year, I decided to make an exception.

A new race popped up, and it was for a very worthy cause.  The Hewitt 5K was held on Saturday June 29th at Chapin’s Crooked Creek Park.  The race was to help raise money for a pavilion at Chapin Baptist Church that is being built in memory of Parker and Haley Hewitt, two children who lost their lives in a car accident four years ago.  Sounded like a great reason for me to put myself through the pain of a possible hot and humid 5K.

The Race

So, on Saturday morning, I set out to Crooked Creek Park.  In an un-Greg like move, I decided not to research the course route beforehand.  I knew some high school cross country meets were held at the park, so   I suspected the course might have some off payment sections.  I arrived in plenty of time to get my packet and warm up.  The good news was the sky was overcast and it was a bit breezy.  Bad news was the typical South Carolina summer morning humidity was there. Oh, well.  This was still better than I expected.

I could see the finish line was setup in the middle of a soccer field.  So,  the off pavement suspicion was confirmed.  During my warm up, I also discovered some white arrows on the pavement and decided to follow them.  They took me down winding paved trails.  I suspected this was part of the course.  I  followed them far enough to encounter some short steep hills and turned around to head back to the start area. During my two miles of easy warm up, I didn’t have any trouble working up a sweat.  I was ready to go.

So, there I was at the start.  A month had passed since my last race, also a 5K, and even a PR.  I’d been training hard, and really wanted to improve on that PR, but I knew that would be tough this morning.  I felt twenty-two minutes would be a victory given the humidity and course.

I’ll try not to bore you with too many details.  Here’s how it went.  I went out pretty fast with the lead pack.  After a half mile or so, we hit those paved trails I had found in warm up, and I couldn’t keep with the lead group.  I found myself in no man’s land, running by myself.  A few minutes later, my watch beeped for the first mile split and it said 7:12.  That seemed too slow based on that start.

Unfortunately, my brain cannot turn off the number crunching, and immediately I knew that I’d need to run 6:30 mile splits the remainder of the way to get a PR, if my watch was indeed correct.  About then, I hit that first short step hill.  It felt like someone put the brakes on me. Then there were some more rolling hills.  With no one close behind me, I just decided to try to keep a steady pace.

About the half way point, we looped around a couple of baseball fields.  Here, I could glimpse behind me and saw a guy less than 100 yards back.  He looked like a possible age group threat.  My number one goal now  became to not let him pass me.   I was fading, and I hoped he would, too.  Eventually, we emerged from the paved trails and headed back into entrance to the soccer field.  My watch said 19:00, and I could see the finish line.

Unfortunately, we still had to loop back to the far side of the field and back.  The guy behind me was now very close.  I was fading faster than he was.  We rounded the last corner and a spectator yelled ‘He’s gaining on you!’ I don’t know if he was lying or not, but I did my best to pick up my pace and held him off, managing a 22:13.

Turns out he wasn’t in my age group.

Satellite View of the Route













Blind Squirrel Finds an Acorn

If you aren’t aware, most races have an overall winner then  break up the field into age groups, usually in 5 year increments.  This gives us regulars a chance to compete.  Five years ago, in my first 5K, I actually won first place in the mail 40-44 year-old group.  I didn’t really know what fast was in a 5K back then, and I thought my 23:30 something was not bad, until they announced the overall winner .  He was my age, but ran the race in under 16 minutes.    Oh.

Over the past 5 years, I had not placed first in my age group again.  I did manage a third that first summer, but since summer of 2009, I’ve been shutout.  Until now.  My 22:13 was good enough for 1st place in the male 45-49 group and 12th overall.  As a bonus, they didn’t give out medals, but instead gave sugar cookies with the race logo in icing.  Much better than a medal.

My Prize. It didn’t make it through the afternoon!










Oh yeah, Heather Hunt finished first at 18:37.  Pretty darn impressive for a 38 year old, I think. For the complete results click here:



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Fool In The Rain

Jun 9, 2013 by

Fool In The Rain

 I’ll run in the rain till I’m breathless
When I’m breathless I’ll run till I drop, hey
The thoughts of a fool’s kind of careless
I’m just a fool waiting on the wrong block, oh yeah
Fool In The Rain, Led Zepplin

As the remnants of Tropical Storm Andrea moved through South Carolina the other day, my son and I headed out for a run in the rain.  What a difference a few years can make.

