While researching Idaho marathons, one race that was suggested over and over was Pocatello. I don’t think that I’ve heard a bad word about this event, and everyone who has participated seems to love it. Initially, it wasn’t my first choice for the state as Pocatello is kind of a pain in the ass to get to, and I would have much rather flown into Boise and run one of their races. However, the Boise marathon that I had been eyeing took a year off, and this particular one worked well with my fall running schedule.
Looking at the course description and maps, I couldn’t figure out what all the hype was about. It appeared to be a small race at a fairly high elevation, which would make for a difficult run. The first half was downhill, which I love, but then the course flattens out or rolls for the last ten miles. So, without fully understanding why or how this could be a fast course, I signed up and took off for my third western marathon of the summer…
I flew into Salt Lake City, as it was closer than Boise, and drove two hours north into Idaho. It was an easy trip, and the scenery in this part of the country is lovely. Pocatello turned out to be a great little town. It’s super- easy to navigate with plenty of hotels and restaurants for pre and post- race meals. Also, the race gives you a bag of potatoes at the expo. How cool is that?! Getting to the bus pickup point in the morning was simple, though taking a bus to the start of yet another point- to- point marathon made for a hellishly early morning. (I’m looking forward to all of my loop races this fall!)
The Pocatello Marathon begins at 6,000 feet and ends at 4,600 with most of the elevation loss in the first fifteen miles, so I decided to start the race with the 3:25 pace group and then fall off once the course flattened out and I needed to slow down. I hoped that this would give me enough of a cushion to make it in under 3:40, because I still had trouble believing that my time was going to be all that speedy. My pacer, Neil, was absolutely fantastic, and because it was a smaller race, it was essentially just he and I for the bulk of our run. He was happy to talk as much as I wanted—which was kind of a lot—and he was cool with us pushing the pace a little faster on the downhill section of the course.
I expected to slow down as soon as we hit mile fifteen, as we would still be at a fairly high elevation, but once the uphills began, I realized that I still felt fine. The course did become more challenging at this point, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I had expected, and the elevation really didn’t bother me much. (I guess all those people who said this was a fast course knew what they were talking about.) I left Neil at mile seventeen, but I never got too far behind him. I ended up finishing this race with a solid time and managed to be the third female in my age group. The post- race celebration and awards ceremony took place in a lovely park with a great view of the mountains.
So, now that this marathon is complete, I can attest to the fact that it is, in fact, awesome. Pocatello is a small race, but I was never alone on the course. It’s a very pretty point to point run which is also well supported for an event of its size. A couple of the online reviews that I read mentioned that the last several miles of the course were more industrial/ less scenic, but I honestly thought that the whole run was nice and never really hit a spot where I didn’t enjoy taking in my surroundings. And despite the elevation and hills at the end, this IS a fast race.
On a final note, I had a rather entertaining interaction with my pacer: At the expo, I stopped by the pace booth to see if there would be someone running 3:25, and I had a very short conversation with the volunteers. The next day during the race, at about mile twelve, Neil mentioned to me, “I was told by the people at the expo that there was going to be a crazy lady running with us today, but I haven’t seen her on the course yet.” I pointed out that I am, in fact, a lady, and that I had literally been the ONLY person running with him all morning, so it was very likely that I was the crazy lady he had been warned about. He kindly told me, “Oh no, it can’t be you. You’re not crazy!” Neil was either being very kind, or I guess he just needs to get to know me a bit better 😉 Because really, all of us multiple marathoners are more than a little crazy!
Race Highlights: Really, the entire race was nice, but the first half, which was the most scenic and downhill, was fantastic.
The Downside: We had to load the buses for the start line between 5:00 and 5:30… so, so early!
Sub 4:00 State #31, BQ State #30, Sub 3:30 State #12
Finish Time: 3:27:14
Overall Place Within My Gender: 7/64 (3rd in my age group)
Total Training Miles: 6,709
Shoe Total: 21