Sunday, September 28, 2014

Giving up marathon quality for quantity

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: I finished the Darlington Marathon in 4 hours, 2 minutes and 51 seconds, 3rd out of 9 in my age group, 26th out of 59 men and 29th of 85 overall. It was my 38th marathon, 6th in 2014 and 2nd in South Carolina (along with the 2001 Myrtle Beach Marathon). It was my 3rd marathon time of 4 hours or slower. The others: my first marathon finish, the 4:14 at the 1994 Marine Corps Marathon, and the 4:06 at the 2001 Grandfather Mountain Marathon.

I'm beginning to realize that when you go for marathon quantity, you give up marathon quality (time-wise), at least at my age. That's one clear conclusion after logging my worst marathon time in 13 years on a course that wasn't tremendously hilly. I love running marathons, but I crave good times even more.

I was stubborn enough to believe that I could maintain sub-3:40 times (or be close) for most of my marathons this year. One factor obviously has to be heat. It's been a bit hot for all but the Tobacco Road Marathon in March.

It's not the miles as much as the wear and tear that this many marathons produce and the lack of proper tapering. My times didn't dip like this over my 5 marathons in 2013, and I actually ran slightly more miles by this time in 2013 than I have in 2014. My times for training runs have been clearly slower in August and September this year compared to last year and this August in North Carolina was milder weather-wise than it was in 2013.

The progression of my 6 marathons this year shows a gradual slide in performance.

In March, I just missed a PR with a 3:30:42 at the Tobacco Road Marathon. My times pretty much got worse with every marathon (as you can see from my race schedule on the right sidebar on this page). Although my Loonies Midnight Marathon time was slightly better than my Hatfield-McCoy Marathon time, I walked a bit at Hatfield-McCoy and didn't walk at all at Loonies, which was much flatter.

There are many of my fellow Marathon Maniacs who run marathons for a good time and don't worry about putting up a good time. Maybe I'll get to that point in the next 5 or 10 years. But I still very much love the exhilaration of logging a terrific marathon time. Maybe I'm just stubborn.

How frustrated was I with my Darlington time? For the first time in any run — much less a race — in years, I forgot to stop the timer on my Garmin Forerunner when I crossed the finish line. I realized it 3 or 4 minutes later. (Not that it mattered because I was unable to upload the data to my computer. When fooling with it, hoping it would allow me to upload it, I did a hard reboot, which deleted the data.)

Given my training times in the last couple of months, my expectations were modest and I was hoping to run in the 3:40s. I felt good in the first few miles and was maintaining a pace of around 8:15 for much of the first half. It wasn't long before I realized that the heat would be a factor. On top of that, there weren't many clouds in the sky.

By about mile 19 or so, my pace got slower and I eventually regressed into walking for a bit and running for a bit because I just didn't have much left. Mentally, it didn't help when I took a wrong turn at a point late in the race where there were no volunteers and I had to backtrack about 300 yards to get back on course.

Before this year — with the exception of the challenging Grandfather Mountain Marathon in 2001 and 2013 — I had not walked during a marathon since the 2001 Baltimore Marathon (and that was only in the last mile). I've now walked in 2 of my last 3 marathons.

I'll keep up the quantity by running the Bull City Half Marathon on Oct. 19 and the Raleigh City of Oaks Marathon on Nov. 2. I'm leaning toward turning my complete running focus after that to training for a good time for the March 15 Tobacco Road Marathon.

'The Track Too Tough to Tame'

I took an odd route to this marathon. I intended to run its inaugural edition in 2013 before I won free entry to the Asheville Citizen-Times City Marathon, which was run the same day.

I originally registered for the 2014 Darlington Marathon in late February under the previous management. When administration of the race shifted to the Darlington Raceway officials, I got a refund in March. When track officials reopened registration in June, I again signed up.

The big lure of this race: It starts on pit row at the Darlington Raceway and finishes at the start/finish line of the speedway. Even though I’m not a NASCAR fan at all, it still was pretty cool.

This was my second marathon this year to finish at a famous sports venue. In June, the Sunburst Marathon in South Bend, Ind., finished outside of Notre Dame Stadium. It usually finishes inside the stadium, but I missed out on that experience since the university was installing FieldTurf.

This wasn’t my first race at a speedway. Years ago, I ran a 5K that featured 2 loops around the North Carolina Motor Speedway in Rockingham (now called the Rockingham Speedway).

