Race Recap: Road Races Newport + What I’ve Learned from 10 Years of Running Marathons

In this episode I recap my most recent marathon in Newport, Rhode Island. Plus we look at the 2018 London Marathon, and in the quick tip segment, I will share 3 lessons from 10 years of running marathons.

The 3rd annual Rhode Races Newport Marathon, half marathon and 5k was held on April 14, 2018 in Newport, Rhode Island. The race is put on by Rhode Races which also does a variety of other events in the area throughout the year. There is also another marathon in Newport held in the fall which is not affiliated with this company. Since I registered in late March the fee was $100. I was impressed with the amount of information available on the race website and the amount of email communication they sent out. Interestingly enough the race isn’t listed over on Marathon Guide although it is over on Running in the USA. The race allowed transfers to another race in their series, deferrals and switching to another distance.

Pre Race:

I drove the 7+ hours to Newport, RI on Friday (the 13th) and was excited to discover that the place I was staying was even closer to the start/finish area than I thought. Packet pickup that day was held at the Newport Storm Brewery which had a bit of a chaotic parking situation. There wasn’t an expo but simply a packet pickup line which went smoothly (thankfully since it was chilly outdoors). They had race and gender specific shirts but I did find out later that they gave me the shirt for the half marathon. There really wasn’t much other swag other than the ads and brochures normally given out besides a granola bar and a pack of band aids (hopefully not a sign of what’s to come). The race also offered packet pickup on Thursday and race morning at the start/finish area. The races coincided with the town’s Daffy Days festival and there were some glimpses of beautiful yellow daffodils around the area. After getting my packet I drove to a local beach and walked along the water for a while before finding a place to have an early dinner.

Race Morning:

Since I had the great fortune of being less than a 5 minute walk from the start area I was able to sleep in until 6:15 in the morning and get ready fairly leisurely. They didn’t allow parking at the start/finish area which was at Easton’s Beach. Many runners were getting dropped off and they also offered shuttle service from Second Beach which was a few miles away. The start area had plentiful port-a-pots and there was a large pavilion where many runners were standing. Many other people were walking along the beach and taking pictures of the water. The weather forecast had changed for the better and temps were in the mid-40’s and clear. I had prepared for colder temps by wearing tights and arm warmers with my singlet and my throw away jacket really wasn’t needed. They had gear check available as well.
The morning announcer didn’t seem to be much of a runner because she kept making comments like “you don’t look like a runner” and “you people must be crazy to do a marathon.” I was able to see my friend Rhonda Foulds before the start and meet a couple of her friends. Just before the marathon start at 7:30 there was a beautiful rendition of the Star Spangled Banner and we were off. The half marathon started at 7:45 and the 5k started at 8am. They offered pace groups ranging from 3:30-5:00 for the marathon and 1:40-2:45 for the half marathon.

Course:

The marathon course is USATF certified and is a Boston Marathon Qualifier. After the start at Easton’s Beach with lovely views of the sun rising above the water we ran into the town of Middleton and out to more areas of ocean views. In the early miles we ran by Fort Adams and then along Ocean Avenue. The course is advertized as “moderately hilly” with overall ascent of 750 ft and it was somewhat windy at times. But the temps never got above mid-50’s so it never felt cold. The marathon and half followed the same course until the halfway point during which the half finished and they had dividers set up where the marathoners had to run right by the finish and out again for the rest of our miles. That was a bit discouraging since we came so close to the finish and runners getting medals and hitting the food and beer. But overall the course was so beautiful with frequent ocean/water views, nice neighborhoods and running by many of the historic mansions and architecture that it stayed enjoyable even with a few out and backs. One thing they were very strict about was respecting the native environment and staying off the dunes. In fact, information repeatedly said that you could be disqualified if you went on the dunes. In later miles we ran by the Norman Bird Sanctuary and into Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge. This is not a marathon with many spectators (pretty much only at the start/finish area) but there were a fair amount of runners spread out along the course. The course time limits were 6 hours for the marathon and 3.5 hours for the half marathon.

Aid Stations:

The aid stations were located approximately every 2 miles and staffed by friendly volunteers handing out sports drink and water. There were a few aid stations handing out other fueling options and bananas. Port a pots were located at every aid station as well. For my fueling I used UCAN snack bars and ate one 30 minutes pre-race and carried two during the race (I ate half a bar at miles 5, 10, 15, and 20). I usually carry the liquid mixture but decided to try the bars because I didn’t want to carry anything in my hands due to some neck problems. The UCAN snack bars worked great and my energy levels were solid and my stomach felt good.

