Marathons: Paul #43, Leah #33, State #27 : Monument Marathon 2014
27th September 2014, Scottsbluff, Nebraska, USA
Finish Time = 4:24:07
The week leading up to this marathon hadn’t gone well for me, in fact probably the worst week you could imagine prior to a marathon. Following the Bismarck Marathon on the Saturday before, I had my wisdom teeth out on the Monday which left me unable to eat much, then from Tuesday I had to undertake a clear liquid only diet for a medical procedure on the Wednesday which was also an ordeal. So by the time I got to Wednesday I hadn’t eaten any real food for 3 days. I was also put on a course of antibiotics from the wisdom teeth extraction which left me wiped-out and I could barely get out of bed in the morning. I lost about 5lbs and struggled to get the weight and my energy levels back even once I was able to start eating again. To top it off my Gran back in the UK passed away that week from Alzheimer’s.
However, sometimes when times are their hardest often I find running makes the most sense.
After our experience at Run With The Horses in Wyoming, we knew we liked marathons we could drive to, avoiding air travel. Monument was one of those, just 3.5 hours away. The drive up was easy, we even stopped off at the Wyoming State Museum in Cheyenne along the way and we got to the expo in time to pick up our packets.
In the morning we drove over to the finish area, where we were to get on the shuttle that would take us to the start, as it was a point-to-point course. We saw a group of Marathon Maniacs / 50 Staters including our friend Dave Bell. After chatting and having some pictures we got on board the school bus.
The start was a very nice, relaxed setup. The half-marathoners had a different start and out of the 450 participants only around 100 were running the full so it was nice to just have a big group of people rather than a herd of runners trying to go in all directions in a small space. The start was at the Wildcat Hills Nature Center, and we were able to go inside and have a look around. They had some interesting exhibits with some examples of the local animals, a working beehive and some wild turkeys wandering around. They also had a skeleton of a rattlesnake and a warning on the door about watching out for rattlesnakes in the area.
As we got closer to 8am one of the race directors, Tom, made some announcements and the sponsor said a few words before they passed the microphone over to Leah for her to sing the National Anthem! Everyone turned to face the flag and Leah did a fantastic job.
Gazelle Avoids Snake
We started off, ran down a hill, and around a corner to start running down the highway and not more than 5 minutes into the race we came across a large rattlesnake on the side of the road! Leah performed a huge gazelle-style leap of about 5 feet diagonally across me and we shouted out back to the others to watch out for the snake.
The first part of the course was downhill and we enjoyed some nice views of the interestingly shaped mountains on the horizon.
Following our failed attempt at Bismarck of making the marathon less stressful on our bodies, our plan for this race was to run at a pace that felt natural and then not to push too hard once fatigued, at the points at which we normally would in order to make the sub 4. This was working out much better, we felt good running along at our normal pace and with the downhill start were actually getting in some faster miles than expected.
The volunteers were fantastic, so friendly and there were people who had brought out their families with little kids, all ringing their cowbells as we ran past. Due to the unseasonable sun and heat predicted for the day the race director had managed to put on several additional water stations and we were also running with our own hand bottles which was a good decision to keep topped up.
We approached a section of the course called Mitchell Pass which is alongside the Scotts Bluff National Monument, where the early pioneers crossed with wagons and handcarts on the Oregon Trail. They had some horse and cart models set up on the side of the road to signify it:
We ran up a hill where they had strategically placed the loudest volunteer who was great, he practically pulled us up the hill by shouting out encouragement. We reached the half-way point in 1 hour 55 minutes, although I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to do the second half in the same time. The heat had been gradually rising and now it was getting pretty hot and my legs were already getting tight.
We carried on running through the neighbourhood and came across a garden where the owners had made a scarecrow, but unlike most scarecrows this one was holding an actual shotgun! I wish I had managed to get a picture but by the time I saw it we were running by. Only in America eh.
After a while the road turned into a dirt track and we started running through a stunning area of the Scotts Bluff National Monument named “badlands”. It was hot, the sun beating down without a cloud in the sky and not an inch of shade on the course either.
The race organizers did an outstanding job of making ensuring everyone was safe. Throughout the whole race I was really impressed with the genuine level of care and concern they had for everyone. In this section of the course they had people driving back and forward on 4 wheeled buggies, and they would check as they went past if you were ok and if you needed any assistance.
This area felt like it went on forever and I don’t think they were allowed water stations in that section so having our own bottles really helped. The heat was reducing us to walking, Leah wasn’t too bad but I was really struggling to find any sort of energy reserve after the week I had been through and the effects of the anti-biotics.
Once we got through we were back onto some pathways and running through neighbourhoods. On a section of path up ahead a runner in front of us suddenly jumped over to one side and pointed to let us know there was a snake. I managed to get a quick few seconds of video footage as we got closer but I think it was more scared of us than we were of it, and it made a hasty retreat after its near-miss with the other runner.
After a lot of run-walking We finally got to mile 25 and one of the officials asked if I was okay. I joking said “Well… I’ve been better!” I could see he was concerned though so I followed up with “I’m ok”. He asked if I was sure and said I was looking pale. I should have told him that all British people look pale. However, I definitely didn’t want to be pulled off the course at mile 25 that’s for sure, I’d drag my half-dead body over the line before that happened, so decided not to joke around for the rest of the run, they were taking safety seriously.
The last mile of the run ran parallel to a graveyard which was quite ironic, and they even had a skeleton marshall for us dressed in the official’s clothing:
The last 0.2 to the finish was on a dusty path, we ran up and through the finish line, very glad to be done and to stop running.
Unfortunately our hotel had been less than accommodating regarding a late checkout and at the point we crossed the line we had 6 minutes to go before we were supposed to have our stuff out and be leaving. The hotel was also a 15 minute drive from the race finish. We got our medals and went over to the food tent to grab a couple of items. Then rather than being able to enjoy the finish area for a bit or stretching out and taking it easy, we hurried back to the car and drove back to the hotel. We went through the side entrance and even though we were 15 minutes over our checkout time by this point, our key cards still worked. I looked in the mirror for the first time and the race official was right, I was completely pale with no colour in my face. I’m sure it had something to do with the anti-biotics. We both managed to shower and pack our stuff up and get down to check out 30 minutes after we were supposed to, and even though they had been so adamant that we couldn’t, nothing was said.
We drove back to Denver that afternoon, had a nice meal out in the evening and then slept for 12 hours to Sunday. The Monument marathon was very tough due to the heat, which was unusual and wasn’t the same as last year, but I would highly recommend it for a Nebraska marathon. It was very well run, scenic, friendly and had great finishing food.
Elevation Graph from my running watch:
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