Pre-race preparation: This year’s travels were far less eventful than last year, which I’ll definitely take. We made it into Houston at a reasonable time on Friday night and slept in on Saturday. Til like 9 a.m. I didn’t know that this was even possible.
We headed to the expo around noon and loved these awesome “footprints” leading runners to packet pick up:
We tracked down my two missing Hammer gels. We didn’t see 26.2 Apparel anywhere, which I was super bummed about since they have this awesome t-shirt commemorating the race:
I ended up buying it as we headed home (in grey, can’t wait!). The rest of the day was spent watching football (boo Packers lost), taking naps and heading over to Chipotle for the best pre-race dinner ever:
Actual race: I have this weird thing where I like to get to a race about an hour before hand. I am not quite sure why because I usually just stand around. I was one of the first people to the start, which worked to my advantage because this guy was handing out HUGE garbage bags to use as ponchos. It was slightly drizzling so I wasn’t quite sure I needed it… until about 10 minutes before the start when it started pouring.
Before I knew it, I was dropping my bag and moving up to get started. My legs had the same numb feeling as I did at the NYC Marathon, where I PRed, so I took it as a good sign. I mean, running a marathon in low 40s is never a bad thing… if you are accustomed to it. It felt like a typical AM run in NYC this winter.
Anyways, the first mile is out of downtown and up a bridge and I was feeling pretty good… and then I saw my time for the first mile: 10:10.
WAIT, what? Of course I started freaking out in my head because a) I had no idea how long it took me to cross the start b) I did not think it took me a full two minutes to cross.
I realized that there was no way we were all moving at that speed and was distracted by some more rain, some awesome fans and the next seven miles before I saw my family:
I was feeling really good, so of course I was all smiles.
I knew that I would see them again around mile 14. I still felt really good and took my second gel around mile 10. And then it was mile 11 and my gut started feeling… off. Ugh.
At mile 12 I saw a glimpse of the 3:30 pacer balloon and crew and got really excited. I tried to tell C and his parents and brother this when I ran by, but they didn’t catch on to it. And then mile 18 hit.
I was cruising! So close to passing up the 3:30 pacer balloon. And then my stomach decided it had to ruin the parade. I was battling with it for miles, and finally, decided that I just needed to take care of it.
After a couple minute pit stop, the 3:30 pacer balloon was way gone and even after gritting my teeth and trying to get back into my cruise mode, I knew that I would have a very slight chance of catching them. I saw my family around mile 18, and knew Allen Parkway was around the corner… the Allen Parkway. And I dominated it. I did exactly what I aimed out to do, and had fun! I couldn’t believe it but it was actually my favorite part of the race.
One last cheer from my family and I had a mile to go to the finish line… and loved every minute of it.
Finishing time: 3:34.29
What I loved:
- The course. Hands down amazing: it has hills, beautiful scenery, ALL OF THE ABOVE. I didn’t even realize Houston had all of this greatness and it makes for a really interesting race.
- The organization. The people behind the Houston Marathon know how to put on a good show (although, FYI, I wish they would make mylar blankets accessible for all finishers).
- The fans. While I thought that a marathon in the 40s was awesome, the people of Houston think that this is extremely chilly so it was pretty awesome that thousands still showed up to cheer us on.
- The medal. It definitely lives up to Texas-size expectations: BIG. But I love the design.
- The swag. A participant shirt, a finisher shirt and an awesome glass mug? I’m in.
Bottom line: Much like the city, I feel like the Houston Marathon is underappreciated and undervalued. It is one of my favorite marathons and I would recommend it for a first-timer or a veteran. Registration opens in early summer (June-ish) and guaranteed entry is available for those who have posted a 4 hour or better marathon. If you are looking for a race that has all the amenities of a big race, yet the hospitality of a small-town event, this is the race for you.