I have heard really good things about the Missoula Marathon, so I was looking forward to a scenic race and a fairly fast finish time in Montana. Unfortunately, the marathon gods had a slightly different plan for my weekend: This was my thirty- first marathon, and one thing that I know as a frequent traveler is to ALWAYS pack my race gear in my carry- on luggage. I have done this for EVERY SINGE RACE… except for this one. I brought a full- size suitcase with me for a week of travel, and there was so much room in it that I decided to throw in my race bag (because what could go wrong?)
My problems started when our flight to Chicago was delayed ninety minutes due to weather. I made it to my connecting flight after the doors to the plane had been closed and wasn’t allowed to board. I had to re- route through Minneapolis and got in at 9:50 PM as opposed to 12:30. It was a long day of travel, but I did eventually make it to Missoula. Unfortunately, my luggage did not… It was still in Chicago. Being that it was 10:00 at night in the middle of Montana, my only option for race gear was a 24 hour Walmart. I grabbed clothing for the morning—thank goodness that I did have my watch and music in my carry on—and then proceeded to the shoe department. To my utter dismay, the best option available was a pair of $17 Dr. Scholl’s sneakers.
My race experience is really just the story of me and these damn shoes. I knew how bad the run was going to go in these things, and I spent most of my night worrying instead of sleeping. Nevertheless, my exhausted self strapped those bad boys on at 4:15AM and proceeded to the bus loading area. (After spending 15 minutes asking every female in the hotel lobby if they happened to have an extra pair of running shoes with them.) The Dr. Scholl’s didn’t even feel good while I was walking in them, so I knew that it was going to be a long morning. I strongly considered skipping the race entirely, but I decided that I’d give it a try and re-evaluate my situation at the half.
My plan was to stick with the 3:30 pacers for as long as possible and then slow down during the later part of the marathon when my feet really began to hurt. We started with a large group, and everyone was very friendly and talkative. This was especially nice as it took my mind off of my shoe situation for a while. The course is as pretty as advertised, with mountain and river views throughout. We also ran through some lovely forests that provided much appreciated shade as the sun came out and the temperature climbed. At mile three, I could tell that a seam on my sock was rubbing the side of my big toe in a way that would leave an enormous blister. Again, my goal was to gut it out as long as possible—to the half if I could—before stopping to re-adjust. My foot hurt with every step, so I would have been happy getting six or seven miles out before fixing the problem.
I don’t know if this is a good or bad thing, but my feet started to go numb by mile ten or eleven, so the pain from the sprouting blister dulled a bit. Our pacers informed the group that the only sizable hill on the course occurred at mile fourteen, so my new plan was to make it this far before stopping. I got to the hill, I did have to slow down a bit, I did loose my pace group, but I also decided that I was doing ok and didn’t need to take a break. I ran the next few miles at a slower, 8:20/ 8:30 minute pace but was still—miraculously—on pace to run a Boston Qualifying time. I realized that the biggest inhibitor to my performance was my lack of sleep, not my ridiculous shoes. I had to take a number of walking breaks in the last miles of this race, but each mile was still coming in under 9:00.
The high for the day in Missoula was 88 degrees, and it started to warm up around 8:00, which was two hours into my marathon. The last hour or so of my race was run through residential areas, which included many kind spectators who turned on their garden hoses to help cool down the runners. The fire department was even on the course at mile twenty- two with their supersize hose. This was incredible for cooling everyone down, but it was the last nail in the coffin for my feat. My shoes and socks got soaked, and the chaffing began in earnest for the final stretch of the marathon.
At the end of the day, I crossed the finish line with a BQ time and a newfound appreciation for my Brooks Launch. I leaned a lot from this marathon: I have a much higher tolerance for pain than I realized, I am capable of more than I believe I am, Dr. Scholl’s shoes purchased from Walmart are not intended for marathon running and will literally fall apart, and most importantly, ALWAYS pack running shoes in a carry on!
While I will always remember this marathon as my Dr. Scholl’s run, it’s also important to highlight what a fantastic race this is. It’s a midsize event, so there were always runners on the course with me, but the roads never felt congested. Missoula is a point- to- point course which allowed us to take in the beautiful countryside. It is also predominately flat with one hilly section around mile fourteen. The elevation, at around 3,000 feet, was only slightly noticeable. The organization is top- notch with zero problems at the bus loading, start line, or finisher’s area.
Race Highlights: My pace group was very, very nice, and the race directors, volunteers, and other support staff could not have been more helpful.
The Downside: The $17 shoes, all the way.
Sub 4:00 State #30, BQ State #29
Finish Time: 3:36:44
Overall Place Within My Gender 29/ 473
Total Training Miles: 6,391.7
Shoe Total: 21