Flashback: February 2009

The day before my first race, the weatherman delivered good news and bad news.  The good news?  The late February race had a forecast of pretty warm weather for that time of year, in the fifties.  The bad news?  The warm weather was bringing an almost 100% chance of rain for the race start.   Having just started running over the previous eight weeks, I had become fairly adjusted to running in the winter cold.  However, I was totally unprepared for running in the rain. So, here it was, the day before, and I was frantically searching Google for ways to deal with rain.

The next day, the weatherman actually got it right.  It did pour down rain, and I had my first run in the pouring rain.  Not only was I now hooked on running, I was hard core.

So why should you run in the rain? 

Here are a few reasons:

Image courtesy of Peter Mooney @

1. They rarely cancel races for rain.  If you haven’t run in the rain, how do you know if you’re prepared for a race in the rain?

2. It makes you tougher mentally.  A few weeks before my last marathon, I was scheduled to run my final long run.   The only window of opportunity I had for the weekend run was 8:00-11:00 Saturday morning.   Unfortunately, it was 40 degrees and raining hard.  I went anyway.   After 3 hours and 18 miles, I was soaked and nunb from the cold, but I was ready for the marathon.

3. It is fun and makes the neighbors shake their heads. It might even make you feel like a kid again.


Here are some tips for dealing with the rain as a runner:

1.  Use BodyGlide on your feet.  Remember that frantic search of Google I mentioned earlier?  BodyGlide was the discovery that day.  I works well in many other places, too, not just feet in the rain.

2. Experiment with socks. I feel thin are best. Injinji toe socks are my favorite. That 3 hour rain soaked run I mentioned earlier?  Injinis.  No blisters.  Amazing.

3. Try trail running in the rain.  If the trails are wooded enough and the rain is on the light side, the trees may keep a lot of the rain off.

4. Check radar, if possible, and don’t run in a thunderstorm. I hope this is self-explanatory.

5. If you choose to run with storms in the area, take a phone with you.  I misjudged radar speed last summer and was caught a few miles from home in a lightning storm and had to call in the home rescue squad to come pick me up.  (On the bright side, I had an impressive speed workout on the way to meet the car!)

6. Make a poncho. On race day, warming up in the rain is not fun.  Make a poncho out of a trash bag and toss it aside right before the start.

7.  Another race day warm up tip: If the parking logistics work for you,  warm up using a backup pair of shoes, then change socks and shoes as close to race start as possible.

I hope I have convinced you to at least try running in the rain.



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Race Report: 2013 Jailbreak 5K

May 30, 2013 by

Race Report: 2013 Jailbreak 5K

About 7:15am, I pulled into my parking space at Jailbreak last Saturday.  I was alone, and the anticipated father vs. son battle was not going to happen.  I assume  son was scared of the old man running him down.  The reality is he’s a teenager, and I don’t understand what he thinks most of the time.  He had just decided not to run.

Anyway, since I was by myself, I had the radio on the station I wanted, and as I parked, Freebird came on the radio.  Hope that is a good sign, I thought to myself.  Since this was only a 5K, my playlist for this run did not include Freebird, so I just listened for a minute.

I stepped out of the car and walked down to some nearby soccer fields to warm up on the paths around the fields.  The weather was unusually cool for late May in the midlands of South Carolina – around 50 degrees with low humidity.  Perfect for a run, though.  If I didn’t run well today, I could not use my weather excuses.  Darn.

After warming up, I made sure I was at the starting line early enough to be toward the front, just after the big dogs.  The starter finally gave the go, and I pressed the start button on my watch as I took off.  Uh-oh.  My watch said MEMORY FULL.  This means the run will not record.  In the past I’ve had watch glitches that let me down, but this glitch was totally my fault. It will only hold 20 workouts, and I had not cleared them out lately.

Now I had a decision to make.  “Trust your feelings” came to mind for a split second.  Nope.  Can’t do that.  So, I hastily cleared the workouts from my watch as I ran and restarted the workout, but the damage was done.  My time was now at least 3o seconds off. I could tell my instant pace, though.

We passed the first mile marker, and the lady with a stop watch wasn’t yelling out split times.  No big deal, I thought.  Maybe the mile two person will be.    Just past the half way point, I approached the one water station.  The low humidity had really dried out my throat, so I grabbed a water.  At this point it is a short hill up to the mile two marker.  There was a guy with a stop watch, but he wasn’t calling out time, so I asked him.  13:35 he said.  I was a bit surprised. I was right on target at roughly a 6:47/mile pace.  Unfortunately, the hard part had arrived.

