Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Race Preview: 2015 Independence Series

Over the next five days, I’ll be running the Independence Series.  That’s a series of five marathons in five different states on five consecutive days.  It’s the third time I’ve done a series like this.  A year ago, I did Savage Racing’s New England Challenge.  Last October, I did Mainly Marathons’ Appalachian Series.  The Independence Series is also sponsored by Mainly Marathons, and includes races in Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York.

Series of races like these have become popular among runners who have a goal of running marathons in all 50 states.  It’s somewhat hard-core to run marathons five days in a row, but it saves on travel expenses.  I started doing these more for the challenge of racing five days in a row.  After doing doubles, triples and quadzillas, it was the next step up.

I’m not real keen on traveling between races.  This series looked promising because the drive times between cities aren’t that long.  The first two races are so close together that I can stay at the same hotel for both.  After that, my daily drives will range from 65 to 100 miles, with an average drive time of about 90 minutes.

Today I flew into Philadelphia and drove to Elkton, MD, where I’ll stay for two nights.  I was pleased that they gave me a rental car that’s easy to spot in a parking lot.  It was only later, that I realized it was Marathon Maniac colors.

After checking in at my hotel, I drove to Fair Hills Natural Resource Management Area for packet pickup and a pre-race pasta dinner.

You don’t have to do every race in the series.  If you want, you can pick and choose individual races.  Runners who do more than one race will wear the same bib number every day.  I’ll be wearing number 14.  If you want, you can pick up your race packet on the morning of a race.  Picking up my race packet today means I can catch a few extra minutes of sleep in the morning.

There’s a medal for the entire series with a Liberty Bell design.  After each race, we’ll get a medal in the shape of that state.  The medals all chain together.

All of the races in this series start at 6 AM.  As a general rule, they start at first light.  When I did the Appalachian Series, the races didn’t start until 7:30.  I prefer the earlier start time.  While I’m not a big fan of getting up early, starting early means finishing early.  Finishing earlier in the day gives me more time to bathe, stretch and pack before getting on the road for the next race.

The race venues are all parks.  A typical course configuration is an out-and-back that you run 14 times.  Each race will have a well-stocked aid station at the start/finish area with a variety of food and beverages.  The food selection is similar to what you would find at an ultramarathon.

After the first lap, you keep seeing the same scenery.  More importantly, you also keep seeing the same runners.  Whether you’re fast or slow, you get to see everybody else.  Most runners will be doing the whole series, so we’ll be dining together in the evenings and running together each morning.  Over the course of running 131 miles in five days, you get to know each other.  Some lasting friendships will be formed this week.

My goal for these races is to keep all my times under four hours.  The first day or two should be easy.  By day three, it will take more effort.  By Sunday, I’ll have to dig deep, and I might not be able to do it.

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