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"You cannot propel yourself forward by patting yourself on the back."
- Steve Prefontaine

RACE REPORT: steamtown marathon 10/12/08 (BOSTON QUALIFIER!!!!!!)
DateRaceDistancePaceTotal TimeWeather
10/12/08 Steamtown Marathon
(Scranton, PA))
Photo Album
26.2 mi 9:03/mi 03:56:16 44°F-65°F, 89%-56% humidity, Sunny
Wind None

WhooHoo! I qualified for Boston!!!!

The Steamtown Marathon will be a marathon I will never forget. The crowd support was wonderful and everything was exceptionally well organized.

The race was a little tougher than what I had been expecting. This was due to warmer weather and short uphill portions of the course. It really warmed up after the first hour or so (sunny and 65°F with 56% humidity at the end). Because of my tendency to overheat, I perform best when it stays below 40 degrees.

I also really enjoyed all the downhill running at the beginning, but there were short fairly steep uphills interspersed throughout the course. The overall elevation change was predominately downhill (see elevation profile below), but as you can see there were some short steep climbs throughout the course.

I forgot to turn my Garmin off at the end of the race. Consequently the stats below show 26.44 miles, but the splits up to mile 26 are accurate. My final chip time was 03:56:16 and the gun time was 03:57:11. I needed less than 4 hours to qualify for Boston!

The day before the marathon, race director Bill King and legendary distance runners Jon Sinclair and Kim Jones led an easy 3-4 mile run around downtown Scranton. We were shown the Steamtown Historic site (shown right), given a tour of the Steamtown Trains, shown the hill at the end of the course and the finish line. I had my pocket camera with me on this run, so some of these photos are in the race photo album. It was fun to loosen our legs up a little bit and also to get to know the race director and some of the other runners.

After the run we were able to enter the expo (at Scranton High School) and obtain our timing chips, bibs, and buy any running items we might need. Instead of having the typical plastic race bag, we were given a really nice runner's bag. There was also a great poster and some sunglasses they gave away. I also bought a t-shirt in my favorite color embroidered with the Steamtown Marathon logo.

On the day of the race, we were able to wait inside the warm Forest City High School until race start. Once outside, we were able to appreciate a really scenic area right next to the start where all the trees were changing to their fall colors.

The volunteers at the school were incredible. Many of them were students there and they were very respectful and helpful. In one of their art classes, they had made purple ribbons for all the runners. I pinned mine to my running shirt and wore it the entire race. Thank You Forest City High School students and parents! They also offered bottled water to anyone that wanted it. The parents were there helping as well and taking photos. It's nice to see that small towns with family values still exist! It was so refreshing to be around well-mannered teenagers and adults!

The crowd support at this race was incredible. The course went through several different boroughs/townships. In every one, the townspeople lined the course and cheered us on. Gatorade and water were consistently provided every couple of miles. There were also bananas, gummy bears, and first aid stations, as well as port-a-lavs.

There was a band of senior citizens playing some great music around mile 22. There were also local high school bands and cheerleaders. And there were hoses and misting stations cooling us down later in the course as it became warm. Several people had their dogs with them, and the dogs had signs hanging around their necks encouraging the runners! That was especially cool for someone like me that loves dogs. The hospitality of the people of Pennsylvania was overwhelming. Many of the homes were already decorated for Halloween, as well as main street in Forest City. And I love the historic architecture of the New England style homes.

If I hadn't been running this as a race, I would have brought my pocket camera and taken many more photos along the way. I'll usually only "race" 1-2 marathons a year where I try to set a PR. The rest are just fun training runs and I take my little camera to record the memories.

But what was really great is that the proceeds from the marathon benefit the children and families with special needs who are served by St. Joseph's Center in Scranton. The children from St. Joseph's were cheering us on at a couple of points along the course. That was a powerful motivator - realizing what those kids have had to overcome and here they were cheering us on!