Mile three starts with a down hill, but once we turned left on Church Street, its a decent uphill stretch, and I felt so slow.  We turned left on Gibson, and the course flattened out for the final half mile or so.  I rounded the final curve, and with probably 100 yards to go, I  could finally see the clock.  21:10.   At this point,  I pushed as hard as I could and think I actually passed a couple of people.  As I crossed the finish line, I looked up and saw the clock read 21:30 – a new PR!

I had another problem to deal with now, though – trying not to puke.  I kept walking and breathing deep.  It was close, but I held it in.

Later, when the official results were posted, I saw that my time had been adjusted to 21:26.  This was because of chip time, not gun time.  I’ll take it!

Even with a PR, I finished 4th in my age group, just missing the podium by about 25 seconds.  For final results click here.


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Race Preview: 2013 Jailbreak 5K

May 21, 2013 by

Race Preview: 2013 Jailbreak 5K

Just a quick note to let you know I’m still kicking and running.  This year is Jailbreak VII and will be held on May 25, 2012 in Lexington, South Carolina.  The race supports the Lexington County Sheriff’s Foundation.  Last year, an out of towner named Scott Wietecha came in and put a whippin’ on all the usual local favorites with a 14:47.  This year, I hope to see some of the Lexington High cross country and track team guys come out to give the regulars a run for their money.

The Course

I wouldn’t necessarily call this a guaranteed PR course, but in the past, I have PR’d here.  Most of the first two miles is flat to downhill.  The third mile has some rolling hills with a short tough stretch up Church St.  The final half mile or so is pretty flat.  Here’s the map:

Jailbreak 5K Course Map

In addition, here’s the elevation map:

Personal Goals

I rarely go into a race without at least one personal goal. This race is no different. I guess I have two for this outing. The first is to avenge myself from the beat down I took last week in the Run Hard 5K when my son whipped me by over a minute and a half.  Now, I’m not going to make excuses. I ran an OK race at 22:43 for having some sort of cold/virus bug. I’m over that, and I’ve had good training of late. My plan is to let him go out his usually too fast pace, and catch him on the last mile, as the hills take their toll. This plan assumes that I am immune to the hills.  I have no historical evidence to support that, but let’s just go with it.

The second goal is to establish a good baseline 5K time for my next marathon training. I’m thinking of doing the Outer Banks Marathon in November, so serious training will pick up in July. I plan on going to back to using the Run Less Run Faster book. In this book, workout speeds are based on your 5K ability. Since I want to improve my marathon time and maybe catch a glimpse of a BQ (Boston Qualifier), I would like to set a PR, just to help with the mental edge of training.  My 5K best is 21:36 and the book says 21:06 puts you in the ball park for having the ability to BQ, based on their statistics.

So, it is time to go work on my playlist. Being Memorial Day weekend, I’m thinking of going with a patriotic theme. This will at least allow me to justify Night Ranger’s You Can Still Rock in America. I will not be including Billy Ray Cyrus’s Some Gave All, though, in case you were wondering.


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Race Report: 2013 Columbia Marathon

Mar 19, 2013 by

Race Report: 2013 Columbia Marathon

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” That familiar phrase, borrowed from the opening of Charles Dickens’s Tale of Two Cities, pretty much sums up my 2013 Columbia Marathon experience.  Let’s break it down.

The Best of Times

The Event

  • Good expo: The expo moved from the Columbia Convention Center to the Columbia Marriott.  No big deal there.  Easy bib and shirt pickup.  Then I wandered around the vendor area and made a couple of impulse buys – red Headsweats beanie for the forecasted cold start and a pouch n attachment for my iFitness belt.
  • Shirt: Hands down best event shirt I’ve ever received.

Participants Shirts. Image Courtesy of Columbia SC Marathon.

  • Weather: Good weather.  Sunny and a cold 32 degrees at the start, but it was close to 60 degrees by the end.  Perfect running weather, unless you were dumb enough to wear a long sleeve shirt (guilty!)
  • Course change down Main St = two thumbs up.   This made the 2012 finish seem little league.
  • Another improvement over last year: excellent course mile markers, complete with balloons.

My Experience

First, a tip: On race days, set a backup alarm.  I woke Saturday to my iPhone vibrating and playing music.  I looked at the regular alarm clock, and it was on, but the local radio station was out, so no music alarm!.  Had I not set the backup alarm, I may have slept through the start.

