After a two week spell of some awful winter virus and respiratory infection (I felt as though I’d coughed my lungs up), I tried running again, slowly, the Monday before the Tobacco Road marathon. That two weeks off left me feeling out of shape. This is why people who run only rarely say they hate running: it’s hard if you don’t do it all the time. Would I be able to run a marathon less than a week after returning to running after a couple weeks off?
“You can run Tobacco Road,” my coach said, “as long as you don’t smoke it.”
So there you go. My fastest marathon was 4:54. I had run the Mercedes Marathon three weeks earlier in 5:13. So my goal for Tobacco Road was anywhere between 5:15 and 6, so that I could recover quickly and get back to running. My target was 5:30.
The course was gorgeous. After a couple miles on an asphalt road, we turned onto an old railroad trail. The tracks are gone, and most of the route was packed dirt, though there were some asphalt sections. I ran with my friend Virginia for a couple hours, until she decided to turn on the gas and go faster. “See you later, Virginia,” I said. “I am not going to smoke this one!”
The trail was not terribly hilly, but after ten miles or so I was heading up a small hill when I saw a woman with her dog on a leash. It was the oddest looking dog! HUGE. Was it a Great Dane? I got closer and realized: the lady was walking a GOAT! A fellow runner stopped, pet the goat and got a photo. Then she smelled her hand. “Oh, no, I am going to smell goat for the next 16 miles!” The lady offered to let me pet the goat, but I demurred. When I finish a marathon, I like to smell like a rose.
For most of the marathon, I made sure not to catch up to the 5 hour pacer, and to stay ahead of the 5:30 pacer. At about mile 21, the 5:30 pacer caught up with me. I was getting tired. I asked him how fast he normally runs a marathon, and he told me his normal pace is 3:30, but these days he was running them slower and pacing. Why? Because he is planning to do a 100 miler in two weeks. “I am a little beat today,” he said, “because I ran a marathon yesterday too. I really wanted to do this one in 6 hours, but they didn’t have a pacer spot for that.” WOW. At that, I let the tired man pass me. Turns out I was more tired than I thought. The last couple miles were slow: I was still running, I suppose, though my pace wasn’t must faster than a fast walk. In the end, my finish time was 5:45. Success! I didn’t smoke it, and I smelled like a rose.