Sunday, November 18, 2012

White River Marathon for Kenya Race Report

For those of you that follow us on, you know that I have spent the last 13 weeks training for the Soaring Wings Half Marathon and ultimately the White River Marathon for Kenya.  The race took place yesterday morning in Cotter, Arkansas along the scenic White River.

This was my 3rd attempt to break the 5 hour mark and I have been pretty excited the last few weeks at the thought of finally doing it.  The route for this race is the flattest I have been on and one of the flattest Boston qualifiers in the United States.  My training for the last 13 weeks has gone well with no major setbacks and my longer runs were right on pace to reach this goal.  I was feeling confident.

Race morning was chilly, about 28 degrees at the start.  It was cold but I was dressed for it and new I would warm up quickly.  Kevin drove over to take a quick pre-race picture and see me off.  After a few more minutes, we were off.

I started the race with a girl that Kevin met the previous week at the Bona Dea 50K.  We had good conversation to start out the race and it helped me settle into a good groove.  The race starts just across the street from Cotter High School.  We immediately cross a busy highway (aided by the help of local police) and then head down a steep hill.  This would be the last hill we see for 26 miles.  This race is 2 out and backs on a flat road that runs parallel with the White River.  The first out I was feeling great.  We were keeping a pace slightly faster than I had planned on starting, but it wasn't much so I stuck with it.  Between the conversation, beautiful scenery, and crisp air I didn't think much about the running. I made it to the first turn around at approximately 7 miles and headed back.  I maintained my goal half-marathon pace all the way back.  I wasn't laboring and the continued conversation and the encouragement of the other runners passing us by was great.  Each aid station I passed was filled with local volunteers who were extremely friendly and quick to encourage us all as we passed.  I made it back in to the half way point in about 2:20 which was slightly faster than the pace I was shooting for, but I was still feeling good.  We made the turn and headed back out for the second time.  As we got to mile 15 or so, the girl I had been chatting with decided to go ahead.  She was shooting for the 4:30 mark and that was just too fast for me.   I decided to turn my music on and settle in.  Everything was going pretty well.  I felt pretty good, no laboring, but then mile 19 came.

I had been settled in for about 4 miles.  I was zoned out listening to my music when I noticed my feet were starting to get a little sore.  I was getting a sharp pain in my foot where I had never had one before.  I wasn't sure why but nothing I could do would relieve it.  I tried to curl my toes a bit or stretch my arch, but no luck.  At this point, my pace was creeping up closer and closer to the 11:00 min/mi mark so I new my window for my 5 hour goal was closing quickly.  By the time I reached the 21 mile sign, my feet started feeling like they had been running on a cheese grater.  The paved roads weren't bad, but they were not smooth asphalt, more like paved gravel.  I am not sure any of the other runners had issues with it, but I sure did.  I started to walk about 30 seconds every few minutes to try and relieve the pain but it only got worse.  By the time I reached mile 23, the 5 hour mark was out of reach as my pace had gone up to around 11:15 min/mi.  I was getting upset, but another runner told me once that you have to reassess mid race when you know your original goal is out of reach and make a new one.  So.. I did.  My new goal was to try and get a PR (personal record).  For the last 3.2 miles I was walking about a minute, running about a minute and I was in a lot of pain.  I limped along until I finally saw the finish line and heard the cheering as other runners were finishing.  I only had 0.2 miles left and it was going to take a full out sprint to beat my PR.  I took off as fast as I could and it was painful.  As I gingerly crossed the finish line, I looked up at the race clock and it said 5:07 and some change.  My Garmin had the same.  I was even more disappointed.  My PR is a 5:06 which I ran at the Little Rock Marathon last March.

Not only did I not meet my goal of breaking 5 hours, I didn't have enough left in the tank to get the PR.  A very disappointing day, especially for how well this training cycle went for me.  I won't complain about the race though.  It was a great small town race with wonderful people.  This race was also for a good cause.  All proceeds go to the children of Kenya and this is the 9th year the town of Cotter has hosted it.  The locals had a great potluck dinner waiting for the post race meal.  Home made soup and chili with pizza and various other goodies thrown in.  It was a great place to sit and chat with other runners about how their races went.  Although I am not happy with my results, I was very pleased with the race and the experience.  I wouldn't hesitate to run this again.  Who knows? Maybe next time I will break 5 hours.

Pros: Great small town race atmosphere.  Beautiful race route and a nice flat course.  Friendly volunteers who had everything well organized.  Also had a really cool finishers medal.

Cons:  Cotter is a bit of a drive from the bigger towns in Arkansas.  The pavement was a little rough for me but probably wasn't a problem for most any other runner.  There is a bit of local traffic to contend with but the local police do a good job keeping everyone safe.

Course: White River Marathon for Kenya Garmin Map


  1. Good post, thanks for sharing. Sorry you missed your target time. I think the excessive flatness may have been what did in your feet. Last weekend I had the same problem with the extremely flat Bona Dea 50K, hurt so bad near the end that I was running on the ground next to the trail just to get some relief.

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