Thursday, November 26, 2009

Atlanta Marathon - 26 Nov 2009

The Atlanta Marathon was held on Thanksgiving Day - defined by Wikipedia as harvest festival celebrated primarily in the United States and Canada. Traditionally, it was a time to give thanks to God for the harvest and express gratitude to others for the many blessings. The marathon was organised by the local Atlanta Track Club and had a cut-off time of 5 hours, while the half-marathon course would close once runners doing a 5-hour pace had passed.

I had chosen to run Atlanta as it allowed me to 3 days of rest after Williams Route 66 Marathon on 22 Nov and another day of rest before my next one in Mississippi. Also, this was the host city of the 1996 Olympics and should have easily accessed public transportation to and from the start/finish point of the race. The weather at the start was cool but windy. I decided to bring along a long sleeve dri-fit running tee in case I felt cold. Well, I should have known better that I won't be bothered by such weather. The starting point was also the finishing point for the marathoners while the half-marathoners started at the u-turn point for the marathon route. As such, it was not congested at race start.  The volunteers at the baggage deposit tent were helpful to assist in ensuring your bag was securely tightened and numbered. I went to mingle with the rest of the runners and also had my photo taken by the official photographers. I tried looking out for Jim Simpson who also did the Mountain Home Marathon and Williams Route 66 Marathon the previous weekend. After about 3 miles, I spotted him about 100m ahead of me. Although I tried hard to catch up by narrowing the gap, I just couldn't find the spring in my legs. The rolling hills for the course didn't help too. I decided to run at my own pace instead of pushing too much so early in the race. As usual, I worried about the 5-hours cut-off, especially since I knew I had not completely recovered from my previous 2 races. Luckily for the runners, the marshals and locals were enthusiastic and greeted us a great thanksgiving day along the way. I took a packet of sports bean at one of the aid station and it perked me up a little. I crossed the half way point at approximately 2hrs 16mins.

After the u-turn, I began to have more confident of completing the marathon within the cut-off time. However, the route remained undulating and hilly. At around the 16 miles mark, I met a volunteer who also ran in the same 2 marathons the previous weekend.  He wished me all the best.  At about the 20 miles marker, I thought I might have the chance to run below 4:40 so that I could qualify at Seeding G for Comrades Marathon instead of Seeding H (which is the last seeding).  I pushed myself harder and checking against my watch. The last 4 miles was rather difficult as we ran into downtown Atlanta.  By Mile 24, I knew I wouldn't make it below 4:40 and I slowed to a jog and passed the Mile 25 marker just a few minutes off 4:40.  The last mile was the longest I ever ran. There was even a slight hill.  I met 2 official photographers there and asked them politely if they stationed there to "strategically" take photos of runners panting hard after the short hill sprint. : p There was still about 1/2 a mile to go and just before I crossed the finishing line, I could hear the organiser announcing the name of runners who completed the race.  For me, it was always special to hear the Americans welcome me who came all the way from Singapore.  My final timing was a respectable 4hrs 48mins 22secs - 15mins off my PB, which is a brilliant timing for my 3rd marathon in 6 days.  Am I nuts or what?  : )

P.S. I met Dane Rauschenberg at the race expo.  He was the author of the book See Dane Run - One Man 52 Weekends, 52 Marathons.  I managed to get a picture with him and also got him to sign his book.  It was a very rewarding Thanksgiving Day indeed!  : )

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