So I did “The Rock,” and now it was time to make a run at “The Track Too Tough to Tame.”

Here is a prerace photo of some of the Marathon Maniacs who were in
Darlington, including Larry Wesson (third from the right) who was featured
in the local newspaper on Sunday (mentioned at the end of this blog post.)
No issues with crowds at this race
This is a double-loop course, basically running the half-marathon course twice. They altered the full marathon course so that we didn’t cross the finish line twice. It really wouldn’t have been a big deal for me considering that I crossed the finish line 6 times at the Loonies Midnight Marathon in July!

This is a small race that caps the marathon field to 100. I'm used to having low bib numbers because most races number runners alphabetically. But the No. 10 was the lowest number that I've had for any marathon.

How small was it? The first time I started walking, I was walking for 3 or 4 minutes and nobody passed me.

The race starts at 7 a.m. I arrived at 5:30, which allowed me to snag a good parking spot in the infield that left me with a very short walk to packet pickup, the bathroom  — an actual bathroom, which is always nice — and the start/finish.

The race starts on pit row, then we ran around much of the track before going to the infield and running through the tunnel and out of the speedway area. That tunnel features a HUGE downward grade, followed a HUGE upward grade.

After a brief stretch on the Harry Byrd Highway, we take a left and stay on Smith Avenue for quite a few miles. It seemed like a gradual, but not daunting, upward grade for most of the way before taking a right as we get to Darlington High School.

One of the nicest stretches of the course was on Williamson Park Drive. The road is roughly the width of the American Tobacco Trail and featured nice scenery on both sides. Next, we took a right on Cashua Street, which took is through a couple of decent hills and to the beautiful downtown area of Darlington and the historic district.

Here I am running through downtown during the first half of the marathon.
(Photo courtesy of the Darlington News & Press)

After exiting the downtown area, it was back onto Harry Byrd Highway to run back toward the raceway. At the end of the first half, we took a right before the tunnel while the half-marathoners went through the tunnel toward their finish.

I make my way toward the tunnel as I finish the first half of the marathon.
(Photo courtesy of Michael Schilling)

We proceeded through some small roads on the other side of the track, and passed a few huge fields used for parking during NASCAR races. They featured lots of signs to help fans remember where they've parked. They had a number and a letter, but also a picture of a NASCAR legend. That was kind of interesting.

We eventually ran through a side tunnel and back to the infield, through the main tunnel and back out to run basically the half-marathon course a second time. When we ran back through the tunnel at the end of the race, we then ran down pit row before running around the track to the finish line (which was the start/finish line of the Darlington Raceway.)

I walked on and off during that last loop of the raceway. I looked at each of the 3 or 4 men who passed me as I tried to figure out if they looked younger than 50, hoping that I still could snag an age-group award. I actually asked the last guy who passed me if he was younger than 50 and was happy to hear him say yes.

I did indeed finish 3rd in my age group, which tells you 2 things: It pays to get older when you're a runner and this is a small  race.

Some age-group awards just aren't that impressive. I remember when you used to always get nice trophies. When I finished 2nd in my age group at the All-American Marathon in May, my award was a water bottle that doesn't even note that this is an award. A nice water bottle. But a water bottle. At Darlington, the award was cheap-looking medal that wasn't as impressive as the finisher medal. And there was no ceremony announcing your name. You just came up to a table and picked up your age-group medal. That did save time, however.

If you need crowds and other runners to motivate you, this is probably not your race. That is, unless you happen to run with certain Marathon Maniacs, as reported in the Florence, S.C., newspaper, the Morning News.) The story does incorrectly say that Elizabeth Withey already was a Maniac. In fact, she qualified as a Maniac in this race. Mentioning that would have made this an even better story. It's a terrific story of the spirit and kindness of Maniacs.

There were very few spectators along the course and the only cheering you heard was at aid stations and from volunteers at some intersections. Although we passed quite a few houses, few residents didn't come out to support the runners. This is a big contrast to a race such as the Outer Banks Marathon.

I had a nearly 3-hour drive back to Durham after the race, so I was delighted to find that there was a shower in the men's bathroom of a building next to pit row. That sure made the drive back more pleasant!

