I’ve spent the last couple of months stressing out over the Atlantic City Marathon. (Essentially ever since Go! Saint Louis changed its race date.) My race in Hartford the week prior went very well, but this will be my first experience with running two marathons a week apart. I felt pretty good going into the weekend, though: I took an ice bath after last week’s race, I got a massage on Thursday, and I’ve been conscientious of my sleep and diet. I didn’t feel sore or fatigued, but I knew that things could easily deteriorate on the course.
Jim and I both ran this marathon, and we flew into Philadelphia and then drove the hour and fifteen minutes to Atlantic City. Neither of us have been to New Jersey before. It was exactly what we expected. The race starts and ends on the boardwalk outside of Bally’s Casino, so we got a room at the hotel for the evening. (Note: Staying at Bally’s was perfect from a convenience standpoint, but our room was NOT nice.) Packet pickup was also at the hotel/ casino, where we experienced an expo first: There were no safety pins given out with our race bibs. We were told that they ran out (there were still hours of expo remaining) and that we should check a CVS or something. Once again, New Jersey fulfilling all my preconceived notions….
Jim and I took a stroll along the Boardwalk and had a nice dinner at Guy Fieri’s Chophouse. The marathon didn’t start until 8:00 AM, and since we just had to walk downstairs to get to the start, we actually got a full night’s sleep. Several members of our 50sub4 club were also at this event, and we had the chance to visit with them in the start corral. The forecast predicted low 60’s all morning with winds up to 12 MPH and a strong chance of rain after 10:00 AM. We knew that this was reputed to be a windy course and that we would feel the brunt of it on either our out or back along the ocean.
This isn’t a huge marathon—maybe 600- 700 finishers—but there were aid stations almost every mile, lots of Honey Stinger gel available, and pace teams. The race began on the boardwalk, which we followed for about a half mile before turning off onto local streets. In this first section, we ran up and down a couple of highway overpasses. These were the only hills on the course; it was completely flat after mile four or five. The overpasses weren’t terrible as they fell early in the race. It’s also fun to watch the runners in front and behind you go up and down these, as they tended to run parallel to one another.
My initial plan was to stick with the 3:30 pace group for as long as possible, and if I was having a bad day drop back and try not to get passed by the 3:35 or 3:40 group. These first few miles felt easy, though, so I decided to try and hold a 7:45/ 7:50 pace for as long as possible since I knew that somewhere along the route I’d hit the wind. Around mile seven, we turned back onto the boardwalk for a five- mile stretch. I’d heard a lot of complaints about running on this surface, but it didn’t really bother me. I think that being a smaller- framed female helped a lot, as I wasn’t hitting the boards hard enough to pop them up and down. The boardwalk was flat, and we seemed to be running with the wind, so I had no trouble maintaining my pace.
The half marathoners turned around at mile eleven, and two miles later we left the oceanfront for another long out and back down Atlantic Avenue. As we approached the turnaround at mile sixteen, I realized that there weren’t many women ahead of me. I was still feeling strong and thought that if I could keep my pace around 8:00/ mile for the last ten, I’d manage to come in under 3:30 for the second week in a row and also pick up an age group award. (I ended up passing two girls within the next two miles.)
At mile 17, we had to do a jog through some neighborhoods to burn up miles. This is where I first started to feel the wind. It was picking up, and we were now running against it. Fortunately, it also began sprinkling around the same time. The cloud cover and light rain kept us cool for the back half of the race. We merged onto Atlantic Ave. again at mile 21, and I knew that I’d be running into the wind for the rest of the race. It got worse when we hit the boardwalk for the last 3 ½ miles. I understood that it would be a test of my willpower to get this thing in under 3:30. I was still on a good pace, but my miles were slowing down to 3:05- 3:15’s, and I knew that I had less than a minute’s cushion. Running on a flat surface helped, as did knowing I’d only have to fight the wind for another couple of miles. I ended up finishing with a 3:29:06 and was the 6th female overall. This was FAR better than I had expected I would do, and I am thrilled to have run two sub- 3:30 races in back to back weeks.
Jim got his sub4, and we celebrated with naps at the hotel before driving back to Philadelphia. (We were staying in a hotel close to the airport as we had an early flight the next day.) We spent the evening visiting with friends from Jim’s residency class, which was the perfect way to end the weekend.
Sub 4 State: 46, BQ State: 46, Sub 3:30 State #23
Finish Time: 3:29:06
Place Within My Gender: 6/ 292 (2nd in age group)
Total Training Miles: 9,257.35
Shoe Total: 28