This week has been one of my favorites. A lot of people thought I was crazy for signing up for multiple half marathons with the Mainly Marathons New England Series but it was honestly one of the most fun running experiences I’ve had to date! For some background – Mainly Marathons organizes multiple series throughout the country where runners run back-to-back half or full marathons every day for a set number of days in different states. So, the New England series featured half marathons in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York over a 7 day period. I joined for Days 1, 3 and 5 in Maine, Vermont, and Rhode Island. To add to the fun, I also used the series as a way to fundraise for Sweet Paws Rescue, the organization from which we adopted Annabelle in October. My goal was $3000 (to add to the theme of 3’s that I took on for my 30th birthday – 3 half marathons, 3 states, $3000 for Sweet Paws!) and to date, I’m about $500 away from my goal! Click here if you’d like to donate!
Leading up to the series, I didn’t really know what to expect – how does someone train for back-to-back half marathons? how would my body feel on days 3 and 5?? As part of my training, I began running to work on Wednesdays – typically a 7.5 mile run that I expanded to as many as 10 miles – in order to get an additional long training run during the week. (Running to work is so much better than commuting via T and I plan on continuing to do this even when not training for 39.3 miles). My highest mileage during training was 30 miles.
My amazing friend Sarah flew up to Boston on Friday night to join me for the first two races. On Saturday, after an awesome birthday brunch at my most favorite Rosebud, we drove north to Sanford, Maine. Packet pick-up was held at the start of the race at the Sanford-Springvale YMCA. Walking towards the crowd, we met Greg, a runner from Massachusetts, who would go on to pace me for a couple under 9-minute miles during my second half marathon this past week (Thanks Greg!).
All the races began at 6am, so Sarah and I woke up bright and early at 5am to eat some breakfast, get ready, and drive to the race. Luckily, because the race was so small, parking was a non-issue and we were easily able to get to the start by around 5:40am. Clint, the Race Director, made announcements at 5:50am – including announcements about Sweet Paws Rescue! He had set up donation bins AND was auctioning off a shirt through a silent-auction. Clint and the Mainly Marathons team are seriously THE BEST.
The race was an out-and-back along a paved trail. The unusual aspect though is that runners do MULTIPLE out-and-backs and collect rubber-bands along the way to show (prove?) how many laps you’d completed. The first race was a 6 lap course, and I’ve got to admit, I kind of love this style of race. After a lap or two, you begin to recognize people and since we all had our names printed on our bibs, it was easy to cheer each other on as we passed each other. Even better – it’s hard to get into your own head and think about how much pain you might be experiencing when you’re constantly being cheered or cheering on others.
Sarah and I ran the first 4 miles (two loops) together and then she let me keep on running while she walked (poor thing had dealt with foot, knee, and back problems while training!). Together, we had maintained about a 9:45 pace. After leaving her, I (unconsciously) sped up to about a 9:15 pace. All went great until about mile 10 when my own knee started to hurt. It was a hilly course, and my knees just did not love the uphills. I kept running though, and at the last turnaround I started running with one of the marathon runners, Justin, who grew up in Malden (where I live) and now lives in the neighboring town of Everett – such a small world! Thanks to our chit-chatting, I stayed focused on running and managed to complete the first half marathon of the series in 2:11:37 – 2nd female and 6th overall! I stretched and ate some snacks while I waited for Sarah to finish walking the rest of her half marathon – she was power-walking incredibly fast and I had trouble keeping up with her when I tried to join her! She ended up finishing at 3:08 – not too shabby for WALKING nine of the 13 miles!
