My first thought upon crossing today’s finish line was, “I love this race.” It’s a ridiculous race, with a distance that only makes sense if you’re training for a marathon, and a ridiculous course of seemingly endless loops of Central Park. It even falls at a ridiculous time, as it’s supposed to be a “tune up” for the NYC Marathon, but for most (regular, average) runners, it comes too early in their training schedules. But maybe because it’s such a ridiculous race, it attracts people who just want to run, and it brings out the spirit of running and the feeling that we’re all in this crazy marathon training together. This isn’t a race people do “just for fun.” It’s not a race for any cause or charity or holiday – it’s simply designed to help you pound out 18 miles on a Sunday, with course support and a t-shirt for doing so. And if you finish it, you feel good, accomplished, and have a guilt-free day of TV and chocolate-covered almonds ahead of you. As one of the finishers cheered along the course said, “You just ran 18 miles. Think about it!”
My knee hurt for the first 5 miles until it finally got warmed up, which wasn’t awesome (and makes me think that my knee will hurt for 90% of my time during Ragnar, since the distances are broken into 5- to 8-mile legs). Also, I got passed. A lot. Besides wondering what Fry wonders in the image above, I also wondered how people were blowing past me after 15 miles. Shouldn’t they have passed me ages ago?
Also, at mile 15 I got hungrier than I can ever remember being. Last night I read an article in Running Times (article not yet online) about bonking on training runs, and how maybe that was a good idea to see how little fuel you could get by with during training instead of during a race. It suggested trying “the least complicated” fueling as possible before and during a training run, so that if it works for you great, it’ll be simpler for the marathon, and if it doesn’t, you can change things for the actual race. So, I ate only one Bonk Breaker bar as breakfast (225 cals) an hour before the race, and during the race drank only a little Gatorade when I really needed it, plus 1 gel after 6 miles each (2 total, not counting the emergency gel discussed below). But I was definitely hungry for most of the time I was running, and by mile 15 I felt like I was starving – just blind with hunger, with that hunger the only thing propelling my legs to reach the next aid station. As soon as I reached it, I drank two large cups of Gatorade and ate one sugary gel. It was horrible – like a sugar bomb in my stomach, but there was nothing else to eat and I was desperate. It did make me feel a little better, and I wasn’t as hungry when I crossed the finish 3 miles later (although I still downed a banana and bagel in record time). So besides learning not to read running articles before 18-mile runs, I learned that I need to eat more before my races so I don’t become famished during them.
All-in-all, it was a great day, with perfect weather and 5,000 other runners sharing the day (and again, because of the kind of runner this race attracts, it was the most running-etiquette knowledgable crowd ever – no abrupt stops, no splashing with water from dropped cups, no running 4 abreast – just great). I had some over-11-minute miles in the mix, but I finished without too much pain, and that’s all I really hoped for. Well, that and the dog and the pancakes.
Have you ever run the 18 Mile Tune Up? Want to run it again with me next year? Share in the comments!