O2 Fitness Charleston Marathon Recap 2018

I made the decision to run the Charleston Marathon just six weeks before the race. I have never signed up and decided to run a marathon on this short of timeframe. I had gotten sick just before the St. Jude Marathon in December and wanted some redemption. Maybe that is just the excuse I will stick with. The Charleston Marathon raises money for Engaging Creative Minds (ECM), a non-profit that helps students.

I love and hate January marathons. I always think they are a great idea and the training will help me stay focused through the holidays and keep me away from all the sweets. Never seems to be the case. I tend to be diligent about getting my long runs in but skip the short weekday runs and eat all the tasty treats anyway. Which means I start January off dreading the first marathon of the year.

After running the St. Jude marathon in early December, I did the Spartan Beast in central Florida the following weekend. I was doing none of the following as I counted down the days to Charleston: diligently stretching, taking care of my body, and getting enough rest. On top of traveling 21 days in December, I also had to be mom, work my day job, meet deadlines for my PhD class, and deal with persistent plantar fasciitis in my right foot which has led to tightening in my right hip and IT band pain in my left knee due to compensating… Anyhow…. none of that was going to stop me.

Friday – Travel Day

Woke up Friday morning to rain in Tallahassee. So, had to pack the car in the rain, and drive seven fun hours in the rain. Of course I made horrible gas station food choices all day and did not focus on hydrating. Luckily, the rain came the day before race day. We made it to the Expo about 5:00pm. The Charleston Marathon usually boasts about 5,000 runners every year and this year those numbers were broken down: 800 5k racers, 3,000 half marathoners, and 1,000 marathoners. Though a small race by marathon standards, the Expo was amazing. O2 Fitness printed all the names of the registrants on a fabric wall, which was placed at the entrance of the Expo. My girls had a blast finding my name. The Expo included over 20 vendors, including free apples, a booth for kids to make custom race signs, a picture zone, free coffee, local shoe stores, official race merchandise, local artists, and more food. I would consider this a smaller race by marathon standards, and their Expo was awesome and made it feel like a much bigger race.

Saturday – Race Day

Race day. I woke up about 5:00 am and was pleasantly surprised to see the temperature at 53ᵒF. By race start, the temperature had dropped to 40ᵒF with wind gusts. Getting to the race start proved much easier than expected and road closures were easy to navigate. The full and half marathon started at the same time and there were numerous pace groups. Only downside about the start is that the row of porta potties is near the start line and the crowd looking for their pace group mixed in with the people waiting in the lines for the bathrooms. The race did not offer a staggered start, but I did not have any trouble finding my pace after crossing the timing chip mat at the start.

The start of the course runs along the peninsula in downtown Charleston. The course takes a hard left and takes runners through old neighborhoods. The half and full separate just before mile 10 and the full marathoners take an out and back through the Federal Law Enforcement Training Course grounds. The full marathon rejoins the half marathon course just before mile 15. Miles 18-24 offer lots of turns and some short out-and-back sections. This means you can see other marathoners throughout the course who are ahead of you and behind you. Miles 24 and 25 takes runners through the Charleston Naval Complex and provides continuously changing scenery that is appreciated late in any marathon. The last .2 miles leads to the finish line party where runners can see the band playing before making the last two turns to the finish line.

My goal for this race was to have a finish time faster than the last marathon (St. Jude, Memphis, 12/2/2017). Training through the holidays proved challenging and I realized two days before the marathon that my weight had inched up a few more pounds. Coming into the race I knew the odds of meeting my goal were not in my favor. Due to the cold temperature and blowing wind, my feet were numb at the start and I started my race with a much more aggressive pace that I knew I couldn’t sustain for 26.2 miles. Due to the fact that I started so aggressively and was feeling good, the idea of a PR creeped into my mind. Why? – I don’t know, I hadn’t trained for a PR, I knew I couldn’t sustain the pace, but there I was thinking the possibility existed and was within reach. Having rested legs at the beginning of a marathon is always deceiving. The wind was the strongest between miles 6 to 16 and was so bad at times that I found it hard to breathe.

My pace started to slow at mile 14 and by mile 18 I knew a PR was not going to happen, but I was still on track to meet my training goal. About mile 18, the plantar fasciitis in my right heel started to cause the outside of my right foot to hurt and cramp. Several times I had to slow down and walk and stretch out my foot. By mile 22, I knew I was compensating and putting stress on my left side and could feel it in my IT band.  The last three miles can best be described as slow, slooowweerrr, and “do you even want to finish” slow. In the last half mile I could hear finish line music and see many supporters along the sidelines. You can see the finish line as you approach, which makes the last steps very enjoyable. Gratefully, I finished several minutes ahead of my goal and much better than where I was a year ago.

Good to know:
-Marathon is a point-to-point race with the finish ending approximately 6 miles from the start
-Considered a pancake flat course with a few grades to climb over bridges
-Offered fish n grits at the finish as well as bagels, chocolate milk and bananas

Pros:
-Flat course (for anyone trying to qualify for Boston)
-Excellent Expo! Easy to find and well organized
-Very safe course (heavy law enforcement presence on course and lots of volunteers. The SWAT teams moved throughout the course and finishers area).
-Full and half marathon separate and reconnect in multiple areas allowing runners to see and cheer on one another
-Constantly changing views of old downtown areas and scenic waterways
-Amazing and enjoyable last half mile and finish line
-Gorgeous finishers medal

Cons:
-Race has many out and back sections and you make several U-turns.
-Marathon has a 6.5 hour cutoff time (less walker friendly)
-Due to time of year and being along the water, the winds were cold, damp, and gusty
-Predominantly a half-marathoner race

After the race I grabbed some lunch with my family and wore my race bib and medal as any good stinky marathon finisher should do. Our super awesome waitress was a local runner and we ended up taking running and racing. At the end of our meal, she gave us all warm cookies fresh out of the oven. Special thanks to the locals in Charleston for their awesome hospitality!

Congrats to all the finishers in the 2018 race and good luck to anyone considering this race in 2019.

Sign up at: 2019 O2 Fitness Charleston Marathon

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