A nice way to spend a Sunday morning…

Boulder Marathon Illustration

Last weekend Haliku and I ran the Boulder Backroads Marathon. I was in Denver taking some board certification exams Saturday.

What finer way to relax after an examination but to run a marathon the following day just for fun?

Although I have run countless long 20+ training runs and several ultras, I actually had never run in an official 26.2 race. I wasn't sure how to pace myself for a short race. Since this was for training, I decided 5 hours would be a reasonable easy time.

Marathons are definitely different than ultras. For one, they are much larger. This race was small compared to the larger more popular marathons: 1656 half marathon finishers and 405 for the marathon. In comparision, if I go to an ultra with more than 200 runners, that is a lot. I was even impressed by the number of porta-potties. I would have taken a picture to post here but my camera decided to not work that morning.

OK, so I don't get out much.

We picked up our packets the afternoon before and enjoyed a meal at Sherpas in Boulder. Mmmm…. good food!

We arrived early Sunday morning after a meal of Haliku's secret recipe sour milk pancakes. Delicious! The sun slowly rose and bathed the Front Range in warm golden hues. The marathon began an hour before the half which was great. This minimized us having to deal the the half-marathon pack. Most of the race was run on gravel/dirt back roads passing green hayfields, horse pastures, ranches and hundred-plus year old cottonwoods. Had this race not been on such a soft surface, I probably would not have run it. Pavement sucks.

The pack soon spread out as we each found our pace. Early on, it was difficult to not get caught up in the pack and start out too fast just as later it was difficult to not instinctively fall back to my effortless run-all-day-and-all-night ultra pace. I didn't want to race  but on the other hand, I did not want to slog at my 50+ mile pace. That would be wimping out. According to race prediction calculators, a 5 hour marathon finish translates to a just less than 28 hour 100 mile finish, if you did all of the other essential training.

Another difference I noticed between ultras and regular marathons, is that the runners are less conversant. Not because they are unfriendly but simply because they are running at a relatively faster pace. This is a short race after all.


I met several interesting people and ran with them for a while. We leap-frogged back and forth several times. I met a gentleman from Houston who was planning on running his first 50 mile ultramarathon at the North Face Endurance Challenge in Madison, Wisconsin. He ran a 3:15 marathon in Utah the day before and was running a 5 hours Boulder marathon as his recovery run. We discussed ultra race tactics and he asked me many questions about blister prevention, nutrition and other topics. I lost a few minutes talking to him but it was worth it. I am sure he will kick butt at his upcoming ultra and I told him so.

At mile 20, I decided to pick up the pace. I was feeling good and a  fast finish long run is good training.

Another difference between ultras and traditional marathons: I get to pass people… lots of them. In ultras, the pack separates out and other runners are few and far between. Often if there is someone running a similar pace as you are, you stick together, especially if it is dark, for safety and support. I am usually not competitive when I run my ultras, my only goal is to finish.

Ultrarunners are proud to say: "we run with others, not against them."

However, I have to confess: on that day, and that morning, I really enjoyed jogging past others who were slowing down. I wasn't going fast at all, they were just slowing down. As the finish approached, I looked ahead eagerly toward the next potential runner I might be able to pass.

I even shouted words of encouragement: "We're almost there!" and "C'mon let's speed up!" and "Lookin' good, it's not far now!" 

After reading  the back of my shirt which says: "RUN ULTRAS"  two other runner remarked, "Hey this is only half a race for you!"  I smiled and turned around to reveal the words on the front:


Then a strange thing happened. Only a couple of miles from the finish line, I got a sharp knife-like cramp in my lower gut. It was not the upper abdomen stitches I have gotten before. No, this was different. If I slowed down, it went away but if I tried to run faster than a 10 min/mile, it came back. Odd.  I guess that is what I deserve for getting cocky.   

This being only a training run and not an important event, I decided to back off. Honestly, I was afraid if I didn't, I might just end up pooping my pants.That was the kind of cramp I was having. 

Now I know why there were so many porta-potties!

I finished in 5:07, a few minutes longer than I planned. No problem. It still was faster than my 50 or 100 mile ultra pace. For a couple of days afterwards I had some soreness but only as I would expect after a good workout, nothing signifying an injury or that I had overdid it. But this is what I expected, after all I had only jogged "half"  a race!

I have toyed with the idea of running the Crazy Horse Marathon here in the Black Hills next week. However, it will be the weekend right after I finally move my family from Wisconsin to be out here with me in South Dakota. I don't know if it will work out or not, I need to spend time with them. However, if there happen to be open spots and they allow race day registration, maybe I'll decide at the last minute. Otherwise, there is always next year.  

Even though I have no interest in racing marathons for time or PRs, I have to admit that they do make great training runs. If I need another training run around this time next year, I will definitely be back to Boulder.  It was a nice way to spend a Sunday morning.

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6 responses

  1. Nice race – congrats on an excellent training run. Glad you didn't poop your pants, too, that's always a plus 🙂

    September 27, 2008 at 6:07 am

  2. Great job! I love that saying about ultrarunners run with someone not against them.

    September 28, 2008 at 4:16 pm

  3. Well run. Lets think about this one for next year. Cheers!

    September 29, 2008 at 8:33 am

  4. I agree. Not pooping in one's pants is always a good thing!

    September 29, 2008 at 10:56 pm

  5. Thank you! That saying about "running with others" is so true… I've found that when I've been in a tough spot, others have given me support, only to have me return the favor at another race or even later in the same race.

    September 29, 2008 at 10:58 pm

  6. Definitely this is a do again (as long as Sherpas is too).

    September 29, 2008 at 10:59 pm

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