three four new things for the Delaware Marathon this past Sunday, because, as the old marathon saying goes, “Everything new on race day!” (That is the saying, right?) What new things did I try?
- I finally wore my Marathon Maniacs shirt!
- I tried fueling with PayDay bars!
- I ran with a sore throat!
- Bonus – I saw a woman cheating!
I can recommend two of those four things, but you’ll have to read on to find out which ones!
The number-one thing Wilmington has going for it is its location. On Saturday morning I zipped down on Amtrak (if “zipped” includes a 30 minute train delay) and walked two blocks to the outdoor expo. Because of all the rain, there was a bit of a mud “situation” that the race organizers tried to combat with piles of straw, but it wasn’t entirely effective and I left with my shoes and jeans spattered with mud. Luckily, they were not my race shoes and the mud hazard was worth all the goodies – I picked up my bib, two free Gus, a shirt, a pint glass, a hat, a cowbell, and a bag. Before heading to my hotel I continued down the riverfront a couple blocks to Harry’s Seafood for some sea bass and a ridiculous chocolate peanut butter dessert.
After eating too much I hauled all my stuff to the Doubletree Downtown. At check-in I got another goodie bag (with another Gu, a Kind Bar, a marathon door hanger, a marathon oval magnet, and marathon info) plus a warm chocolate chip cookie. Later that afternoon I went out for some water and fun sized PayDay bars, which I planned on eating during the race for the first time ever.
To be clear, it’s not the first time I’ve ever had a PayDay bar, but it was the first time I’d ever eaten them during a run. They ended up working out pretty well! I’m in an eternal process of tweaking my marathon nutrition, but I’m trying to move away from gels/gus because I think they’re yucky. Instead, I’m trying to eat things I actually enjoy and using races as a way to eat (more) treats! I picked PayDay bars because they don’t have any chocolate to melt and the peanuts are salty, which is something I often crave during a race. Their nutrition profile also isn’t too far off from “typical” race food, but is a little heavy on the fat – each fun size bar is 90 calories, 90 mg sodium, 5 g fat, 8 g sugar, and 2.5 g protein. Compare that to Salted Caramel Gu at 100 calories, 125 mg sodium, 0 g fat, 7 g sugar, and 0 g protein, and 2nd Surge (my standard go-to) at 90 calories, 115 mg sodium, 0 g fat, 13 g sugar, and 3 g protein. PayDay bars don’t have potassium listed (so I assume it’s zero?) and they don’t have any caffeine, so I did supplement with 2nd Surge and some Gu chomps on race day.
Race day morning was cool (in the 50s), overcast, and very humid, but cleared to sunny skies with a bit of wind a few hours into the race. Considering the rain we had had the entire week before, we certainly lucked out on Sunday. I dropped off my bag on the bag check tables behind the tents (nothing very formal) and got into a long line for the porta potties (definitely needed more of those, in my opinion). It only took me 3 minutes to cross the starting line (even with my back-of-the-pack starting position) and I actually jogged across the starting line since it was so open/uncongested. It got a little more crowded a few blocks into the race because of the narrow walkways and I felt like I was running in a sea of “HALF”ers (which I was).
Luckily I had been warned about the hills on the course, so mentally I was prepared to walk a lot. But since I expected big hills, the actual hills didn’t seem that bad. They were very gradual but looooong, and everything had to be done twice because of the looped course, but at least every uphill came with a corresponding downhill. The worst hills came at approximately miles 5-7 and 12 (and again at 18-20 and 25). Since I compare everything to Central Park, I’d say the hills were similar but stretched out and stacked end to end, leaving longer portions of flat and longer portions of uphill/downhill.
While the course was more beautiful than I expected, Wilmington is certainly a city of contrasts. We ran through some very fancy suburbs with nice parks only to turn suddenly into run-down neighborhoods with payday loan shops (not to be confused with PayDay candy bars) and vacant storefronts. The most shocking thing I witnessed during the race had nothing to do with the course, however. Around mile 20.5 a woman blew past me, which was surprising since at that point the course was very empty and I was still trotting along at a decent pace (for me). A little farther ahead I noticed her turning around at a non-turnaround point – basically cutting the course. I joked with the guy standing at the intersection that I was jealous of her getting to cut, and he said she told him she had gotten lost and run extra, so was cutting it off now. I raised my eyebrows but didn’t think much of it until after the race when I realized just how much she had cut – two small loops including the entire portion through Little Italy, or a little over 2.5 miles.
Now, even with the cut, at this pace the woman wasn’t qualifying for Boston or winning any awards (maybe… she looked youngish so I don’t think she’d win an age award… and I didn’t get a look at her bib number so I don’t know what she ultimately got), but it was startling to see someone cheat during a race, especially with all the publicity cheating has gotten recently. Did she really get lost? Maybe, who knows? But if you make a mistake like that should you still have to run the full regulation course? I’d lean towards yes, but I’ve also never had to run 29 miles for a marathon before. Is it really cheating if you run at least 26.2 miles that day? What do you think?
