The Delaware Marathon took place on May 12 (Mother’s Day), 2013, in Wilmington, Delaware. The race is actually the Delaware Marathon Running Festival, which is made up of the marathon, a half marathon, and 8 person marathon relay and a 4 person marathon relay. Overall, just over 3,000 runners register for all of these events. The marathon itself has a small field, which just under 600 runners crossing the finish line this year.
This was my first marathon, so I didn’t have any expectations beyond my experiences with local half marathons. This also means that the Delaware Marathon had the opportunity to set the bar by which I will measure marathons in the future. So, let’s get to it!
I registered for the marathon in January (I’m one of those people who likes to plan ahead and commit so that I’m locked in). Once I was registered, I joined the Delaware Marathon Facebook group, which would become my main form of interaction with the race organizers, fellow marathoners and half-marathoners as well as those who had run this marathon in the past.
To my delight, the Facebook group was very active. The interactions were both informative and fun. The race organizers were very active in the group, and more importantly, they were very responsive. Many times there were responses to questions and concerns within minutes of a post. When there were concerns that may have been unique to an individual or to a small group of individuals, the race organizer offered to do whatever they could to accomodate these concerns.
The insights provided from Facebook made me realize that I made a good choice for my first marathon. I had originally been concerned about running such a small marathon since there would be less support, less cheering fans, and so on. However, the personal attention and care to details that was provided by everyone involved in this marathon clearly showed through. In addition, hearing from people who had previously run it about what a great experience it was was very encouraging.
In addition to the Facebook group, the race organizers mailed out a nice packet with an overview of the Wilmington area and things to do and see while in the area. Even though I only planned on driving down the day before, running on Sunday and driving back the same day, it was very nice to have this information.
The support continued with a few detailed emails days before the marathon to make sure that we had all the information that we needed.
The expo was held on Saturday, May 11, from 11:00 to 4:00 in Tubman Park. I woke up very early on Saturday morning and drove just over 6 hours, arriving just before the expo started. When I arrived, there already were people gathering (other than all the volunteers and race organizers who were working hard to put together all the final touches for the marathon on the following day).
The expo itself was very small (which is to be expected from an event this size) with packet and swag pick-up and a few vendors. One of the vendors to note, however, was New Balance. They were selling custom Delaware Marathon and Half Marathon shirts that had the names of all the runners for each event on the back. I did shell out the extra money to get this shirt in addition to my Delaware Marathon shirt that was part of the swag. I even ended up with the added benefit that my name is the first name on one of the columns, so it’s easy to find!
Even though the expo was small, the race organizers did a great job of getting the community involved by offering some kids’ activities. There was a fun run, Zumba and Simon Says, jump ropes, hula hoops and tug of war. All these activities brought a great sense of fun to the event, and it was great to see all the kids outside and being active. The events ended right around noon and most of the crowd dissipated. Just after this, I met my friend and training partner, who had driven down from NH the previous day. He picked up his packet and swag and then we headed back to our hotels to rest for the marathon. I stayed at one of the recommended hotels in Wilmington, and I was not disappointed.
After a night of tossing and turning, I got up around 3:30 AM to start to prepare myself for the 7:00 AM start. I had a Vegan sports protein bar as well as a Clif Mojo bar and started to hydrate. I took a quick shower and got ready. There were two shuttle buses scheduled to pick runners up and bring them to the start line. However, I decided to drive to the start line so that I could hit the road after the race.
Because I was ready and I didn’t want to sit around a hotel room, I drove to Tubman Park and arrived at the start line just after 5:00 AM. There already were some runners when I got there, and the numbers started to increase soon after. For a few minutes, there was a very light run shower, but the rain quickly went away and gave way to the sun. The weather forecast was for partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the low 60′s. It was a great day to run. The marathon started at 7:00, the half marathon at 7:05 and the relays at 7:20.
I had not driven the course, so I did not know exactly what to expect other than what I read from the race’s website as well as from the comments about the course on Facebook. The course is a double loop, so halfway through you know what to expect for the rest of the race. This can be both a blessing and a curse. Sometimes I prefer not to know what’s coming up so that my mind is not dwelling upon it. Other times, however, it’s helpful so that you can gauge your efforts accordingly.
The course is mostly through the streets of Wilmington, but there are parts of the course that go across a wooden and brick riverwalk, through the paved paths of Brandywine Park as well as a wooden foot bridge. There are also two significant hills of note. The one to be most aware of is strategically placed at mile 12 and 25. It is a mile incline and you feel every step of it.
Overall, it’s a great course. It’s not a flat, fast course, but at the same time, it is not an extremely hilly course that drains you of everything you have.
Having said that, how did I do? At a quick glance, I did not meet my expectations (I was hoping for a sub-4:00 time and maybe even sub-3:45). In the grand scheme of things, I exceeded what my expectations should have been with a 4:55 finish. Now let me explain.
Just about four weeks prior to the marathon, I was at the end of a 20-mile run when a pain in my ankle flared up and made me immediately stop running. I hobbled back to my car, rested for a day or two and then decided to go to the doctor to have my ankle examined. I was diagnosed with peroneal tendonitis. The doctor told me not to run for at least a week and even then not to run very much.
I tried running after a week, but I still couldn’t do so without significant pain (plus my ankle was still visibly swollen). For all intents and purposes, I did not run at all (a total of 6 miles) in the four weeks leading up to the marathon. I spent some time on the stationary bike and elliptical machine to try to stay in shape, but that really is not a substitute for running.
I went back in forth my head many times whether or not I should defer my entry until 2014. However, I just couldn’t let myself do that. On race day, my ankle was feeling good (although I wasn’t sure how it would feel once I actually started running, not to mention how it might feel well into a marathon). I made the fatal mistake of starting off at a pace as if I had continued to train for the previous four weeks.
About eight miles in, I realized that not running recently had taken it’s toll on me. I had the cardiovascular capacity, but my legs were not going to cooperate. At the half marathon mark, I was still on pace for a sub-4:00 marathon, but I also knew that this wouldn’t last either. I started to slow, and I eventually began to walk too. I spent the rest of the marathon alternating between running and walking. Thus, I ended up with 4:55 time.
The nice part is that my walking also gave me the opportunity to meet some great people along the way who were also fighting their own battles to get to the finish line. And, in the end, I still finished the marathon ahead of 163 other runners. Given the circumstances, I was still pleased with myself when I ran across the finish line and received my first marathon finisher’s medal. There will be many opportunities to learn my lessons from this race and to improve.
Overall, this was a great experience and a great race to run. I was hesitant about running a small marathon, but the support from before, during and after the marathon was incredible. I didn’t mention it above, but there were water stops close to every two miles so there wasn’t a need to carry your own water.
If you are a looking for a nice, low-key marathon to run (whether you’re an experienced marathoner or a first-timer), I definitely would recommend the Delaware Marathon.