The Delaware Marathon this past spring was a good race for me. For a bunch of reasons.
It took place in Wilmington on April 28 on a cloudy and cool day. It’s not a big race, particularly for one that’s been running for a few years and is so accessible. For someone like me who’s accustomed to small races—hundreds of entrants, rather than thousands—it was familiar.
My main race goals were typical for me—run negative splits, establish a new personal record, make a good social connection with a new friend.
I successfully ran the negative splits aided by the kind of confusion that can happen when so much of your energy is going toward moving your body at the expense of your mind.
I’d already planned my pacing based both on my training and on other recent marathon efforts. All that suggested I could average 8:48 min/mile (8.8 to be weird) by running the first quarter at 09:06 (9.1), then dropping 12 minutes/mile (0.2) with each quarter to finish at 8:30 (8.5). I’d never actually run a race with quite that progression but I’ve done some relatively close efforts with even- and negative-split pacing. And I’ve run a final quarter at 8:12 (8.2). Of course the trick is putting it all together in one effort.
I had 2 ways to monitor my pace—my dumb (vs. smart) digital watch together with split times on my smart phone’s lock screen and the running app Strava. The problem was that between the 2 the watch said I was going too slow and Strava said I was going too fast. Unable to process where the discrepancy lay, I paid attention to Strava and forced myself to go slower. I gave in to the conflicting information and started picking up the pace during the 2nd quarter. It was only at the ½ marathon mark that I realized Strava had my distance at 13.8 miles, instead of 13.1, which meant that I was now significantly slower than my target time and it was now past time to pick it up.
People sometimes say you can never make up time during a race. DE may have proved that point. I ran a considerably faster 3rd quarter which may have worn me out for a slower 4th quarter. I ended up running 5 minutes slower than my PR, but I still finished my 4th best marathon out of 15 with an admirable 3:54:50. I also negatively split the first 3 quarters and the first half. I ended up pacing my quarters thus, respectively: 9:36, 9:00, 8:30, and 8:48 (9.6, 9.0, 8.5, and 8.8).
I did meet my social goal. Since I’m generally picking up my pace through a race while other people are slowing down, it’s not that easy to find someone I’ll be next to long enough to have a conversation. Yeah, sure, it’s also not that easy to talk while you’re running fast, but doing training runs with a running group helps. Anyway, it does usually happen in a race, even if not in ways I expect.
Here’s how it happened in DE. At mile 20 I heard footfall approaching me from behind. Since DE hosts relay teams, I thought it could have been a fresh relay runner. As she passed, I could see she wasn’t wearing a relay bib. Her singlet said: ‘It’s my birthday! I’m 30!’ I yelled, “You’re running awesome!” She smiled and thanked me appreciatively…kept up her pace, opening up a lead with amazing speed. I had no hope of staying with her.
I never saw her finish, because she never slowed down. My wife congratulated me at the finish line (small race, right?). I told her I had to congratulate the birthday girl who she’d also seen and we found her surrounded by an entire cheer squad. “Birthday girl! You did awesome! How much did you negative split by?” Though she wasn’t even sure she did, someone who could have been a sister jumped in, “10 minutes!” It was an amazing performance that offset the disappointment (mild!) of not running a PR and but still helped me achieve my other race goals.
(Late note.) And how about this: She’s from Philadelphia and we have a common Facebook friend! I’m messaging her as I finish this post.
I did say it was a good race for me.
-CtCloser (Calvinthe), "Negative split or positive splat"
Text: Calvin Wang, CC BY-NC-SA 4.0. Photo: Barbara Wang, CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.
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