Because I was sick (my sore throat was slowly developing into some congestion, but the real waterworks, headache, and fatigue didn’t really kick in until Monday – and I’m still battling what turned into a pretty bad cold), I was keeping the option of only running the half and still getting a finish time (which was allowed, according to pre-race communications). And while I hope not to run while sick again, it didn’t seem to affect me much that day.
As usual (at least for the past several marathons), my plan was to run the first 20 miles and let myself walk after that if I wanted (since I’d make the cutoff time by then). I ended up walking most of miles 18-20 because of the hills, so I kept running afterwards, and was able to keep all but one of my miles under 14 minutes. Ultimately I finished about half an hour faster than I expected, and while my knees were quite puffy (as you can see I had them iced at the end), I felt pretty good. A nice touch at the finish was having your name, hometown, club affiliation (like 50 State and/or Maniacs), and number of previous marathons announced.
So, the PayDay bars were a success, the illness, while not recommended, wasn’t bad, but the real home run was wearing the Marathon Manaics shirt. I’m not a runner who needs crowds or lots of distraction during a race, but I do love the social aspect of races, and wearing that iconic yellow shirt got me a lot of cheers and high-fives from other maniacs during the race, plus I got to hang out and chat with some maniacs after the race, too. Again, not that I don’t chat with maniacs without the shirt, but it does make a great icebreaker. (The hot pink gloves and the rhinestone necklace were just extra…)
The best thing I overheard:
“Same day finish!” – from a runner and fellow back-of-the-packer.
Thinking of running the Delaware Marathon?
There were 459 full marathoners, 1101 halfers, and 938 people in the two relays (about 2,500 runners total). The start was staggered (full and halfers started before the relay runners) and there were no pacers allowed. Because of all the relay runners, the finish area takes on a party/tailgate atmosphere and seems like a fun way to spend a Sunday morning.
All categories on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best. Note this review is based on running as a “back of the packer,” with a finish time over 5 hours. Your experience may vary.
- Getting There (Transportation & Walkability) – 9/10 – From NYC (or Philly, or Washington, DC), Wilmington is easy to reach via Amtrak. Once there, hotels, restaurants, and the start/finish are all within about a half mile or so, so you don’t need to rent a car.
- Staying There – 8/10 – The Doubletree Downtown Wilmington is old and showing its age, but it was fine for a night or two, and the price was pretty good (total with tax was $240 for two nights, but they also offer late checkout or “very late” checkout at 5 pm for an additional fee if you don’t want to stay the whole night). I’m not sure if there was an additional parking charge since I didn’t have a car, but I’d imagine there was. The location was good for the race – about 1/2 mile from the start/finish/expo area, and only a block or two from a Rite Aid and several restaurants, both sit-down and takeout.
- Cost & Registration – 9/10 – You get a lot of stuff! I paid $97 (with processing fees) in September 2015, which got me a short sleeved tech shirt (same as the half marathon), headsweats hat, pint glass, cowbell, and a couple packets of Gu. During the race there was decent on-course support (water, Gatorade, Gu/cookies, porta potties, and medical). After the race, you get a really nice medal (this year’s had cutouts and a spinner portion!), beer, champagne, and food (the quantity and quality depended on your finish time, but after 5 1/2 hours there were still some sandwiches left, along with lots of bags of chips, some cold pizza, little cups of pasta salad and fruit salad, bananas, chocolate milk, and sugary drinks). I thought photos were included because they promised “access to digital photos” but that just meant they had on-course photographers and you can buy the pictures afterwards. I will say the photographers were better than average and took a lot of scenic photos during the race. There was no memo pad that said “Memo from a Delaware Marathoner.” 🙁
- Organization – 8/10 – Pre-race communication was good – I particularly liked the trio of race-week emails with all sorts of info included. The expo was very small and a bit muddy. The course support was pretty good, but they were missing some volunteers at intersections so you had to keep your eyes open for cars.
- Course – 7/10 – For a looped course, it was a lot more scenic and less boring than I expected! And while it did have some hills (most notably at miles 5-7 and again at 18-20, because of the loop, plus a final hill at 25), they were quite gradual, although quite long. The mile markers felt really off, though, actually coming a lot earlier than they should have according to my watch (which never happens – usually I’m .2 or more ahead of the markers due to weaving), but the course itself wasn’t short (unless you cut it…).
- Crowd – 1/10 – Basically no spectators except at the finish party area – and it really was a party in that park, with all the relay runners and family members enjoying a sunny May day. There looked like a lot of tailgating and fun going on, and it was painful to run past it to do another 13.1 mile loop.
- Other Factors – 4/10 – There’s really not much to see in Wilmington. If you’re from the area, it’s easy to get there, and if you’re not from the area, Philly is incredibly close, in case you want to do some sightseeing there.
- Overall Rating – 6/10 – The race was decent, the swag was nice, the maniacs were great, but the overall trip was just “meh” – there just wasn’t much else to the weekend… And yet I’d consider coming back to do the half just so I could enjoy the post-race food (before it’s gone or ice cold) and relax in the park.
Have you ever visited Wilmington? Do you try new things on race day? Do you think that woman cheated or was she justified in cutting? Share in the comments!