Hitting the Wall: 2010 Cape Cod Marathon

On of the most fun running experiences I’ve had was training for and running the 2010 Cape Cod Marathon in Falmouth, MA. At 30 years old and a competitive runner for about 20 of those years, this was my first marathon. I had long sworn I would never run a marathon, simply because I figured it was too hard on the body. Yet, somehow, in the spring of 2010, I found myself tentatively agreeing to run the marathon. How did this happen?

In October 2009 my wife, infant son and I moved the Bronx, NY: this was a tough gig for my outdoorsy/Alaskan roots and I was struggling to find a way to stay fit. So when my never-run-more-than-three-miles-in-his-life friend Kevin Hanscom called me up and said he was signing up for a marathon, I was caught in a flurry of emotions. If he could do it, I should be able to, right? And with that, Kevin became my virtual training partner for marathon to be run on October 31st, 2010.

I put in some intermittent running in March and early April, didn’t run at all for nearly a month, then finally got into a routine starting May 25th. Between May 25th and October 31st, I logged 1008 miles exploring all neighborhoods in the Bronx, and well into Westchester County. Interesting anecdotes include:

  • My first and only run with Kevin (aside from the marathon itself) was a 21.5 mile run on August 8th from Brooklyn, through Manhattan, to our apartment in the Bronx.
  • My longest week was 75 miles.
  • My longest run was 26.75 miles, I took the bus the last few miles home.
  • I ran 99 out of 153 days. 2 out of every three days was typical.
  • I only ran 10 days in the month of September, due to illness and other family matters. Bad timing, but nothing I could do.
  • I wore five pairs of shoes (most of the 1000 miles was on two pairs).

I absolutely loved (virtual) training with Kevin and by the time the marathon rolled around, I was so happy with having managed to stay in shape in such a horrible environment, that I didn’t even need to run the marathon. Although, of course I did 🙂

Before running the marathon I estimated that I should be able to run between 3:15 and 3:25 given the shape I was in. Ultimately I ran a 3:19. That would seem like I was pretty right on, but as it turns out, I went out too hard, hit the wall, and crawled (not literally) the last few miles to the finish line.

My pace, in minutes per mile, versus distance for the 2010 Cape Cod Marathon. See the step function centered at mile 21? That's the wall.

Notice just how beautifully consistent my pace was for the first 20 or so miles. That’s pretty impressive if you consider that the course wasn’t completely flat (the hills started about half way in). I ended up running faster than my anticipated pace simply because I joined up with a really great group of people (Matthew Wohlever and Brustolon). We ended up running and chatting for most of the race. Laura left Matt and me sometime around mile 17, and Matt kindly left me when I crashed and burned in the Sippewissett Hills.

So yeah, that’s the wall. I think that the pace versus distance chart is a pretty dramatic visual of what that’s like. If you’d asked how fast I was running at the time, I would have estimated something like 12 minutes per mile, not 9 — so it felt substantially slower than it actually was. It wasn’t a matter of working through pain or anything like that, I just simply couldn’t make my legs go any faster — it was a pretty strange feeling.

Neither at the time, nor now, do I have any regrets for going out too aggressively. If I ever run a marathon again, I’m just going to make sure I can go out and keep that pace 🙂

Kevin ran spectacular race — much more consistent than mine. In every photo I saw of him he was smiling!