Not my best day at "the track." But this still was a fun race to run.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A run of midnight madness

Executive summary: I finished the Loonies Midnight Marathon in Livingston, Tenn., in
3 hours, 54 minutes and 7 seconds, and was the third grandmaster (50 and older) finisher. I was third of 12 in my age group, 38th of 128 men and 45th of 236 finishers. 
Every runner who finished ahead of me is younger. It was my 37th marathon. This race tied my record for marathons in a calendar year (set last year) at 5 and marked the 18th state in which I’ve finished a marathon.

The Loonies Midnight Marathon is exactly the sort of locally run marathon that I prefer. Local folks — the members of the Upper Cumberland Road Runners Club — do an excellent job of putting on the race without any sponsors. The back of the technical shirt most races give runners is packed with logos from sponsors.

The back of the T-shirt has the UCRRC logo, the logo for the city of Livingston, Tenn., and the phrase "Sleep is overrated ... Run 26.2 at Midnight."

This isn't some for-profit operation run by an out-of-state company like the Raleigh Rock 'n' Roll Marathon. The race is administered by hard-working volunteers with the TCRRC and other local folks who care about running. Of the 236 finishers, only one lives in Livingston. I'm guessing that's because local runners are among the terrific volunteers I saw on the course.

You can tell that runners put on this race because they take care of all of the little things that matter to runners.

Race officials and police did an excellent job of making sure that the course was fairly well lighted. When there were areas without good street lights, the town placed temporary spotlights, which also were used around Livingston Academy. All of the lights were on for a couple of athletic fields on the course as well.

There were also flashing pylons at many points where you needed to turn and flashing reflectors on the shoulder of some roads. The Asheville Citizen-Times City Marathon started at 6 a.m. and the sun didn't rise until I was at about mile 7. That course seemed a lot darker over the first 7 miles of that marathon than any part of the Loonies course.

There were enthusiastic volunteers at every water station, and other volunteers directing runners at many parts of the course. The hour got the best of one young woman sitting at a corner of my last mile of the race: She had fallen asleep. It was a little before 4 a.m. CDT!

There was very little traffic, and the Livingston Police did a good job of controlling it.

In addition to a nice technical race shirt, all runners got a nice running cap and, of course, finishers earned a medal.

Even though "sleep is overrated," it helps!

I’m an early-morning runner. But I’ve never run this early — in a race that starts at midnight.

I adjusted my sleep schedule on marathon week many times when I was in the newspaper business. In those cases, it was because I worked until well past midnight and I usually woke up at 10:30 a.m. Since most races start between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m., I had to take a couple of vacation days ahead of the race in order to slide my sleep schedule earlier.

But I’ve never had an adjustment like the one on Loonies Midnight Marathon race week. With my post-newspaper-career 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (or sometimes later) work schedule, I usually am asleep by 10 p.m. I’m out of bed and out the door for my runs a little after
6 a.m. or a little before if I’m running 8 or more miles.

Livingston, Tenn., where Loonies is run, is in the Central time zone, which meant that the race started a little after 1 a.m. EDT.

It was easy to see that adjusting my sleep schedule earlier made a lot more sense than adjusting it later (which would have been easy in my newspaper days). It really was no decision when you consider that I tend to wake up, unable to go back to sleep, around 6 or 6:30 even when I don’t have to be up that early. These days, I don’t even need an alarm clock.

I started shifting by early in the week by going to bed at 8 p.m. and getting up at 4 a.m. This also gave me a preview of what it would be like running at night. I’m all too familiar with what that’s like, though, because of early-morning winter runs.

By Tuesday night, I went to sleep around 8:15 p.m. and got up at 3:45 a.m., and on Thursday, I was asleep by 6:30 p.m. and got up at 2:45 a.m. We left for Livingston on Friday morning, checked into the motel late Friday afternoon and I slept for about 4 hours before heading to the race.

I very much appreciated that my wife, Jean, and younger son, Scott, kept the motel room dimly lit and quiet Friday evening so that I could get some sleep. I’m a very light sleeper.

For the looney, it's loopy (6 loops, to be exact)

The race starts and finishes at Livingston Academy. It got going at about 10 minutes after midnight to shots from loud muskets, followed by a short fireworks display. The latter was a first for me at a race.

The course starts with a 1.2-mile loop, followed by running the same 5-mile loop (that has no hard turnarounds) 5 times. While that does create some monotony, you are certain where water stations are located. With a race-record 300 runners registered (the rain probably had something to do with only 236 finishing), you rarely were running alone for long.

