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RACE REPORT: VERMONT CITY MARATHON
written by: Colleen Flanigan
posted: 5/29/03


My hometown, family and friends to cheer me on and unpredictably great weather, what more can a gal ask for when running in her first marathon?  The following is my story of the Vermont City Marathon and the valuable lesson I learned about the importance of pacing myself.

I should start this report off with how great the weather turned out to be because it was certainly the topic of discussion the entire day.  Mr. Weather Man predicted 70% chance of rain and lows into the mid 50’s, great for a person like me who over heats in temperatures as low as Hyannis was this year, but horrible for the thousands of spectators that braved the weather to come out for support.  The rain poured steadily until 8:00 but when the 6,200 runners began to line up at their respective paces, it was then that the weather gods shined down on all us and decided they weren’t going to rain on our parade that day!  When the start of the race began, the weather was a perfect 55 degrees and slightly overcast.

½ mile into the race, I passed my first group of friends who, having all just gone to bed four hours before, managed to roll out onto their front lawn to watch me run past them.  With bottles of water in one hand, and a gigantic sheet brilliantly displaying my name and number, they yelled fanatically for me to “keep up the pace!” I would learn later that my all time favorite song, and the only one I can Karaoke to without looking at the screen, was blaring out their apartment windows.  Apparently, I was to wrapped up in the guy wearing a women’s bathing suit, playing an accordion and yelling at all of us that we were crazy, to notice “Footloose” was even playing.

I ran through the first relay exchange at mile 3 and it was then that it hit me; I was a Marathoner this year.  I have run every leg of the Vermont City Marathon at one time or another in a relay, but never all at once.  As I passed my family and friends for the first time at Battery Park, a nervous smile ran across my face, after 6 months of training and 2 years of debating, I was actually running this entire thing.

Mile 7, I saw my first casualty.  I was running on the return trip from the out & back on the Northern connector when I saw a man on a stretcher and two ambulances trying to get him to the hospital.  It would be reported later that after collapsing, EMT’s from the University of Vermont that were running behind him, gave the man CPR and brought him back to life.  The ambulances did not arrive until 20 minutes after the accident and the victim would be in critical condition throughout the rest of the evening.  All of this before the half way point?  What did I get myself into?

At Mile 8, I ran by the camera toting Ms. Rachel Saks.  Ever eager to make sure she got my good side, I smiled pretty for the camera and ran by hoping to see my support crew at the second passing of Battery Park.  It was than that I finally looked down at my watch and realized I was three minutes ahead of my goal pace.  I felt great, my heart rate was exactly at 80% and I was thrilled that the race was going so well.  This wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be.  It really does take patience and practice to hold oneself back and remember that there are many, many miles ahead but at mile 8, I clearly wasn’t thinking about them.

The half way point brought me to Nicole Kraimer where she was snapping pictures away and chanting a much needed “you can do it” cheer that made me cruise past feeling a little bit better.  I had slowed down a bit, only 1 minute a head of my ultimate goal pace but still several ahead of the qualifying time for Boston.  I wasn’t that upset at the decreased pace because I had stopped at mile 10 to use the big blue monster and attempt to relieve myself of the pain of to much pre-race hydration.  And then the hills came.  I’ve lived in Burlington all of my life and never realized there were hills anywhere. But the Battery Street hill kicked my butt and before I knew it, Jim was chasing me down making sure that I was ok and letting me know I was right on pace.  Right on pace?  7 miles before I was ahead, what happened?  It was great to see my friends and family for the third time at Battery Park but they happened to be at the worst possible place, the top of a mile long hill…thanks guys!  I claim the fifth for anything that came out of mouth or any look that I gave!

Miles 15-19 I felt the worst I’ve ever felt in my history of running.  I had read in Runners World that when you hit the wall, you should try to do simple math to get your mind distracted…so I tried to figure out my splits…waaayy to complicated.  Next, sing a song…nope, nothing came to mind. Luck brought me still running to my uncle and his 2-year-old son, it made me laugh to see the two of them because they were so busy playing in the grass, they almost missed me.  My uncle was trying desperately to get my cousin to hold the sign they had made for me the night before, but he wanted nothing to do with it.  Thank god for family!  Just when you think you can’t possibly image smiling, you’re reminded that it’s all supposed to be about fun!

Around mile 20 a guy ran next to me and told me that I just had to keep my motor running and my cadence high, eventually the horrible feeling would go away.  I wish I caught his number or his name to thank him because that simple advice really helped me crawl over the wall.  By mile 21 I was back to normal, well as normal as I could get under the circumstances and trying desperately to get back to the pace I started at.  But it was no use, I definitely went out to fast, a problem that I’ve been trying to work on, now, it was just a matter of trying to qualify for Boston.

The next few miles went by very fast and I saw my aunt and her family everywhere!  She really mapped out the course and managed to catch me a pretty key spots along the route!  The last water stop I ran into friends I hadn’t seen since I graduated high school 6 years ago and was so pleasantly surprised, I felt strong enough to really pick it up for the last mile.  Thousands of people greeted me as I ran the boardwalk to the finish line but I was so wrapped up in making the qualifying time that I didn’t see or hear any of my support crew.  I would learn later that they won the loudest supporters award and my roommate, who was interviewed over the loudspeaker, somehow managed to get my name yelled out as I crossed the finish line.  It was a very cool feeling to be singled out in the large group I was running in!

The greatest thing about finishing the marathon was that it was finally over!  Jim greeted me first with a huge smile on his face and twirled me around.  The only thing I could say to him was that it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done and a true test to how badly I wanted to attain my goal.  He asked me how I felt and I flat out told him, I thought I was going to throw-up.  My family and friends soon found us and after 20 minutes or so of picture snapping, I realized that my legs had completely cramped up and did not want to work anymore.  Oh god..if my legs hurt this badly and I just finished, I don’t even want to think about what tomorrow will bring.

The crowd began to overwhelm me and I knew that I needed to start walking again to get the cramps out of my quads and calves.  I was surprised at myself for not wanting to eat the mass amounts of free food they were giving out, for someone that is constantly eating, even my family truly knew something was amiss.  The fact of the matter was that I just wanted to go lay down and get off my feet, because, like my legs they too were beginning to question what the heck I just did to them.

I’m so happy I was able to complete my first marathon in my hometown.  I didn’t run more than 5 miles without running into a family member or friend cheering me on.  Having people along the course was the best part about running the marathon.  It was a great experience but one that I can definitely wait to do again.  Maybe next time, I’ll try a little harder not to keep my supporters in such suspense.  I managed to qualify for Boston with 35 seconds to spare!