Finish:

The finish area was nice and had an enthusiastic announcer commenting as runners crossed the finish line. They had a nice nautical themed medal but were out of heat sheets by the time I finished. The food area was a disappointment and seemed to have been totally decimated by previous runners. There were bottles of water, sports drink, what looked like dry rice cakes and cold pizza (which I passed on). They did have a beer garden with local RI brew so I headed over there to get my free beer. I talked to Jodi & Tracy who are fellow Marathon Maniacs over there.

The first place male finisher was Adam Crombie (age 32) with a time of 2:54:07. The first place female was Heather Cirka (29) with a time of 3:16:31. There were 335 finishers for the marathon, 1121 for the half marathon, and 309 in the 5k. The race offered live tracking and free photos (although there weren’t many photographers along the course).

My Experience:

My finish time was 4:23:21 (a solid positive split 2:01:19, 2:22:02). This was my 52nd marathon and 41st state. I realized that this race was almost 10 years to the date from my first marathon in 2008. A decade has gone by fast.

My training for this marathon was a bit different. As many long time listeners know I started struggling with my health just over two years ago and have been dealing with hormone imbalances, weight gain, and energy issues. Because of this I stepped back my running from the summer of 2016-2017 and didn’t do any races for a year in an effort to give my body more support. Then last September I did a come-back marathon and did two more to finish out 2017.
I purposely didn’t schedule anything this spring to let my body tell me when it was time for another marathon. I just ran the mileage I felt like during the winter (my long run was never more than 6 miles) and was dedicated to strength training. After doing the Mount Dessert Island Marathon last October I came away feeling like I had some definite week areas and knew it was because I wasn’t being very dedicated to core and strength work. So I signed up for several sessions with a personal trainer to work on my strength and that gave me enough momentum to continue on my own over the winter. I also got a TRX system for Christmas and have integrated that into strength and mobility work. I’ve been doing one upper body + core, one lower body + core and another yoga + core day per week.

In February I did a spontaneous 10 miler just because I felt good, and then did a 12 miler, a 16 miler, and 20 miler. They went well so I signed up for the Newport Marathon with the goal of finishing healthy and strong. All was going well until two days before the race when my neck froze up and I could hardly turn my head (and my chiropractor’s office was closed). I decided to drive to RI on faith and just do the best I could during the race. I felt good for the first 13 miles and after that whenever my neck started to spasum I just slowed to a walk and tried to loosen up my shoulders. This was the main reason I didn’t want to carry anything in my hands and cause additional tightness. I also listened to an audio book during the marathon which helped take my mind off the physical discomfort. And I can honestly say that I enjoyed the marathon and felt healthy and strong. The fact that the course was so beautiful and the weather was nice was icing on the cake.

You do you.
What works for other runners may be different from what works for you. Don’t feel like you’re less-than as a runner because you don’t follow the same training routine, do the same amount of races that others do, run a large number of miles, look different from other runners, or run at a different pace. I’m reminded of the great quote by Teddy Rosevelt, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” This is something I have to battle in my own life. Social media can be a great thing but if you’re not careful the perfectly polished lives that some people present can lead to discontentment with your own life. Remember that no one looks perfect 100% of the time. They also don’t always have perfect training cycles, run in beautiful places all the time or PR at every race. It’s important to keep learning and growing as a runner but to also keep in mind that you’re an experiment of one.

Don’t neglect the little things.
It’s often not the big decisions that make the most difference over time but the little things. The little things may include practices like: focused cross training to prevent injury, regular strength training to build up support muscles and address body imbalances, eating healthy, balancing rest with training, building back slowly from injury or time off, using stress management techniques like meditation, and being prepared with tested gear for your marathon. Even tiny things like bringing safety pins to a race can decrease your anxiety level (true story- I didn’t get any safety pins for my bib at this marathon. I was able to borrow one from the hotel clerk and had two pinned to my race hat). Being diligent about the little things can go a long way to success in your running goals. Remind yourself that next time you’re struggling to find motivation to do your core work.

Aim for progress, not perfection.
This is a theme that I always come back to. You’re likely to struggle in certain areas, we all do. I can get down about the fact that I can’t run high mileage without getting injured or I can be thankful for the miles I am able to run. I could wish that I had the body type of an elite runner or I can be thankful for the strong body that I have. Keep your goals in sight but know that progress is not always linear. The decisions we make now don’t always pay off immediately (like those little things I talked about previously) but our actions do go a long way to helping us progress in the right direction. Remember that your goals and even physical and mental capacity for training and running will change over the years so it’s important to keep a long term perspective in mind. We fall down (sometimes figuratively, sometimes literally) and we get back up. Setbacks are just part of the overall journey and can help mold us into stronger people. I’ve changed so much since I did my first marathon 10 years ago and I know that I’ll continue to change in the next decade.

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