Someone clever booked me into a motel just 1 block from the finish line, which was surely clever enough. That motel is also 1 block from the first station on the trolley car line that took thousands of us to the starting line at the Olympic Legacy Bridge, two frightfully clever moves, thank you very much, for the price of one. Because of that, this was not one of those "have to get up at some ungodly hour" events. Stepped out the door at 5:45, expecting fully to be sorry I'd forgotten my gloves. Not so much. The starting time temperature was somewhere in the low 40s...much warmer than I'd been expecting. SLC was bashed by a blizzard earlier in the week.
The starting horn blast was heard a little past 7am, releasing upwards of 10-thousand runners onto the course, the first half of which runs along the base of the Wasatch Mountains. This has simply got to be one of the most beautiful places I have ever run. I'm not sure if I lived here if I'd ever be able to take the visuals for granted.
The first three of miles are downhill, providing the challenge of holding back and running at my target pace, rather than faster. It usually takes me 3-5 miles to really get warmed up and "into" what I'm doing out there. This race was no exception. Must admit, despite the scenery, there was a little voice in my head that was questioning my sanity.
At mile 5 the marathon runners split off from the half marathoners at Sugarhouse Park. Those running the full got to go around the whole delightful park. Those doing the half only got to run along its eastern edge. For some reason I recognized the clump of trees behind which I'd taken a potty break the last time I did this race. Ducked in there and did it again. I'm a big fan of tradition.
After the park we marathoners continued to head south, through the suburbs. The locals were out in respectable numbers, cheering us on, with all the normal chants. "Lookin' good". "You're a hero". "You're almost there". All of those a little goofy...but much appreciated.
My biggest goal for the first half of the race was...to complete the first half of the race. It's at about that point, in the city of Holloway, that the course turns west for a mile and then makes the big turn north, back to downtown SLC and the Gateway Center finish. At mile 14 we made the turn onto the Van Winkle Parkway, my least favourite 4 miles of the course the last two times I was here. I was not looking forward to it this time...until I hit it. As I was not struggling this time as much as I was on the previous visits, it was nowhere near as bad.
It was about this time that I noticed something heartening. I was passing more people than were passing me. This, about mile 17, is about where Galloway kicks in, at least in my experience. The only time people were passing me was when I was in my walk breaks, after which I would almost always catch them up. One guy I just could not catch, though, was a big bald dude in University of Utah basketball shorts. He was taking regular walk breaks too. A fellow Gallowayer, I am sure.
Mile 17 is where I unwrapped my customary English Mars bar. It's tradition. It didn't stand a chance and was gone in a wink. Walked a little extra to let that yummy energy goodness seep into my system.
The run up 500 East, through the city of South Salt Lake, is pretty much flat and uneventful. The coolest thing here, though, is...the cops have the meanest looking patrol cars I've ever seen. All painted matt black, with few graphics, and bitchin' wheels to match. I'm thinking if a bad guy in SSL sees one of these Darth Vader machines chasing him down he should pretty much just give it up!
Up until about mile 22 I thought I'd been pretty much on pace for a 5:00 finish, if not a little faster. At mile 23 I felt I was running out of steam. Even though I only had 3 more to go I knew from experience what was to come. After going around Liberty Park we turned west again, heading for the right turn onto State Street, and the view of the Utah Capitol, on its hilltop perch. The cruelest part of this whole course, to my mind (and legs) is the State Street climb, which this year was about three blocks longer than it has been in the past. Looking at the climb from the bottom I wasn't sure I could do it. From the top, South Temple, I couldn't believe I had. But I had lost some time. It was now just about rolling down the hill to the finish.
My Garmin said I'd finished 26.2 just a little short of the official finishing line, so I stopped the timer there, showing 5:09. My third best marathon time ever, my best SLC by about 20 minutes, and my 5th race of the 12in12 challenge.
Now, I know this a big race weekend for thousands of runners around the world. Boston is tomorrow, and much of the running world is looking toward Bean Town. My suggestion, for those of you, like me, who will never get into Boston, consider SLC. There were concerns before this year's race about troubles for Devine Racing. If those troubles exist they were not apparent out on the course. Here's hoping the organization gets its ducks in a row, and puts on an even better race next year. I would surely do this one again...for the fourth time.