Dr. J on Running

16 Rehoboth Beach Seashore Marathon, DE, 4:53:09

Saturday 10 December 2011

Marla accompanied me on the uneventful road trip to Delaware. We found Rehoboth Beach quaint and charming. A summer resort for the most part, the marathon brought hundreds of visitors into its stores for Christmas shopping. We stayed at the race hotel, a few feet from the start line. Packet pickup disappointed. I got a short-sleeve T-shirt, and I found no expo. We ate the last supper at Jake’s – steak and potatoes for me, fish for Marla, and I retired early to bed.

Nighttime brought a warm front, rain and high winds. Race day weather featured clouds, temperatures in the upper forties, and northerly winds gusting to 30 knots. Since the course started due north then turned back, negative splits were on tap. I wore shorts, Psalms 26.2 short-sleeve shirt, socks to keep my hands warm that I shed at mile 17 (the socks, not the hands), a headband that stayed dry due to the wind, and my fifth pair of New Balance 903.

The race started five minutes late after a Junior ROTC guard presented the colors and a young woman sang a capella the National Anthem. Except for irrational placement of traffic cones in the middle of the road that led to several runner-cone collisions, the 1,500-runner start – half in the full and half in the half – went smoothly. I settled into four-and-four breathing, and ran on my tippy toes. Marla met me around mile 5 with a pick-me-up cheer and a kiss.

The first four miles brought two unwelcome surprises. I ran the third mile in seven minutes, and confirmed with my neighbors that it was a quarter mile too short. A post-race examination of the course map and my GPS map showed the turn-around cone between miles 2 and 3 some 200 meters too soon. Oh well. This quarter mile discrepancy stayed with us the entire race, as we hit every mile marker 0.25 to 0.3 mile too soon. This worked well for me, as I planned to run 1.7 miles and walk 0.3, so I ran to the even mile markers, and walked until the even mile splits on my Timex.

The second unwelcome surprise occurred at the second water stop. By the time we reached it, they had run out of cups and offered us the jugs. I passed.

We ran and walked into the wind. A gravel trail offered relief from the pounding, but challenged the joints with poor traction and filled the shoes with stones. The poorly-architected mix of trails and roads led a fellow runner to describe the course as “a lot of nothingness.” I agreed. Although we ran along the beach, we saw the ocean only once. Cape Henlopen State Park offered the only interesting part of the course - World War II anti-submarine observation towers, guns and ammunition silos. However, the numerous twist-and-turns and out-and-backs around the park left me wondering if I had missed a turn. I did not like that course.

I reached half-way in 2:32 and strolled several miles through the park. The wind to our backs, I ran the second half in 2:22, including my fastest split in mile 23 of just under 10 minutes. I crossed the finish line in 25.88 miles and 4:54:25. I asked Marla to walk swiftly with me until my Timex showed 26.2. I had no desire to return to Delaware for another Marathon if this one did not count. Official results placed me 512th out of 643 in 4:53:09 chip time, my third fastest marathon.

We skipped the post-race party, grabbed a tasty slice of pizza from a local shop, and continued the walk back to the hotel. Some 0.6 mile separated the start and finish lines. A hearty beef stew at a downtown pub replenished protein and salt, and a huge chunk of bread pudding capped the day.

We started early Sunday morning for home. I ate steak and eggs for breakfast at a local diner. A leisurely drive north took us to Bingham’s at mile 211 on I-81 in Pennsylvania, our first visit there since its reconstruction following a devastating fire. The layout looked the same, only cleaner. Carissa served us scrumptious food, and off to home we went, Mississippi Blues on my mind.

Dr Kamal Jabbour ran his first sub-5 of the year, and made it 16 Marathons in 16 states. Dr. J's RUNNING Column appears in Cyberspace whenever endorphins call.

© 2011 Dr Kamal Jabbour