For 4 of the 5 miles of the loop, runners are going in the both directions. This gave the 60+ Marathon Maniacs plenty of chances to greet each other along the course. There was, of course, the traditional pre-race picture or 2 of the Maniacs at the race.

I'm squatting in the front in the prerace picture of Marathon Maniacs.

I also liked that there only was a marathon. It seems like just about every marathon these days also has a half-marathon.

It was neat to lap other runners after a few of loops. Not so neat to get lapped, though. About 2 hours and 30 minutes into the race, I was lapped by the leaders who were on their 5th 5-mile loop while I was on my 4th loop. I’m sure that a good number of other runners who passed me after that also were that far ahead of me.

By the third loop, I had every tangent figured out and knew where there were puddles to avoid.

You cross the finish line 6 times. In a nice touch, the lady on the PA microphone announced your name each time after the first initial short loop.

I got into a good routine of consuming a Gu packet about a half-mile away from the finish line since I knew that there was a water station there.

Race officials describe the course at “Tennessee flat,” which meant that there were a couple of minor hills in the middle of the 5-mile loop. Those hills were nothing like the ones I routinely run in Durham.

Knowing that I was going to run 5 laps of that 5-mile loop made it oddly easier psychologically. I really didn’t concentrate much on the mile totals but rather my progress on each loop. I remember being surprised to find at one point that I had already run 11 miles because it didn’t seem like I had run that far.

Although I knew I was running in the middle of the night, I decided to never look at my regular watch to check on the time of day. I just didn't want it to enter my head that it was, for example, 3 a.m.

If not for the backlighting on my Garmin Forerunner, it would have been quite a challenge to even check my pace, which I did often.

A wet visit to Tennessee

I was in the state of Tennessee for parts of 2 days and never once saw the sun. It raining as we crossed the state line on Friday and rained about 90 percent of the time until we crossed back into North Carolina on Saturday. Driving to Livingston and driving back was challenging many times because we were dealing with driving rain and poor visibility.

Thanks to the arrival of the Polar Vortex earlier in the week, we were greeted by the coolest temperatures in the race’s 3-year history. Temperatures were in the mid-60s for the whole race. It actually felt a bit cool standing around waiting for the race to start and actually wasn't raining. During prerace ceremonies, it started to lightly rain.

It rained lightly almost constantly during the race, more of a mist that I barely noticed after a while. I was lucky to finish when I did. About 5 minutes after I was done, the mist gave way to a downpour almost as bad as what I dealt with over the last 6 miles of December’s Jacksonville Bank Marathon. I felt bad for the runners who were out on the course after that.

It might have been prettier to be able to look up and see the stars, or possibly the moon. It likely would have been a lot hotter in that event, though. I understand that it was much hotter and humid for the first two years of LMM.

Few reserves left over the last 6 miles

After keeping a fairly consistent pace for the first 10 miles or so, my 5-mile loop splits kept getting slower. After I finished the first loop in 42 minutes, 37 seconds, the successive loop times were 43:47, 44:00, 46:17 and 47:31.

My last really decent mile split was an 8:38 16th mile. After 3 miles just under 9 miles, every mile after that took longer than 9 minutes.

Whether it was the lack of sleep or the fact that, by my body clock, it was after 4 a.m., my pace started leveling off substantially down the stretch.

I walked for a few stretches at the Hatfield-McCoy Marathon in June. Even though I never walked at Loonies, my time was only about a minute faster on a much flatter course.

I didn’t really hit a wall, though. It just felt like a higher gear no longer was available. I popped in an Advil along with a Gu packet at the end of the fourth loop. Although that seemed to help (mile 26 was the fastest of my last 5 miles), it didn’t really allow me to push the pace much.

Although I highly recommend this race, I doubt I’ll run another midnight marathon. The actual race is fun. It’s the elaborate planning to shift my sleep schedule that was no fun. Without that plan, I doubt that I could have come close to the same time.

There is no doubt that I thoroughly enjoyed running this race.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Hatfield-McCoy: No feuding, just terrific racing

Executive summary: On a challenging course for my 36th marathon, 2nd in 2 weeks and 3rd in 6 weeks, I finished the Hatfield-McCoy Marathon in 3 hours, 55 minutes, 10 seconds. I was 5th out of 39 in my age group, 42nd out of 265 men and 50th out of 506 overall. You can count this race for Kentucky or West Virginia. I already had West Virginia (the Marshall University Marathon), so I used it to make Kentucky my 17th marathon state.

