The thing with running races and accomplishing new goals and paces is that it becomes addicting. I got home from the Twin Cities Marathon happy with my time, but disappointed with how the race actually went. I was feeling very motivated to run a race again…and soon. I got home Sunday afternoon and spent the next two days thinking about doing another race in less than three weeks.
On Tuesday I mailed my race registration for the On the Road for Education Marathon. I was looking to cross another state off that was not too far away and that would be low key. This race sounded like the one. Ryan and I left on Saturday stopping at a state park in Iowa on the way to enjoy the last of the fall colors and do some walking on the trails. It was a small park, but a nice way to spend a couple of hours. We did a little fall photo shoot, too. I am obsessed with taking pictures afterall.
From the park we headed to Mason City, Iowa. We stopped at Newman High School to pick up my race packet. Talk about low key and fast packet pick up. It was awesome to avoid the crowds and get in and out. I was not expecting much swag for a small race, but was impressed by the super comfy, Fox River socks, yogurt covered cranberries, and several other goodies in the bag. We checked into our hotel, headed to Applebee’s for a prerace dinner and then to bed for an early night.
Race morning came and I was not feeling super excited. I knew there wouldn’t be crowd support and really didn’t know what to expect for the course as there were not a ton of details. One nice thing was getting to sleep in since Ryan was able to drop me off two blocks from the start of the race near Music Man Square. My goal was to run under four hours, but keep the pace comfortable until the last few miles. When I got to the last few miles the plan was to go with what pace felt good. If I felt good, then I would pick up the pace. If I was struggling, then I would keep maintaining my pace as best I could. I had never ran two marathons within a year of each other, much less three weeks apart. I wanted to have a positive race experience after feeling rough in the Twin Cities.
To sum up the race, all I can say is WOW! I loved this course. It was exactly what I was hoping for and more. The first few miles were in town on city streets. The next few miles took runners on paved trails and then gravel roads. The miles on the gravel roads were not my favorite and made my hips begin to hurt early on. I was a little nervous at this point as it was early in the race. The next part of the race was very scenic. The views and paved path helped take away any feelings of discomfort I was having. My favorite part of the course was next, the out and back miles on a dirt packed trail along the Winnebago River. The softer surface was amazing on the legs and made me feel springy with each step.
While running in the wooded, scenic, and rejuvenating trails, I looked down at my Garmin to realize I was running the same pace as my PR a couple of weeks ago. Would today be a special day? There were less than 10 miles left, but a little too soon to get excited. After coming out of the trails we ran the majority of the race on pavement, with a small gravel stretch. With two miles left in the race I was still on pace and realized I might be able to PR, not by much, but still a PR, if I could maintain and pick it up the last mile. Somehow I did just that. I crossed the finish line in 3:47:41. I beat my previous PR by just over minute. I was definitely not expecting that. I attribute it to the course, change in surfaces, and the extremely flat elevation of the race.
I would highly recommend this race to others. I loved the scenery and variation of surfaces. I have yet to run a race with the same variety. I was also first in my age group and 6th overall for women. I had never won my age group in a race. Despite being a smaller race, I was still proud.