When I began mapping out my marathons around the country, I assumed that Jim and I would run Rock and Roll New Orleans for our Louisiana race. Then the event switched its date from February to March, which is a less appealing time to run in the south. I stared asking around for other options, and a woman that I met at the Disney Marathon strongly recommended the Louisiana Marathon in Baton Rouge. I looked it up, and it was run in January, promised to be fast and flat, and had really good reviews. So my streak of running 50 states with no Rock and Rolls still holds strong.
We flew down to Louisiana the weekend before my 40th birthday. I like poetic coincidences, so running my 39th marathon on the last weekend of being 39 seemed fitting. My intentions for the weekend were to eat a lot of great food and run a good race, and I think that I succeeded on all fronts.
Our hotel was downtown and within walking distance of tons of restaurants. We had a great vegetarian pre- race dinner and a fantastic post- race lunch consisting of etouffee and po boy sandwiches. (Southern cooking at its absolute finest.) We were also two blocks away from the race, which was great—especially since it was very chilly at the start line. (For future reference, Sadie, the temps were in the high 30’s and low 40’s on race morning with a cloud cover up until mile 24. You wore capris and a long sleeve shirt and were still chilly at times.)
I had no real goals for this marathon aside from trying to finish under 3:30. There wasn’t a 3:25 pacer, so I figured that I would just run based on how I felt and have a good time. That plan pretty much went to Hell two minutes before the gun went off when I was unexpectedly joined by Brian White, my pacer from the Detroit Marathon and another member of our 50sub4 club. (Note to future Sadie: a day is always improved dramatically when Brian hops a corral barrier post- national anthem to run with you for a while.) He had planned to attempt a PR in the half on this course, but an injury had slowed him down. He offered to run with me for the first few miles of my marathon.
I enjoy talking to people while I run, so the appearance of a friendly, chatty face was most welcome. Brian didn’t have a watch with him, so he was fine going at my pace. However, he’s really fast, so I ended up starting out much quicker than intended without realizing it. We found ourselves ahead of the 3:20 pace group by mile three, but I was having fun and feeling fine, so I went with it. The first seven miles of the race flew by, but I knew that it would get more challenging once Brian pulled away. I wasn’t sure how long I could hold this pace, but my new goal became to stay in front of the 3:20 group for as long as possible before I crashed and burned… and I was fairly sure that this would happen since I had started the marathon so stupidly fast.
When I’m really focused on not slowing down, I tend to look around a lot less, so much of this marathon went by in a blur. I remember running for miles around a lake, which was fine; through some parks; and, of course, in and out of countless neighborhoods. The course was predominately flat, and the cool weather made it feel very fast. The 3:20 pace group didn’t overtake me until around mile 20. I hung with them for maybe a mile, but as soon as we turned into the wind for the last stretch, I was done. Unfortunately, this race did get more windy and more hilly during the last five miles, which hurt my overall time. There was a bridge at mile 26 that damn near killed me. (I mean, really, who puts a bridge that close to the finish line?!
My final few miles were essentially a battle between me and my Garmin. I started to slow down by this point, but I was still averaging around an eight- minute mile and had a shot at a new PR. I finished six seconds faster than my Saint George time—close enough that I was counting myself in through the finisher’s chute. To have inadvertently done this well gives me hope that I can still get faster, even in my 40’s.
Race Highlights: Getting a new PR.
The Downside: Running this race three days before turning 40. At 40, I would have placed 2nd in the master’s division. At 39, I came in 4th in my age group.
Sub 4 State #37, BQ State #36, Sub 3:30 State # 16
Finish Time: 3:22:43
Overall Place Within My Gender: 11/ 411
Favorite Race Day Song: I finished this marathon to Garth Brooks’s “Baton Rouge,” which was perfection
Total Training Miles: 7604.5
Shoe Total: 25