Pre Race

I arrived downtown around 6:30am, right on schedule.  The start change was near the Governor’s Cup start and also near a place I once worked.  I knew the area well and easily found a parking space right where I wanted.  I started walking around to warm up, and returned to the car to get my coat.  It was 32 degrees and windy.  Brrr.  By 7:10 I had warmed up enough with a 2 mile walk/easy run and returned to the car to drop off the coat and long pants.  Off to the start!

I came up with this crazy strategy where I’d run try to run at an 8:20 per mile pace on all miles expect the 2nd pass up Trenholm Road, where I’d like by closer to a 10:00/mile pace. This is called banking.  This is a fairly universal no-no in long distance running.  It just doesn’t work. I was going to try it, though.  No one’s life or livelihood was riding on my performance, so why not?  If I could manage this, I’d end up somewhere in the range of an 8:30/mile pace and a PR around 3:45.  If I bombed, I could write it in my blog and remind others not to use that strategy.

First Loop

My marathon race history told me this strategy was too aggressive.  Race time predictor charts said my marathon times should be closer to 3:35:00, based on my 5K, 10K, and half marathon times.  I felt really good on the first loop, and ran it around 1:48.  I clicked my watch screen over to show pace per mile and saw that I was at an 8:14/mile clip.  Wow.  That  was too fast, I thought.  I was going by feel, at this point though, and I felt great.  My play list selection for this section said it all – Carry On by fun.  On I went.  Perhaps a better tune would have been the theme from Jaws.

The Worst of Times

So here it is at halftime of the big game.  The home town hero is up 30 points on the defending champs and the locals are getting excited.  The half marathoners are gone and I make my way back down Sumter Street and hang a left on Blossom Street.  Just as I head down the steep hill,  my mile 14 split sounded and the time shows 8:09.  This is the same hill at mile 12.5 or so of the Governor’s Cup.  It is nice to be going down this hill for a change, instead of cursing it going the other direction.

After bottoming out as we passed Maxcy Gregg park, I hang a right on Saluda Street and the sleeping giant that is loop two of the Columbia Marathon woke up.  And it was not happy with the butt kicking I had administered on loop one.  The Saluda Street hill hits me hard.  I felt like I was walking.  I managed an 8:52 split for the mile.   Earlier I had managed 8:24 on the mile that contained this hill.  Those extra 30 seconds seemed like 5 minutes.  My wheels were not just a little wobbly now, I had run over a spilled load of nails, and my tires had holes.  I started leaking air fast.

At this point, I told myself, ‘OK, that is not too bad.  The first really bad mile, but your overall pace is still around 8:15.  If you can manage 8:45 or better from here on out, then the average will be 8:30 and the goal will be met.’  So, on mile 16, I recovered slightly and managed 8:39.   Problem was, this section was fairly flat.  My body was shutting down.  In fact, miles 17  through 19 didn’t have any scary hills. I needed to get back on pace, but I could only manage 8:44, 8:41, and 8:58.  Then the last section of the Lake Katherine neighborhood decided to throw in a couple of sucker punches before Trenholm Road and knocked me back to 9:18 and 9:48 for miles 20 and 21.  If my run was the televised game of the week, the network would be changing to another game at this point.

Mile 22.  My arch nemesis, and I don’t have any fight left in me .  I’m staring up Trenholm Road.  My overall pace is still sub 8:30 per mile, but now the beast is just playing with me.  I try to keep the keep moving, but I have to succumb to walking and some sort of foot shuffle that probably doesn’t resemble a run.  At the aid station in front of Westminster Presbyterian Church, I ask a volunteer if I’m winning.  She looks confused for a second, then laughs.  Delirium has set in.  Miles 22 and 23 are a brutal 10:01 and 10:26.    Overall pace 8:38.  Fans are leaving the stands.

There’s one last downhill section during mile 24.  I try my best to push it.  Landscapers at a house on Gervais Street look at me like I’m crazy.  They may be right.  Mathematically, I still have a chance to beat 3:50.  At this point, I’m too hot and regretting the long sleeve shirt.  Despite the downhill and thinking I was moving decent again, I can only manage 9:46 for mile 24.

Mile 25 contains the last hill – a short steep quarter mile or so up Gervais Street before turning right on Pickens.  I have to once again succumb to walking.  During this hill, I have a sudden onset of nausea and light headedness.  I manage not to throw up or pass out, and  I’m coherent enough to realize I’m in trouble.  I tried to breathe deep and just make it to the top of the hill.  I have some water in my water bottle, but I need Gatorade with sugar.   I take a sip of my water and pour the rest on my head.

