I woke up before my alarm went off b/c I was excited (and a little bit nervous) for the morning... I told a couple of my athletes that I would be out in Hawaii Kai (mile 17ish) and would try to run with them til mile 22 or so... I arrived ~90' after the start of the race, just in time to see the lead pack of men flying around the corner... it was a tight knit group of 6 African men... Um, ok I have seen pictures of elite runners running and maybe a video here or there but I'm fairly certain this was the first time I've ever seen them running in person like that and I will tell you- they were beautiful. They were running so fluidly with these huge strides and their heels were coming up to their asses after every step... feet barely touching the ground as they were just gliding together all in sync. Unfortunately it was still dark out and they flew by in a flash so I only got to see it for maybe 10 dark seconds... but wow. It was cool.
About 10' later another lead vehicle came driving by and it was the pack of lead women (and a few men hanging on to them) looking similar to the men. They make running look so easy.
I wish I could run like that for 1/4 mile. Seriously.
I hung out on that same corner for another 20' and watched as the sun started coming up and more runners started streaming by and it was starting to look a little harder. The strides got shorter and the heels weren't coming up as high and the faces looked a little less stoic as the runners became more human. It was really windy here today and they had all been running straight into a wall of 20-30mph wind for like 8-10 miles... luckily they were turning into a tailwind for the last ~8 miles but you could see that the effort of holding pace into that headwind had taken its toll on many. Blah! Like marathons aren't hard enough?!? Gotta add a 20mph headwind into the mix? Fwiw, don't come to Honolulu if you're looking for a marathon PR. But I did see a bunch of friends and local athletes I knew running by and looking great so I did my cheering part (and I was wearing my Be Relentlessly Positive tank top which seemed appropriate for the event).
I actually jogged a couple miles as warm up b/c I figured running 8' pace is not always the easiest thing for me to do and I wanted to make sure that I wouldn't be huffing and puffing and holding my athletes back or anything in case they were running that fast when I started pacing with them... And as soon as I saw my first one I jumped in and started running with her and went into my you're doing awesome super duper positive happy talk... 3 of my athletes were all running within about a minute of each other at that point so I sort of traded off running with each of them for the next ~5-6 miles... I was actually only planning on going to mile 22 but ended up getting close to mile 24 b/c I was sensing they were hurting (duh, marathons hurt!) and just didn't want to let them go! Interesting too b/c as the miles ticked by I started getting more and more militaristic in barking orders at them... My message morphed from the happy/smiling You're doing awesome at mile 18 into more of just SHUT YOUR BRAIN UP and GUT IT OUT by mile 23. Classic.
One other thing I should point out is how different marathon pace feels at mile 6 vs mile 22. I almost felt a little guilty about how good and fresh I was feeling running alongside my athletes... but I was at mile 6-8 and they were 20+ miles in and the effort required to hold pace at that point is significant... I KNOW how hard it is that late in the game... but early in the game, well, not so hard. Just an interesting observation that seemed really black and white today. I guess that's the lure of the marathon!
Anyway, eventually I did let them all finish on their own (they did well- all 3:40-3:46) and then began a very interesting jog back to my car (which was ~7 miles away). Honolulu is one of the only marathons that doesn't close the course at like 8 hours or whenever courses typically close... and for whatever reason it just attracts a bazillion (ok 22,000+) people, mostly from Japan, who walk the entire course. Some rather leisurely. I'm not sure I understand the draw to fly to another country and go for a 26.2 mile stroll, but to each his own I suppose. I do know that I ended up surrounded by many of them as I was running back to my car- the whole 3 lane road was completely crowded and jammed with people going in both directions so I just weaved my way through and watched as they all went about their business of finishing their marathons in their own way. It was very eye opening to see that.many.people out there chugging along... relentlessly through 30mph winds (and sideways rain by that point)... If Honolulu is any indication, way more people finish marathons in 5-7 hours than in 3-4 hours. And good for them for getting off the couch.
So there you go! It was a super fun day and I'm stoked for my friends and athletes who gutted it out today. I got a decent 15+ mile run in (was happy with that and how I felt) and then got to my car and found the texts from Krista and Shane that they totally surpassed our expectations at Tucson 1/2 Marathon this morning... Honestly I thought Krista was ready to run 1:40-1:41 but she bombed through that course in 1:39 flat with Shane right by her side and got a HOLY SHITBALLS text response from me. Totally made my morning. ;)