The week leading up to the Madison Marathon was a roller coaster. The temperatures had spiked, and the Madison Marathon organizers had reported on Facebook that there was a high probability of race cancellation. Temperatures were expected to be in the 90's with high humidity. The organizers fully admitted that they couldn't move the start time forward due to agreements with the city of Madison.
Finally, on Thursday night they announced that the full marathon was cancelled. That didn't affect us much, as we had registered for the 1/2 marathon. However, they also stated all full marathon runners could run the 1/2 marathon distance. That told me that the field was going to be very full for most of the race.
We told ourselves that this would be a race about "being smart"....we told ourselves that we just "need to finish in one piece"...and that we "wouldn't push it".
We were lying to ourselves...and we knew it.
Becky and I went to the University of Madison, so part of us will always call it home. Any time we get to go back to that home of 4-5 years, we welcome it. We arrived early and parked just off Capital Square, where the start line was located. Unlike most races we run in, this race has no wave start...no corrals. Just a big open area where everyone can get set where they feel like it. We knew we were back-of-the-pack people, so we found a comfortable spot about 3/4 of the way back of the starting line.
We had our pre-race instructions, at which point we were informed that those runners with yellow backgrounds on their bibs were current or ex-military. It was nice to see them honored in that way. I think it's always a boost to know those that protect our freedoms are out on the course with us. The national anthem was performed, and we were off.
The course goes immediately downhill from the square and skirts near the UW campus. It then takes a turn and heads northeast away from campus. The crowd was shoulder to shoulder in this area, and we were getting blown away by faster runners. At about 1.5 miles in, we hit the first water stop, which was not at all prepared for the amount of runners that hit it at one time. We decided to get water, and as we approached the table, Becky fell because of the amount of plastic cups on the ground. We got past the tables and did a quick check to make sure she was okay, and continued on.
At mile 2, there was a "beer stop" being run by college kids that was offering beer and bacon. These guys gotta move to like mile 10 or 11 of a race. I don't want beer that early....late in the race - sure. Also in this area was a sign with a Bill Clinton mask that read "Just keep going - don't pull out. That's what she said!"
At about mile 4, we stopped for our first restroom break. The sun had finally taken full effect. Becky stopped at the port-a-potty for a bathroom break and I hit up some GU for electrolytes. When we continued, we decided to take a slower approach for awhile.
The course continued through a more affluent neighborhood, and toward the Governor's mansion. This race was right in the middle of the recall madness in Wisconsin, so a lot of comments were made about the governor in this area. The residents that lived in this area were awesome, however. Many had sprinklers set up on their front curb for runners to go through, or had their hoses running for runners to take a quick drink.
After passing the Governor's Mansion, we passed mile 5, at which point an ex marine was firing up the crowd around us, chanting "Alive at 5! Alive at 5!" He literally ran back and forth in the pack in that area, giving anybody who needed it an uplift. We were happy with our mile 5 time (right around an hour even), and kept moving forward, as this area of the city had a lot of trees that provided nice shade to run in. In addition, the crowd had finally started to thin out, giving us room to really settle into a pace without worrying about those around us. Before we knew it, we were at the 10k mark.
Eventually, we made the turn and headed back toward the Capitol. I warned Becky that we would actually pass the capitol and then make a turn around on John Nolen Drive, and then go in for the final stretch.
This area took forever.....and I mean FOREVER. Between the cramping and the heat, I couldn't even run....we walked a large part of it. I felt terrible, as we had a good pace going, and Becky was looking at a PR. We walked toward the 10 mile sign.
Overall, this was a great course. The heat, which was beyond the organizer's control was the major factor in how I performed. The organizers were right to cancel the full marathon, and have since decided to move it to the fall, and said they may have the John Nolen Drive stretch near the beginning, which would be a better move. That section is very flat and picturesque, but took a beating from the sun when it got hot.
I still love running at "home". I'll be back.
12:53 Average Mile
322/333 - Age Group
1956/2010 - Males
4149/4393 - Overall