The Hatfield-McCoy Marathon is the perfect example of why I much prefer races put on by local folks over the huge, big-city corporate-run races.

The people of South Williamson, Ky., where this marathon starts, and Williamson, W.Va., where it finishes, are proud of this race and embrace it. There is very little crowd support on the course, particularly over the second half. But the volunteers and race officials are passionate and enthusiastic.

During a talk before the 50 State Marathon Club’s reunion meeting on Friday afternoon at Belfry High School, race director Dave Hatfield got emotional talking about how much the race means to him. His last words to us were that if we didn’t have fun, he would be upset. I didn’t upset him!

We (me, my wife and younger son) enjoyed a Hatfield-McCoy skit that two men (one posing as a Hatfield and one posing as a McCoy) put on Friday night. I was able to get my picture taken with those men after picking up my packet Friday afternoon and eating the pasta dinner that is free to runners. I also high-fived those guys as I crossed the finish line.

I tried to bring the Hatfield and McCoy representatives together.

When a lady put the medal around my neck, she congratulated me and said, “thanks for coming.” I don’t think I’ve ever heard “thanks for coming” after a race. It reminded me of when former East Carolina football coach Ed Emory would say that at the end of a press conference.

This was where we stayed the night before the race.

We, along with many other Marathon Maniacs, stayed at the Williamson (W.Va.) Fire Department. We all got cots with sheets and pillows in a big room on the second floor that included free Wi-Fi and clean bathrooms.

The cots were more comfortable that I expected and our night at the
Williamson (W.Va.) Fire Station worked out well.
You think that would happen at one of those huge corporate races in a big city?

It was quite a terrific deal considering that we only had a 3-block walk from the fire station to the shuttle buses that took us to the starting line, and the finish line was in the same nearby area.
The few hotels in Williamson and South Williamson require a 2-night stay, aren’t that inexpensive and usually are booked well before race day. The alternatives are to drive 45 minutes to and from hotel or motel in Logan, W.Va., or Pikeville, Ky.

After the race, there made shower facilities available for free at Williamson High School, which is a couple of blocks from the fire station.

All over the course, there were signs welcoming back people who were running the marathon for at least the second time. They would say, for example, “Welcome back, John Smith of Washington, D.C.,” then there was an inspirational message at the bottom. That’s a nice touch!

In addition to the finisher medal, each runner received a short-sleeve technical T-shirt, a nice tote bag and a Mason jar with the race logo on it.

Several people told me that this race is terrific, and they were right!


Challenging, but it’s no Grandfather Mountain Marathon

Considering that HMM, like the Grandfather Mountain Marathon, made The Weather Channel’s list of top 15 toughest marathons in the world, I was prepared for a challenge. I got it. But I overestimated the course. HMM comes in at No. 14 and GMM is rated the 12th-toughest.

 I’ve run GMM twice, and it is substantially more challenging than HMM.

After the race starts in the Food City parking lot in South Williamson, Ky., the first 2 or 3 miles are downhill. While I enjoyed those miles, I was mentally preparing myself for a Blackberry Hill, which really gets your attention on the elevation chart. On that chart, it looks substantial.

When I got to the top of the hill, my immediate thought was, “that was it?” It wasn’t as bad as Laurel Hill on the Tar Heel 10 Miler course. Maybe all the hill training made it seem milder.

After we reached the top of that hill, there were substantial downhills for quite a while. I thought it was nice, but my quads seemed to have a different opinion. I was actually glad when the course changed to more of a flat section.

The hills on the rest of the course really weren’t that bad and it almost seemed that there were more downhill stretches than there were climbs.

There was beautiful scenery, particularly over the first half of the course. Much like GMM, no roads are closed to traffic. But it’s not a concern because there isn’t much traffic. While HMM is beautiful, I still think that GMM is prettier.

There are two half-marathons: One that starts at Food City and goes over the first 13.1 miles of the marathon course. The other starts where the first one finishes, in Matewan, W.Va., and shares its finish line with the marathon in Williamson, W.Va.

They made me feel at home a bit by painting Carolina-blue foots on the pavement at many parts of the course to direct runners where to go next. If only there was tar on the heels.

