I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the St. George Marathon has some of the most spectacular views of any marathon in the state of Utah. Nay, the country. Nay, the continent. Nay, the Milky Way. (Mmmm....Milky Way.) Check this out:
I knew the St. George Marathon was going to go well when I found this awesome $5 shirt at Walmart to wear for the race. Unfortunately the only size they had was HUGE so the shirt was kind of like wearing a mu mu. I was convinced it would make me faster.
In addition to the awesomely bad shirt, another great thing about the race was that this would be my sister Hollie's first marathon! She was very nervous and I offered to build her confidence by letting her wear the shirt but she declined. (Turns out she didn't need any extra help for the race.)
We had the incredible fortune of seeing Pony Tail Man at the starting line! Pony Tail Man has been stalking me for many races (except he doesn't know he is stalking me). I've never had the courage to talk to him and tell him that his hair is hideous and incredibly awesome at the same time. (See more Pony Tail Man pictures HERE or HERE.)
I ran with Hollie for the first few miles but then told her to go on ahead. I love when the sun starts coming up and you can see the conga line of marathon runners spread out before you:
I have been doing almost all my training on trails so I was apprehensive about running 26.2 miles on the road. Fortunately there was dirt on the side of the road that I was able to run on for much of the first 22 miles. I was surprised to only see two other runners taking advantage of the dirt.
The miles continued to float by and before I knew it we were around mile 7 and the dreaded Veyo Hill. I heard so many people singing "Eye Of The Tiger" that I was able to get up the hill with plenty of distractions.
I had one goal for the marathon: RUN A NEGATIVE SPLIT. (Run the second half faster than the first half.) In my previous 12 marathons I have never done this before. I decided I wouldn't wear my watch and would just run by feel.
For the first few hours I suffered from a moderate case of TMGS (Too Much Gatorade Syndrome) which resulted in a few quick stops. I also experimented with taking a Gu at each aid station two miles apart which seemed to work fine.
There were some good signs that people had put up along the course, including this one:
At mile 15 runners arrive at Snow Canyon State Park. I always feel like I am running into a watercolor canvas.
I knew it was slowing me down quite a bit but I just couldn't put my camera away. (I ended up taking 113 pictures at the race.) The scenery was nothing short of spectacular.
This one is among my favorites that I have ever taken at the St. George Marathon:
At the halfway point everything clicked. I had been wise for the first half and not burned out my legs. I knew this was the point when my race really began. I got into a steady, consistent pace and felt good. Around mile 17 I saw my grandpa - definitely one of the funniest people I know. He said "Cory, you're not quite winning. But if you hurry I think you have a chance to win!" (There were probably only 4,000 people in front of me.) That gave me a good laugh.
My legs had gotten a little twangy and I was on the brink of full blown leg cramps. But I have started to learn how to disconnect with my body sometimes. I would just turn my music up a little and tell my brain to listen to my music instead of my legs. Realizing that I was able to keep pushing forward gave me motivation to keep pushing even harder. At mile 23 I saw my friend Kelly who knew of my love for Hostess and brought a surprise for me. Did they make me sick? Yep! Was it worth it? Definitely! Thank you Kelly!
I kept cruising and could feel my pace getting faster. I gave a high five to every single man, woman, child, and policeman I saw. Research from the Institute for Completely Imaginary Facts shows that each high five you give makes your legs run faster.
100 yards before the finish line I saw my family and stopped to get a picture with them. Words can't describe how much I appreciate their support. I love them so, so much.
I did a big jump across the finish line with a time of 4 hours 49 minutes. It's not my fastest time, but easily the best experience I've ever had at a marathon.
Here is what I'm most proud of: the marathon tracking showed that over the last 7.5 miles I passed 436 runners and was passed by 2 runners. I may have (or did) become slightly choked up because it felt so good to be running strong toward the end of the race. I achieved my goal of running my first negative split! (The second half was around 11 minutes faster.)
My sister finished earlier feeling just as good. She is amazing. If I had scripted the perfect day, this would have been it.
The St. George Marathon organization is flawless. They have created a marathon experience that can't be beat. The volunteers and spectators are amazing. And there is an unlimited supply of ice cream at the finish line! Who could ask for more?
I'm thankful that running is hard. I'm thankful the sense of accomplishment that you can feel when you push harder than you thought you could. I'm thankful that I've had a few crappy races in the past because it makes the good races even sweeter. Experiences like this are the reason I run.