Definitely, for me, part of the fun was the abandonment of a time goal. After the long bathroom break, I just kind of relaxed and enjoyed the whole experience in a way I've never done on a road marathon. I never hit the, "oh man, this is really difficult, I don't know if I can keep doing this" phase.
While triumph over the internal mental struggle and maintaining race pace as long as possible is one of the best sources of the sense of accomplishment you get from a marathon, it's also quite uncomfortable. I was never actually uncomfortable (other than the chafing) on this marathon. I never got too hot. Never too cold. Never struggled with keeping my pace. My breathing was never labored. It was actually kind of *easy* -- which is not a word I associate with the marathon.
Several new things were quite good for me about this race:
1. I used duct tape to create a handle on a water bottle with a sport top. I filled it with gatorade and I brought my own Gus in my Gas Cap. This meant that I was able to avoid the crowds at the aid stations until my electrolyte bottle was empty. The bottle lasted me all the way past the half marathon. Once it was empty, I threw it in the trash at the next aid station and then quickly walked through the later lesser-crowded aid stations when I needed water or electrolyte drinks for the remainder of the race. This was brilliant and I will definitely be doing this in future marathons.
2. A tank top with gloves with fingers cut out was just perfect to keep me from getting too cold when the rain and the wind picked up.
3. My Brooks Adrenaline GTS 12 handled the water amazingly well. I don't think I'll go out of my way to avoid puddles in the future. They dry out surprisingly fast if you keep running after wading through standing water.
4. I took my MP3 player on the course for the first time ever. I let myself turn it on at mile 16. It was a definite pick me up. I'll be bringing music on future races as well, although I need to figure out how to get it out of my pockets and into my ears in a faster fashion.
And, I finished a marathon, running the whole time (at a nice easy pace) -- anytime you can do that, it's Good. I feel healthy, strong, and very alive -- all of which are good things.
Mile 3 -- Ditched the 4:25 pace group because they seemed to be going too fast. Stopped for 40 seconds to take off my running pants and saw Jen. We ran together to close the gap on the group ahead and use them as wind blockers before we parted.
Mile 4 -- 4:36 portapotty break. When I was done with this stop, all desire to race was gone. I was just going to run easy and have fun.
Mile 9 -- Finally completely ripped off the heavy duty trashbag. This took much longer than I'd expected and slowed me down quite a bit. Just another reason the dollar store poncho is the way to go next time.
Mile 16 -- Music reward. Pulling out my MP3 player, detangling it, and getting it in my ears also took longer than I'd expected. The music was worth it, so I'm going to need to figure out how to get faster at this trick.
End of Mile 25 -- 46 second break at the light rail tracks. The lights were flashing. The arms came down. No trains to be seen. Eventually a cop just waived us through. I was very glad I wasn't racing for a time goal when this happened. I just slowed to a walk and waited at the red and white arms, confused. But I wasn't the least bit angry, which I would have been if I was racing.
Last 100 ft -- a woman I'd been running ahead of for the last few miles decided to try to edge me out in the finish chute. Really? I mean, come on, the race for the podium was over a while ago! For some reason, this move on her part seriously annoyed me and since I hadn't run hard, I had plenty of pep in my step to drop her. This is how I closed out the marathon at a pace faster than any of the intervals I ran in the whole training cycle.
Oh, and my goal to run an even race for the first time in my life? I'd forgotten about that one when I decided to relax and have fun. But, somehow, thanks to the portapotty stop, I accidentally almost nailed it. Check out my chip splits:
Marathon #8, Done. Totally different than what I'd expected, but very fun.