While most of the other runners in the series did true back-to-back runs, I took a rest day every other day. What’s amazing is that even though I had the benefit of rest and they didn’t, they still kicked my butt and pushed me to run so hard. Tuesday’s race was in Springfield, Vermont. It is a VERY good thing Sarah was with me because I had ZERO cell service in Chester, Vermont where we were staying and I would have been VERY screwed if she hadn’t been there with her 1 bar of service. For example, I was able to get directions to a restaurant with gluten-free pizza but had not realized it was CLOSED on Mondays. If Sarah hadn’t been there, I would’ve just sat in that parking lot wondering what to do – there were no restaurants within sight and I had no idea how to get back to the AirBNB. Luckily, she was able to find a Scottish pub (in middle-of-nowhere-Vermont) where I had some delicious bangers and mash.
Sarah was *very* sore after her amazing power-walking victory so she understandably opted to stay at the AirBNB while I went to the race. The Vermont race took place on the Toonerville Trail – a really lovely walking/running/biking path along a river with small waterfalls (and a highway on the other side, but I tried to focus on the really lovely nature). From the start, I was running at around a 9-minute pace with two of the marathoners – Lai and Rob. Lai – ALSO originally from Malden but now lives in Connecticut – had been our neighbor at the first hotel and informed me that Norman Greenbaum, who wrote the song “Spirit in the Sky” was also from Malden- these are the things runners discuss on long runs, haha.
Eventually, Dallas, a runner from Texas, caught up to us and she and I ran together for a bit. Her goal was to get 2:0something, so I figured running with her would keep me at a good pace. At one of the rubber-band turnarounds, I ran into Greg and ran with him for a bit – he is SPEEDY and I was running sub-9 minute miles to keep up with him. That didn’t last too long, and eventually I slowed back down. Rob, a marathoner, caught up to me, and he paced me to my sub-2 hour victory. I had forgotten my watch and my phone died at mile 12, but Rob was patient enough to keep me updated on our pace and distance, and informed me that I hit 13.1 miles on his watch at 1:58:47. NEW PR! With just a little bit left to go, he encouraged me to speed up and I was able to get to the finish line at 1:59:46 – 2nd female and 3rd overall! Greg finished 1st overall, Dallas finished shortly after me, and she was followed by Leah, who had finished right behind me in Maine. Who PRs on their second half marathon in 3 days? Apparently I do!
Sarah flew home Tuesday night, and Eric decided to take Wednesday – Friday off from work to hang out with me! We assumed he would have to stay home with Annabelle, but apparently the La Quinta Inn allows dogs – FOR FREE! So Wednesday afternoon we packed up the car and took a family trip down to Rhode Island for my final race. Eric and Annabelle woke up bright and early with me and we headed to the race start in Coventry. In previous races, the parking lot had been separate from the running route, and I assumed that Eric would be able to leave to get some coffee/breakfast while he waited for me… but no such luck. The Coventry route looped AROUND the parking lot, so Eric and Annabelle were trapped! I had planned on taking it a little easier in my third race, but with them waiting for me, I figured I’d push myself a little harder and finish as fast as I could – for them!
Dallas and I started out together, but we eventually split up – the race in Massachusetts the day before had been a tough one! I ran most of the race on my own, cheering on all my new friends and waving frantically at Eric and Annabelle whenever I passed them (at about every mile or so). The route felt uphill in both directions, but luckily not too steep. It was also the biggest number of loops – 10 out-and-backs! I started out really strong at 9:05 minute miles or so, and eventually slowed down to 9:25. The course was long (again) and I hit 13.1 miles at 2:00:something – my SECOND fasted time! However, by the time I got to the actual finish line, it was more like 2:07:something. Still, not too shabby. And I still managed to finish as 3rd female and 6th overall!
This was an AMAZING experience and SO MUCH FUN! You’d think that after 3 half marathons in a week, I’d want to maybe take a break, but I’m already trying to figure out what race I should do next! My body feels pretty good, it’s only a little tired, and my knees are doing great! Luckily, I won’t have to wait too long until my next race – tomorrow I’ll be running the Playworks 5K!
Thank you Mainly Marathons for an amazing experience and helping me to raise money for Sweet Paws Rescue! I can’t wait to run with you again soon!