The photo to the right is at viewpoint 2, almost 17 miles into the course. As you can see, that part of the course was easy on the knees (packed dirt trail). I was still feeling happy and good at that point! I had previously been worried about the "off-road" portions of the course, thinking it would slow me down due to lack of traction. The race director said that they had asked Parks and Recreation not to put down new woodchips until after the race. The portions on packed dirt were heavily shaded and much appreciated. The only time it was an issue was when I wanted to pass some other runners and the trail was too narrow. However, they were happy to move aside to let me pass.

My husband Greg was great. He showed up at every viewpoint to take photos and cheer me on. He has been so supportive of my running.

I didn't start feeling bad until around mile 23 (which was incidentally the length of my longest training run). My feet and calf muscles started cramping up. I also knew I had some extra time due to running the first half faster. So I allowed myself to slow down. I was just glad the foot/leg cramps didn't stop my running.

I had hydration all figured out on this marathon, but I didn't count on how much electrolytes I would lose the last 6 miles or so due to high humidity, no wind, sun, and higher temperature. My face was covered in salt. I had a fuel belt with 4 ten ounce bottles holding EFS (my preferred sports drink). In order to avoid stomach sloshing/upset but to keep my electrolytes at the proper level, I drank 3 ounces every 2 miles. So,that should have taken me through mile 26, but I ran out at mile 23 and started drinking the Gatorade offered on the course. Gatorade is good, but it doesn't have as much electrolytes as EFS. My muscle cramping was due to diminished electrolytes. Luckily, I was able to run through it, but next time I'm bringing a salt stick capsule in my fuel belt in case I cramp up.

I was so glad to see the official time at the finish line. I was so focused on qualifying for Boston that I had all these fears: that my Garmin would have the incorrect time or malfunction, that my timing chip would fall off my shoe, or my timing chip would malfunction. But when I saw the official timer at the end (which was the gun time and usually more than the chip time) and it was under 4 hours, I was so happy that I sprinted toward the finish line.

I was so exhausted after the finish that one of the volunteers helped support me while I had my timing chip taken off my shoe. Once I stopped, I could barely walk from the muscle cramps. Isn't it funny how it hurts the worst once you stop?

I wasn't near this sore after the OKC Marathon, but I ran that one a lot slower. I am just thrilled that all of the speedwork and endurance runs in my training plan finally paid off. Now I don't know whether to go with a new training plan next time or stick with the same one and just adjust the times for a faster finishing time. I would like to do a 3:45 at Boston, but it's a tougher course. And I'm wondering how much the running at altitude for a week before this marathon helped me.

Lessons Learned:

  • Bring SaltStick capsule in case of heat cramps.
  • Increase weekly mileage similar to what Pfitz recommends in his traning book.
  • Do more hill training - a lot of the coaches recommend this now as a form of speedwork.
  • Have more 23+ mile long runs. It may be psychological, but I always seem to start falling apart in a race at the distance of my maximum long run in training.

New Things That Worked this Time:

  • Keeping fluid intake to 3 ounces per 2 miles prevented stomach sloshing/upset.
  • Using EFS for sports drink in four bottle fuel belt.
  • Using Powerbar Gel (2 right before race), and then one every 6 miles.
  • Multiple 20 mile runs plus 2 runs over 20 miles during training.
  • Running at altitude the week before (don't know if this made a difference).
  • Monitoring cadence/footstrike to try to keep in 180 footstrikes/minute range.
  • Proper Nutrition: Maintaining the correct daily potassium and carb levels has kept my from crashing during my long runs and races. I thought I was getting enough of both of these until I started tracking it in Excel.
  • Running form that uses slight forward lean from ankles and footstrike below body (
  • Ran faster on downhills letting gravity do the work with forward lean. This allowed a faster pace at much less effort and let me put extra time aside that I used up in the last miles as I was starting to cramp up and feel bad.
  • McKenzie techniques taught by Active Spine and Sport prevented IT Band/sciatica issues.