Today, I ran the Granite State Marathon in Nashua, NH. That’s the New Hampshire race of the New England Challenge. That’s different from the New England Series, which I was doing for the past two days.
A few years ago, I did all five races of the New England Challenge. (For some reason, they didn’t have a Vermont race that year.) The Nutmeg State Marathon was my favorite race of the series. The course goes through a beautiful park next to the Nashua River, and we didn’t have to do so many laps.
Because I was staying in Nashua, I didn’t have to drive far to get to the race. I did, however, need to arrive early to pick up my race packet. The race started at 6:00, but packet pickup started at 5:00. That meant I still had to get up early.
I slept well at first. Then I woke up at 2 AM and couldn’t get back to sleep. When it was time to get up, I had a hard time dragging myself out of bed.
Today’s weather was much nicer than the last two days. It was 50 degrees at the start, and the temperature rose into the upper 60s. Instead of rain, we had sunny skies. That’s fantastic weather for running, but after the last two days, I actually had a hard time convincing myself I’d be OK in shorts and short sleeves.
When I picked up my race packet, I noticed the timing chip on my race bib. Chip timing is one of the improvements they made since I did these races in 2014. They also certified all the courses.
The race began with an out-and-back segment on city streets that was a little over a mile. Some people started out running, but others started out walking. I started at a pace that was slower than most of the runners, but faster than the walkers.
Even though I started slowly, I still got out of breath. That was a reminder that I still have a cold. By the end of the out-and-back, I was more comfortable. Maybe I got my second wind.
When I got back to the start/finish area, they were still setting up the aid station. For the moment, all they had was water. I was hoping for some type of sports drink. All I had for breakfast was tea, so I needed some food.
After the out-and-back, we did five laps of a trail loop that was roughly five miles. It was actually two trails that are parallel to each other. They came together briefly in the middle, making it sort of like a figure eight.
It was a fairly runnable trail. There were only a few rocks and roots, and only one noticeable hill.
On the way out, we were running alongside the Nashua River.
By now, we were getting spread out, so I was running by myself. Other than the aid station volunteers, there was only one spectator.
In the middle of the loop, we got onto city streets for a few blocks. Here we ran up the only other hill to get to the secondary aid station. This aid station only had water and bananas. I had a banana slice to get some calories.
The trail coming back was alongside the Nashua Canal, giving us different views.
Most of the course was well marked, but on the way back there was a fork that wasn’t marked at first. Having run this course before, I knew we were supposed to keep left. A few runners went the wrong way, which put them back on the same trail we took on the way out. It wasn’t a big deal. They were about the same distance.
During my first lap, I was stopping frequently to take pictures. I’m not sure what my pace was. I wasn’t using GPS, and I didn’t know the exact distance of either the loop or the out-and-back. I wasn’t too worried about it.
When I got back to the main aid station, they had all the food out. After every lap, I had a PBJ and a glass of Gatorade.
On my second lap, I finished taking pictures and settled into a more consistent pace. Then I slowed down, so I could talk to one of the older runners. When I finished that lap, I checked the clock. It seemed like I was on pace to break five hours, but I wasn’t sure by how much.
By now, the half marathon runners were finishing, but they were replaced by local runners, who quickly outnumbered us. This appears to be a popular trail.
In my third lap, I was talking to two friends. At times, the pace seemed too fast for me. At other times, we slowed to a walk. I checked the clock again after three laps. It seemed like I should easily break five hours.
In the first half of my fourth lap, I was running by myself again. Then I bumped into another runner from Minnesota. I slowed down so we could talk. For the next two miles, we did a mixture of walking and slow running.
That lap was slower than the first three, but I was confident I would break five hours if I ran the last lap. I didn’t need to run particularly fast. I just needed to stop taking walking breaks.
I was glad I did so much walking and talking in the previous three laps. Aside from having some good conversations, I found my comfort zone. I did this race, in part, so I could get comfortable running on tired legs. At that, I succeeded. I was more comfortable now than I was at the start of the race.
The brief section on streets was the most sun-exposed part of the course. Here, I started to get hot. As I got back onto the trails for the second half of my last lap, I made a point of running at a nice relaxed pace.
I finished in 4:55:19. By now, it was warm enough that I could stay in the finish area and talk to friends without getting cold.
I came here hoping to do a New England triple. Instead, I did a New Hampshire double and a Maine half. Over the past three days, I did my third and fourth marathons in New Hampshire, but failed to add another marathon in Maine. Here’s what my 50 states map looks like now.
Distance: 26.2 miles
Average Pace: 11:16Lifetime Marathons/Ultras: 335