Sunday’s Rock and Roll Marathon in San Antonio was an unqualified success. More than 25,000 runners took to the streets of the Alamo City on a cool morning for an inaugural event which is going to be tough to equal in years to come. It was literally a perfect day for racing, quite cold (mid 30’s) until the sun came up and after that ideal. Add to that practically windless conditions and low humidity and you get a race director’s dream day.
A total of 7,526 runners completed the full 26.2 marathon distance – 4,015 males and 3,511 females. In the half marathon there were 17,033 finishers, of which 5,644 were male and 11,389 female. I snuck in just under the 1:40 time limit in my age group to qualify for an automatic entry into the New York City Marathon in 2009. Very happy with that! The chip time of 1:39:56 is now also my personal best time for the distance. It is gratifying to still be achieving PR’s at my age, not that I’ve run that many half marathons over the years.
I had heard that there were some parking issues at the AT&T Center, and that quite a few runners ended up being late for the start. I saw a few of them fly by us around mile 9 or 10. Getting to the start from downtown by shuttle bus was a breeze. There was a shuttle pick-up point about a quarter mile from our hotel, so no stress. It was worth the (extra) expense to stay in a downtown hotel for that reason and to be within walking distance of the Alamodome (for pre-race packet pickup). I would not have wanted to be in a car trying to negotiate my way around town either on Saturday afternoon or early Sunday morning. The race also ended at the Alamodome. After collecting my medal, and replenishing with a bagel, a banana & some raisins, it was just a short 10-minute walk back to the hotel for a nice long hot bath.
Here are approximate mile splits*** and average heart rate:
Mile 1 - 7:59 Pace - 155 Avg. Heart Rate
2 - 7:44 - 150
3 - 7:22 - 151
4 - 7:22 - 157
5 - 7:37 - 160
6 - 7:26 - 154
7 - 7:25 - 158
8 - 7:19 - 157
9 - 7:33 - 156
10 - 7:37 - 156
11 - 7:50 - 153
12 - 7:24 - 159
13 - 7:27 - 161
.1 mi:- 6:48 - 173
*** Approximate because the ‘Garmin distance’ was 13.28 miles total…
The start area was very well organized with hardly any congestion, really amazing for such a large marathon. Prior to the start, and before the sun came up, several hundred of us were huddled around some heat lamps like moths around a candle. At just after 7:00 I reluctantly ventured back into the cold air to start warming up and to fall in line at the port-a-potties. Except there really was no line. There were hundreds of portable toilets everywhere. Clearly, the organizers had done a few other big marathons before… Less than 15 minutes before the start, I ducked into Corral # 2 where I bumped into several other Houston runners from my Striders club as well as from KatyFit. Met up with a few of them again later at the finish line. And then we were off. I am always extremely wary about tripping and falling at the start of any race but the start of this race was so smooth that it was never a concern. There were none of the usual marathon start problems with too many slow runners (and walkers!) in front, with lots of resulting ducking and diving and people zipping up from behind, cutting you off. Houston Marathon organizers: I hope you guys were there taking notes!
For the first couple of miles, I ran with the 3:20 full marathon pace group. When they proved to be a little slower than my goal pace, I latched on to the 3:15 full marathon pace group. Eventually the 3:15 leader sped up and I lost contact.
Everything went pretty smoothly until Mile 11, when I started to lose focus. I almost made a fatal error to run the last couple of miles with someone who claimed to be on pace for a 1:38. He ended up with a time of 1:40:52. Take-away lesson: never trust somebody else’s game plan! Of course I did not know it at the time but one slow 7:50 mile (#11) almost did me in; I had to hustle over the last couple of miles to make the goal time. By the time I hit the start of the last steep uphill, with about half a mile to go, I knew it was going to be touch and go. Panic set in but there was really nothing I could do by then. Uphill on tired legs in the last half mile of a half marathon is not an ideal place to be making up lost time. When I made the final right hand turn towards the finish line, I thought there was no way I was going to break 1:40. In the end I did, by the razor-thin margin of 4 seconds. Having previously qualified for Boston with zero seconds to spare (3:45:59 exactly) I guess the 4 second margin this time was more than ample.
All credit to Elite Racing & Rock and Roll: San Antonio is a great half marathon course (only one hill at around Mile 5 that is worth mentioning and then a sharp uphill just before the end), slick corral organization, well-staffed and plentiful water stops, very friendly volunteers, tons of snacks & healthy stuff afterwards, etc. etc. And of course several bands and cheerleader squads along the course. Crowd support was pretty good too, for a first time race of this size.