I turn right on Pickens and hope to see an aid station.  Not yet, but the course is now flat again, and I’m feeling better, so I try to run again.  Eventually, I see the aid station and yell out ‘Gatorade!’ as I approach.  The young guy is kind enough to ask something like “Blue or Purple?” “I don’t give a crap” is my response.   At least they laughed. I down the two small cups of Gatorade and keep on.  Mile 25 split: An awful 11:11.  Only about a mile to go.    I start running again, and a few blocks later I turn left on Richland Street.  Just one more turn and it’s straight down Main Street to the finish.

At this point, my finale song is playing, Top of The World by Van Halen (Live and Sammy Hagar version of VH, of course).  Unfortunately, I’m not going to make my 3:45 goal.  I turn on Main Street, and there’s just over a quarter mile to go.  Mile 26 split goes off – 10:32. I can see the State House dome and there’s a bit more of a crowd thanks to some Saturday morning street market. My playlist starts over, and I try to push it.  My calves are starting to feel like cramps coming on.   The cramps hold off, and I complete the final .2 in about 2:29, right at a 9:00/mile pace.  Someone hangs a finisher’s medal around my neck and guides me to a photo spot.  They snap two pictures, and I need a banana…

My final official time was 3:52:57, an 8:55/mile pace.  I finished 8th out of 36 in the 45-49 age group.  My first half was about 1:48 and the second half was 2:05.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

For complete results, click here.


The Collapse in Chart Form


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Race Preview: 2013 Columbia Marathon

Mar 6, 2013 by

Race Preview: 2013 Columbia Marathon

After the 2012 Columbia Marathon, I didn’t know if I’d run it again in 2013.  Oh, there was nothing wrong with the race.  In fact, it was an extremely well organized event, and I had a good race.

Here’s the deal though. I’ve always told myself I wouldn’t repeat the same marathon.  Originally, my thinking was ‘Hey since you can only do a marathon every so often, perhaps one a year, you might as well go somewhere new each time.’

I still feel that way a little bit, but one thing that has changed that I really didn’t count on – my ability to do marathons more frequently than I ever imagined (I’ve done a road marathon and a trail ultra marathon since the last Columbia Marathon).  So, when race director Dan Hartley announced some route changes and an awesome shirt, well, I was in.  Plus, I get to sleep in my own bed the night before!

Route Change = Better Finish

With the circus in town during this year’s race weekend, Dan Hartley had to make some route changes and avoid the Colonial Life Arena side of Assembly Street. The start has been altered to begin on Sumter Street next to the South Carolina State House.  The finish has been modified to come down Main Street and finish in front of the State House at the corner of Main and Gervais Streets.  Then, all post-race festivities will be on State House grounds.

Although, I appreciated (and needed!) the downhill finish at last year’s event, this is a very nice change for 2013 (and beyond?).  Unfortunately, these changes didn’t take out any of the toughest hills on the course!  For course map and elevation click here to go to the official website for the marathon.

The Number Twenty-two

Perhaps Sad That I Still Have These…

Growing up, I played a lot of organized basketball. Early on, I had the number twenty-two and it became my favorite.  I was able to keep that number most years.  Now that I run marathons, the number twenty-two has a different meaning.  Now, it means twenty two miles is all I have in me before I hit “The Wall”.

Below I’ve included a chart of my marathon splits (minutes per mile) from each of my first four marathons.  Being a nerd, I record this info.  For the last three marathons my GPS watch did it for me.  On my first, in 2009 before my GPS watch, I had to press the watch split button at each mile marker, then go back and review.   I threw the numbers in an Excel spreadsheet and made a chart of the data.

My Four Marathon Splits

Here’s a chart with the average split for the four races:

Marathon Splits Average for My Four Marathons

You can see that the wheels get wobbly after mile twenty, then completely come off after mile twenty-two.  My goal for this week’s race is to beat this trend.  Unfortunately for me, the second time up the long Trenholm Road hill is about the twenty-two mark.  We’ll see.  My time goal is to beat 3:45, which would be a personal best.  Off to work on a playlist!

POFIFOTO! Finishing 2012 Columbia Marathon

PS. The weather forecast looks good. Should be around 40 degrees for the 7:30am start, then warm up nicely to almost 60 by finish.

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