If you need crowds to keep you going, this isn’t the marathon for you. There were stretches over the second half of the marathon in which I didn’t see anybody in front of me or behind me.

Much of the second half is run on roads so narrow that they easily could be mistaken for paved running trails. The good part is that there was a lot of shade. The bad part was a stretch of a couple of miles around mile 16 when it turns into a dirt road. I rained the night before, so I was constantly trying to avoid muddy areas and puddles. At a couple of points, there was no avoiding the mud and it would have been easy to slip.

I've never run in this much mud in any race. It's still caked on my shoes.

We ran over a wooden bridge during the second half of the course that shook and had uneven wooden slats with inconsistent spacing between them. Not good for me since I have the classic marathon shuffle. I slowly managed to high-step my way through that bridge without falling.

Exceeding low expectations

Knowing this course was challenging, my expectations were low since this was my second marathon in 2 weeks (I ran the Sunburst Marathon in South Bend, Ind., on May 31) and my third marathon in 6 weeks (I ran the All-American Marathon, a point-to-point race from Fayetteville to Fort Bragg, on May 4).

I did not plan to run 2 marathons in 2 weeks. I registered for HMM months ago, then won free entry into Sunburst a few weeks after that and wasn’t going to turn down that chance.

My goals were the same as they were for last July’s Grandfather Mountain Marathon: avoid walking and break 4 hours. Like GMM, I failed on the first goal and succeeded on the second one.

We got fortunate with the weather. The morning low was in the high-50s, the lowest in quite a few days.

I would love to see what kind of time I could run at HMM with more rest between marathons. I was on pace to perhaps run a 3:40 or 3:45 and feeling pretty good when I could feel the toll of all of those marathons. I walked for several stretches in the final 4 miles even though there weren’t substantial hills.

While I got the sub-4-hour marathon I wanted, I could have earned a much better finishing time if I could have kept running. My legs had other ideas. I battled a bit in the last couple of miles at Sunburst. But my legs weren’t ready for battle and I they felt much better after those short stretches of walking.

Clearly quantity and quality don’t always go together.


So you think I run lots of marathons?

At the 50 States Marathon Club reunion meeting Friday afternoon, it was amazing hearing how many marathons some of the others had finished.

You can join if you’ve run marathons in 10 states (I’ve run marathons in 17 states, plus Ontario and D.C.). But the long-range goal of most members is to run a marathon in all 50 states. There were many folks who had done that multiple times. One man had run marathons in all 50 states 9 times! Many had run well over 300 marathons.

I'm in the middle of this big group of 50 State Marathon Club members.
It was interesting hearing from Benji Durden, who was one of several members honored for recently finishing marathons in all 50 states (along with his wife). With a sub-2:09 marathon PR, he bemoaned the frustration of getting slower.

A lot of 50 Staters and Marathon Maniacs don’t worry about running a good time and like to stay near the middle or the back of the pack and have a good time. Durden talked about how he had a hard time shaking his competitiveness and running a marathon just to finish.

I talked to a 13-year-old boy on the course. He was running the first of the 2 half-marathons and I noticed that he had a Marathon Maniacs singlet. He told me that he already has run 8 marathons. At 13! That sounds a little young to me. I wish I had asked him how old he was when he ran his first, which was his PR at 4:55.

I met lots of Marathon Maniacs during the weekend, many who make my 4 marathons this year seem like a light schedule. A few of them had run marathons the previous weekend.

I'm sitting in the center of this pre-race shot of the many Marathon Maniacs
who ran the race.

Now a 2-star, silver-level Maniac

In December, I became a Marathon Maniac by with the minimum entry standard of 3 marathons in 90 days (Asheville Citizen-Times City Marathon, Outer Banks Marathon and Jacksonville Bank Marathon). That made me a 1-star, bronze-level Maniac.

Hatfield-McCoy marked my 8th marathon in the last 12 months (GMM, Tobacco Road, All-American, Sunburst, the 3 mentioned in the previous paragraph and HMM). It would have been nine had the George Washington’s Birthday Marathon not been snowed out in February.

The 8 marathons in 12 months bumps me up to a 2-star, silver-level Maniac.

Next up

My next marathon is the Loonies Midnight Marathon on July 19 in Livingston, Tenn. It promises to be an adventure since it starts at midnight (1 a.m. EDT).