Breaking the 3-Hour Barrier My Story

Breaking the 3-Hour Barrier, Part 9

This was probably my most disappointing marathon after finishing “Boston Bound.” I was so ready and everything lined up perfectly.

After Ogden in May, I was taking a little break. In the last five months, I’d finished three full marathons, and seven other races ranging from 5k to 1/2 marathon distances. Finding a good job in the area had proven difficult and it was depressing. My running goals had to be modified/postponed from tearing a muscle in my foot in January, but physically I felt like I was ready to train hard for my goal race at Akron. Mentally, however, I was aloof. I wasn’t where I thought I’d be and I wasn’t doing what I thought I’d be doing. I had made some good running friends, but it was still hard to connect.

I took an InBody test to see where I was at before starting the training cycle. In six weeks with two marathons, I had gained one pound of muscle and lost two pounds of fat. The numbers gave me an instant pick me up followed by a downward spiral of feeling guilty for being happy about numbers. Ha!

About a month into the training cycle I got so frustrated trying to balance work schedules, home life, and running. So I threw out my training calendar and bought a new one to fill out one day at a time. I wouldn’t exactly say I was winging it, because at this point I had sixteen marathons under my belt. I knew I had enough experience to go by how I felt and get the mileage I needed without a “map.” This decision made the rest of the training cycle feel smooth, even though it looked hodge-podgey on paper.

I wasn’t able to go over or get in a full 26-mile training run, but I felt confident in the long runs I did get in. I had a few bad experiences with a couple of them, but locked that knowledge away for future use. The only real different strategy I was implementing into this cycle was a longer taper – three weeks, instead of two. I made sure I kept up strength training, mobility, and all the little things that make a big difference on race day. My aerobic system felt great, and I had zero musculoskeletal issues. The weather forecast looked perfect. I had no doubts.

Being in my hometown, and where I ran my first, this race was extra special. Also, my whole family was going to be there, some traveling up from North Carolina. Kyle was able to fly there from a job he had been working in Virginia the previous week, so I had a full “support team.”

On race morning, everything was going fine. I got to the start without any issues, felt fueled, loose, and excited. There were several competitors vying for the win, and with my slow(er) marathon time I knew I was the underdog. But I also knew that I hadn’t hadn’t raced a marathon that showed my current potential in over two years. In the marathon, when you have a disappointing race, the silver lining is that you still have the progress made in the training cycle.

The gun went off and I relaxed into a comfortable pace. I set my watch to have 3-mile splits so I wasn’t checking my watch every single mile of this hilly course. I needed to go by effort for the first 21 miles, just in case I had to settle for my B time goal of sub-3 hours. My first three splits were right on target. But I started to have a little hip pain on my right side. I hadn’t had any trouble in training, so I wasn’t sure what was going on, but the only thing I could think of was how cambered the road was compared to what I had trained on. I started trying to run in the middle, and hoped it would go away, but I began to slow significantly. I reached the half point at 1:29 and the pain had gotten worse. Unless the pain suddenly went away, I knew I was in for trouble. Frustrated, I slowed even more and was desperate to see mile 20. I thought about dropping out. My time was gone, and my hip was really painful. But I couldn’t bring myself to quit. The pain was brand new and I had already run 10 miles on it, so 6 more wasn’t going to do much more damage. I took away the risk of long-term injury excuse and I reminded myself that this is all part of the process. I can’t quit, I can’t drop out. It would hurt me more psychologically than staying in would hurt me physically. I started to alternate walking and jogging as my hip allowed.

I finished the race and hobbled to the side fencing for support. The medics came over and I assured them everything was fine, and that it was just a muscle issue. They weren’t busy though, so they offered a wheelchair ride to Kyle. Putting any weight on it was hard to do, but after getting to my parent’s house and soaking, I could limp on my own.

Kyle and I flew home later that evening and even though I still couldn’t walk normal, I predicted I would be fine in a few days (if I was right about why it all began in the first place). I woke up the next morning and was able to walk normally, but that hip/glute/IT band was crazy tight. Nothing else was sore though – both a happy and frustrating realization. And now, on Monday morning, the unilateral tightness is almost gone.

Bummed is an understatement. I’m also angry. The good news is that everything else didn’t get much stress from the race, so in a week I anticipate resuming training in a better state than I had originally expected. In two months I will be racing the California International Marathon in Sacramento.

Final Stats

Time – 3:16:08

45th of 883 overall

10th of 319 women

3rd of 43 in age group


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *