The Rocket City Marathon was the perfect penultimate race for my 50 BQ quest. Huntsville boasts a fast course, and we couldn’t have had more perfect weather: 44 degrees all morning with limited wind. I stayed at the Embassy Suites downtown which connected to the Von Braun Center. This is where we picked up our packets and finished the race. It was also extremely close to the start line, so the logistics couldn’t have been better.
I don’t have another marathon for a while, so I decided to take advantage of the optimal conditions and start the race with the 3:20 pace group. I didn’t expect to hang with them the entire time, but I figured that even if I fell off at the half, I’d likely be able to come in under 3:25. We were fortunate enough to have two pacers for the first 17 miles. (The woman pacing us was doing a training run for her Olympic Trials in Atlanta, so she peeled off early.) Both volunteers were extremely talkative and encouraging, which helped make the first portion of the race fly by. I also met another 40- year old mom, Jamie, who was going for a PR on her birthday weekend. She was also super- friendly and provided miles of conversation 😊
The first 17 miles of this course wind around the city of Huntsville. It’s not a particularly scenic or noteworthy portion of the race, but it’s predominately flat with just a few baby hills, so I can’t complain too much. I also had my pace group to provide distraction, so I wasn’t affected by the somewhat boring course. We did hit a more substantial hill at around mile 17 as we headed towards the space center. We also had to contend with heavier wind during this stretch, so miles 17- 20 felt the most difficult. Our pacer kept us at a good clip, so even though I was struggling a bit, my time didn’t reflect it.
The highlight of this marathon is running around the US Space and Rocket Center campus, which includes running under an old rocket ship. This was also where the race started winding back downhill, so it was perfectly timed for a second wind. Virtually every mile after 21 was either flat or downhill, so Jamie and I pulled away from our pacer as we pushed our tempo. I’ll admit that I was annoyed with said pacer from miles 17- 21 for being too fast, but once we began our decent, it also meant that we were ahead of our 3:20 finish time. I felt really good during those last few miles and managed to finish under 3:18, just two minutes off of my Mount Charleston finish.
As a final thought, this was my first time trying my Vaporflys for a marathon. These shoes were EVERYWHERE on the course. I counted 22 people wearing them at the start line alone. A note about the Vaporflys: I think that they live up to the hype. I don’t know that they necessarily made me run faster, but they did substantially lesson the fatigue that I felt in my legs during those final 8-10 miles. Instead of slowing down at mile-ish 18, I was able to keep my set pace. I think that this did lead to a 4% increase in my final time. I may not wear these shoes for every race, but they are definitely in my rotation now.
Sub 4 State: 49, BQ State: 49, Sub 3:30 State #26
Finish Time: 3:17:42
Place Within My Gender: 12/ (1st in my age group)
Favorite Race Day Song: “Defy Gravity” (We are taking the kids to Wicked this weekend.)
Total Training Miles: 9,580
Shoe Total: 29