Posted: March 25, 2013 in Pace and Racing

Everyone has been there.  Runners and non-runners, the feeling doesn’t discriminate.

Missed opportunities.  Narrow defeats.  Having something that you desperately want and have worked hard for, but for whatever reason it slips through your fingers.

Of course you then sit back and analyze things.  Over analyze them actually, trying to pinpoint the one moment where if you had just done something a little bit differently the outcome would have been everything that you hoped for.

It can drive you crazy.  It is also a colossal waste of time and energy.  Yet we all fall prey to it from time to time.

Ever since I sent in my deferment notice to the Houston Marathon back in December when I knew that my Achilles tendon strain was serious enough to keep us from racing I have been in that place.  Oddly enough, my thoughts have not focused on Houston.  They instead have gone back to the two marathons before.

New York and Boston.

In New York through 22 miles I executed a perfect marathon.  I just did not have the talent, ability, desire and training to overcome the final bridges and hills to hold pace and my dreams of a sub 3 hour marathon slipped through my fingers.  At the time of course I was thrilled with my PR, happy that I was able to go toe to toe with a difficult marathon course on a huge stage and bring my “A” game.  Execute my race plan and gain valuable race experience.  I would get it the next time.  Surely Boston would be different.

At Boston last spring, just a little more than a year ago, my race like everyone else’s was over before it really started.  88 degree temperatures, the second hottest Boston Marathon in 116 years of the event made racing that day a fool’s errand.  For someone hoping to run to the closest margin of their potential – it just wasn’t the day for glory.  Never mind I thought.  We’ll reload and be ready for Houston.  We all know how that turned out.

So here we are now going on 16 months since New York City and I haven’t been able to toe the line of a marathon with that same confidence.  That same drive and determination to excel and the same opportunity to hold fate in my own hands and go toe to toe with one of the most difficult foot races on the planet.

As much as I wanted to take the rest of 2013 off from the marathon, as much as I told myself that it was time for a much-needed break from the event, I have been uncomfortable with that decision.  Can I really afford to take 12 months off at this point before I take another crack at that 2:59 knowing that I am every bit of 45 years, 7 months and 23 days old?  I may be in great shape for an “old guy”, but as 3 hour marathoners go, I’m pretty darn close to dinosaur status.

After Saturday’s showing at the Thin Mint Sprint, where I ran within :20 or so of my PR at that distance I strapped on my running shoes on Sunday morning and ticked off a dozen miles on tired legs at just a hair over 7:00 minute miles.  I did so over the hill course with 25 mile an hour winds blowing through Austin.  It was the first time that I felt like I was really close to being back to where I was before that misstep down in Shiner, TX and our injury.

I also knew that it was time to find a Fall Marathon that would give us the best chance at running, “our time“.

After balancing our personal life and work life calendars – there were very few weekends that lined up well for a Fall Marathon.  Knowing full well that for me to have a legitimate shot at going sub 3 I need to have a few factors going in my favor.

Possibility/likelihood of cool weather.

A small Race, nothing more than 5,000 runners to navigate.

A neutral to “fast” course.

My window for racing would be October, and specifically the middle two weeks of the month staying away from a conference Dawn will be attending out in Florida the first week of October and being home for all of the Halloween festivities with Landry.

All of those variables narrowed the list to one race and one opportunity.


A race capped at 3,000 marathoners on a point to point, net downhill course that will wind up less than 2 hours away from where I took my first steps as a boy in suburban Philadelphia.  Although running downhill is not all that it is cracked up to be, fatiguing those quad muscles in a big way – we’ve been there before.  We had our first Boston Marathon come undone due to a similar downhill start to that race in 2010.  We know how to prepare for the downs.

Yes there are 3 miles of climbing at the end of the race.  But again, if our training is sound and we put in the appropriate level of hill work going in, this is something we know how to be ready for.

All in all, Steamtown offers us a lot of things on our wish list in looking for a Fall Race.  There are some drawbacks as well, like logging all of our 18, 20, 21, 22 and 23 mile long runs in the hottest months of our Texas Summer.  An experience that the last time we did this prepping for New York I uttered the foolish phrase “Never Again”.

The reality of course was that running through that heat and humidity made us the strongest marathoner we had ever been on race day in New York, springboarding us to new PR’s after New York in every distance from the 5K to the half-marathon.  It will certainly pay huge dividends this year as well.

So here we are, ready to tee this thing up one more time and give it all we have to prepare for the most difficult but exceptional 179 minutes of racing we have ever done.  Having running taken away from us for those 5 weeks has left a determined marathoner even more so in its wake.

On Monday morning when registration opens we will be among the first people to log on and cast our lot.  There will be 193 days to go until race day at that point.  Just over 6 months of sword sharpening and we are going to pour every ounce into this training plan to be more than ready to do battle on race day.

The first major race we ever ran was in the state of Pennsylvania, the day we became a Marathoner for the first time.

We returned to Pennsylvania a little over 18 months later and teed it up again.  That day we became a Boston Qualifier.

There is only one more club we want to join when it comes to the marathon.  It is only fitting that Pennsylvania again plays a prominent role.

The visuals are starting to form in my mind already, coming off that final hill with 2/10 of a mile to go straight downhill to the finish.

Quads screaming, feet hurting with every stride, knowing that in just under 90 seconds it will all be over.  I’m not sure how this story is going to end right now – but that is what this has always been about, the journey, not the destination.

Steamtown, October 13, 2013.  Going to be quite a day.  Boom goes the dynamite.

  1. Eric Matyskiela says:

    Sounds like a plan Joe! The guys I marathon train with ran Steamtown several years ago. It is a fast course, however at that time part of the course was on a mulched trail. Not sure if this is still the case or not. The fastest course they ran was the Mohawk / Hudson Valley Marathon in New York state, All paved and slight downhill grade for the entire point to point course.

    • joerunfordom says:

      Thanks Eric! Sounds like a couple of years ago they dumped fresh chips on the trail (non race personnel) thinking they were being helpful, of course it was not 🙂

      It is back to hard pack rails to trails, which after the downhill stretch, I’m betting it is a welcome change to the terrain and surface. We’ll see. All I really want is a fair course. I’m happy to do the work for that 2:59 🙂

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