It is done. In the bag. Completed for another year.
In the past I have had to run on icy trails while being pounded by hail stones and snow, but this year was an entirely different story.
Today it was the perfect weather for a marathon. 51F. Little wind. No rain. No sun. Just steady temperatures and a grey sky.
I chose to base my routes around the Betzwood River Trail location as this gave access to fully functional toilets and ample parking, plus lots of other people on the trails (which is a good safety thing if the marathon attempt goes to crap).
This year I was joined by my Monday morning running buddy for the first six miles of the route. For this section we headed out towards Phoenixville along the SRT. The trail has a gentle incline out of Valley Forge National Historical Park and the dives back down to run right alongside the river. At the three mile point we looked for a trail marker (in this case a bridge), ran to it, and turned around.
All this meant that the time we got back to the cars we had 6.4 miles under our belts. I grabbed a hat and my headphones and started out. My friend, Ed, ran a little further with me, then bailed at the end of the Betzwood lot. It was nice having someone with me for the first part of the run.
My plan was to do the next ten miles as a five mile out-and-back run through Norristown. This part of the SRT is quite pretty and goes past lots of riverside homes as it passes through Indian Head. There have been some issues for people in the past as they go through Norristown but I’ve been fortunate enough never to have issues. In general, I would advise women not to run alone through this area, but there were a few doing that today (well done them).
The five mile turnaround point was part way through one of my favourite pieces of the trail when riding a bike… A fast and gentle downhill out of Norristown Railway station. On a bike I can hit over 30mph on this stretch, but today it was a more leisurely pace.
By the time I got back to the car I had 16.4 miles under my belt and felt fine. At this point I switched out my water bottle for a mix of water and Gatorade, grabbed another Clif mint chocolate bar, and a spibelt with two extra packs of Clif shot bloks in case I started having issues with cramps.
Then it was straight back out on the trail towards Phoenixville again, this time running all the way to the Reynolds Dog Park. I turned around when the trail hit the road and my legs were still feeling fresh. Distance-wise I was a little short at 4.8 miles out, but making up the last little bit by running around the car park is sort of a tradition on these… You don’t want to end up having to run further!
Through the last few miles my legs did start to tire, but they didn’t have any cramps or muscle issues at all. I think running with the Gatorade really helped on this front. As I spotted my car I still had another 0.7 miles to run, so I headed up to the far end of the car park, ran around to see the work on the new trail bridge over to Valley Forge (very nearly completed) and then turned back towards my car. As I reached the car I got the twenty-six mile announcement and had to go a little further to get to the final number. I did feel a bit of a lemon doing this, but I see other people doing this sometimes too.
Sitting in the boot of my Mini and drinking rather remainder of the Gatorade I felt really good. My legs weren’t too achy, I had some mild soreness from my shorts rubbing (my fault and not the shorts), I had only eaten one and a half Clif bars and six bloks, but I didn’t have any cramps or real fatigue.
I did run at a far slower pace (8:50) vs. the marathon I raced three weeks ago (7:50), but that was my plan so I don’t feel too bad about that. I didn’t use a music playlist but instead listened to podcasts for a more relaxing experience.
My weight before was 147 lbs and after was 146 so I think I did a good job with the nutrition and liquid intake. Here’s a recovery photo. Apologies for the unshaven wreck.
All in all, I finished in 3:51:44 and feel fine. Not a record run but the first time that I didn’t have to stop and walk near the end. Small improvements all add up.
There were a lot of people out on the trail today and most of the runners said “hi” and, in general, the cyclists also announced their passing and also acknowledged me. That’s nice.
Now to enjoy some of the xmas trappings that I had to avoid on Xmas day; bring on the wine and beer!