If “Run a PR” is high on your running bucket list, do your list a favor and run the Baystate Marathon in Lowell, Massachusetts. In fact, if “Run a BQ” is on there, then register for that bitch RIGHT NOW! I ran Baystate on Sunday and achieved BOTH of those magical running goals. Squeee! I am still giddy. And probably will be for quite some time. Oh, you’ll still have to do the work. It’s not like you’ll line up and suddenly sprout silver wings on your feet. Although, I bet you might come pretty damn close to doing so.
This course is fast. And about as flat as they come. Baystate is small by marathon standards (<1500) but it has an enormous heart. It is billed as a marathon “For Runners- By Runners” and it truly is. The quaint expo, the friendly volunteers, stellar porta-potty placement and a wonderful post-race results area, with your results popping up as you walked by, all helped make this race incredibly runner friendly and simple to navigate. The marathon course is two loops- which I didn’t think I would be thrilled about. However, I didn’t mind it one bit.The trees and foliage were absolutely beautiful. It’s a New England Fall Marathon along a river. Doesn’t get prettier than that. Is it the most scenic course? No. But let’s be honest, I wasn’t there to Leaf Peep. I had 18 weeks of Hansons Marathon Method Training under my belt. To say I had my game face on would be an understatement. I had my game face, heart, head and legs on.
The start of the Baystate Marathon will go down in my running history as the most un-stressful, low-key beginning to any race I have ever run. Which is strange considering I was putting all of my eggs in the BQ basket.In light of the EPIC stress of days prior, I thought I would be a wreck. I wasn’t. I woke up. We drove. We stopped at Dunkin Donuts for coffee and bagels. We parked then hung out in a nice and toasty Tsongas Center with our other new runner friends. We laughed. We shivered. We lined up, hugged and I momentarily got completely choked up. In that one second I realized: This. Was. It. All that work. All that effort. I gave my training everything I had. I exhaled those 18 weeks. And inhaled desire. I wanted this. Badly. I was prepared.
This is My Day.
And just like that. I was off.
The First Half
I started running and immediately noticed the 3:45 pace group right up ahead. Huh. This might work. I fell into step with a group of roughly 12 runners. I vowed to not obsess about my Garmin. My Awesome Pacer was handling that. I just relaxed and ran as if on autopilot. It was brilliant. My breathe was even, my legs were light. I had trained my legs to run just shy of this pace. They knew what to do. And they were doing it. Effortlessly. I was stunned. I was mindful of the pace, vowing that if I began to fade, I would keep this group in my sight. I had figured that I would stay with them to the half, assess, then take it from there. The first loop was complete.
This is My Day.
I started smiling.
The Second Half.
Around mile 14, a New Pacer took over. My Awesome Pacer peeled off, but not before yelling such encouraging words. You are all so strong. I am so proud of all of you! It was just what I needed to hear. There I was, more than half way through, and I was still hanging with The Cool Kids. ME. I was. I couldn’t believe it. And I felt fantastic. I hadn’t felt fantastic EVER during this training. That was the point of it. Cumulative fatigue. Train your legs to run tired. They were chronically fatigued all throughout training. But not today. Today they were snappy. I decide around mile 17 that I would ease off of the gas a bit. I was concerned about falling apart. This feeling has got to be too good to be true. What if I blow up, lose my shit, and throw it all away because I got greedy? Peer pressure kills PRs. I didn’t work this hard to toss it away! Screw The Cool Kids! Whoa, Colby. Ease up. I kept them in my sight and ran my own race. I fell into a comfortable rhythm for the next 6 miles. It was cold. And I missed the warmth of The Cool Kids. I carried on, steady, waiting for the other Hoka to drop. It didn’t.
This is My Day.
My jaw is set.
The Last Three Miles.
I run across the Rourke Bridge. I have lost sight of The Cool Kids. This does not upset me. I am running my own race. Dammit. I glance at my Garmin: I have three miles left. Only 3. How is that possible? For the first time all day, my legs feel fatigued. I quickly envision worst case scenarios as a mild panic creeps in. If slow by one minute per mile, will I still squeak through? What f I fall? What if I cramp? What if I crash and burn?!?! WHAT IF?!?!
Stop. Just. Stop.
What if I just keep running and finish what I started?
This is My Fucking Day.
I grit my teeth.
I run those last three miles as hard as I can. This is everything. Everything I have! I make several turns. I hear the finish. My heart overflows. I start smiling. And sobbing. And laughing all at once. I round the bend. I have never felt so strong, so ALIVE in my life. I cross the line. 3:51:23! Three minutes faster than a 6 year old PR. And 25 minutes faster than my average past 3 marathons. I can’t believe it. I sob and yell and fist pump like a Crazy Pants! Tina is there and we hug. Tears. I break down. So does the volunteer who hangs the medal on my neck.
Christ. You would have thought I won.
Because I did. 🙂