Marathons: Paul #40, Leah #30, State #24 : Run With The Horses Marathon 2014
16th August 2014, Green River, Wyoming, USA
Finish Time (Leah) = 4:19:44
Finish Time (Paul) = 4:19:51
Leah: 1st Place Female
This was the first marathon where we had decided to “take it easy” and enjoy the run to complete the State. The course was a climb up a mountain to an 8,000 ft elevation on a desert trail in the middle of August in the Wyoming sun. The race director had advised to allow an hour extra onto your usual finishing time, so we knew it wouldn’t be a sub 4. This meant with time pressure off we could enjoy ourselves.
We drove up from Denver, it was a 5 hour drive plus 1 extra due to traffic, but it wasn’t too bad. It was nice to be able to drive to a marathon for once rather than flying. It was the first time I’d ever driven out of the State of Colorado and across State lines. The drive was scenic and there were some amazing views of mountain ranges along the way. We lost the light after a while and reached our hotel in Rock Springs at around 11pm. The next day we went to the festival being held at Green River to pick up our packets.
The next morning we were back in Green River for the start. We had read about the dusty, stoney trail which made up most of the course so had bought some gaiters for our running shoes to try to keep debris out. We met some other Marathon Maniacs and got together for the Maniac race start photo.
The race director gave his speech and shouted out a few last minute instructions, including “Watch out for the rattle snakes on the course, they like to hide in sage bush.” One runner shouted back what we were all thinking… “What’s sage bush??” We all laughed because it was exactly the question most of us were wondering, but we were also being serious.. what does this sage bush look like?? No time for that though, the countdown began and then the race started!
We set off and the first couple of miles were paved through the town, then we rounded a corner and began the uphill part. The sun was just starting to rise and it made for a fantastic sight as it shone through the mountain sides we were about to ascend.
The initial climb was steep and we were reduced to walking at around 4 miles, definitely a first in a marathon. We were glad of our gaiters as the sand, dust and stones kicked up a lot. There were a large variety of stones which made running tricky. Some were small and loose, others were large and difficult to land on. There were also waves in the sand from the winds which created a ripple effect, again making landing and gripping tough. There was a lot of run-walking and everyone was feeling the effects of the increasing altitude too.
The course can best be described as 10 miles of uphill, followed by 3 miles of rolling hills until you reach the half-way point, then a turn around and heading back on the same 3 miles of rolling hills followed by 10 miles of downhill. There was a 10K and a Half-Marathon being run on the same course, so once we reached half-way for the 10k some people turned around, same with the half-way point of the half. After those points a lot of people were running one of the other events and had turned back, we were left without many people around. We took a couple of pictures on the climb and enjoyed the scenery.
We were grateful that we didn’t come across any rattlesnakes but as promised we did see wild horses roaming around the mountain.
We realised that although we weren’t trying to a particular time, we were still running fairly well in the uphill section. There were aid stations every 2 miles and we had brought our own bottles to fill up and drink in-between which was a great decision given the altitude and the heat. Eventually we reached the 12 mile aid station and we had seen a few men who had reached the half way point, turned around and run back past us but no women yet. We asked the volunteers “How many other women have come by here so far?”. We were thinking there may be a group up ahead.
“None”, they replied, “You’re the first” they said to Leah.
“Can you imagine if you won this?” I said to her. I put my camera away and we set off from the aid station with a new sense of purpose, running our fastest mile yet to the halfway point. As we turned around and started to run back on ourselves for the second half, a group of 3 females came running up towards us, they were only about 0.2 miles behind. We spent the second half pushing much harder than we had planned or wanted to, constantly looking over our shoulders and seeing the other females behind in the distance. As the course was so open the viewing distance behind was quite far which made it hard to tell in a practical sense how far our lead was and whether we were increasing it or losing ground. We were hoping going downhill would make it an easier half than the first but honestly it was just as hard if not harder. The sand and loose rocks were a challenge but also just running downhill at that grade trashes your legs and destroys your core. Eventually we got down the mountain and back onto the paved surfaces of the home stretch, with around a mile and a half left. We were so beat up though that we were still forced to walk a bit even with so little distance left.
We pushed on and eventually rounded the corner to the finish. Leah crossed the finish line in 4:19:44, winning the women’s marathon and therefore also her age group. I ran on the wrong side of the barrier after the final turn (doh) and had to climb back over, finishing a few seconds behind her which was good enough for 9th male and 6th in my age group. It turned out that Leah finished almost 9 minutes ahead of the 2nd place female, meaning a lead of around a mile in the end!
As well as her race medal she got an age group medal and the winner’s trophy, which was made using a piece of trona ore, a substance local to the area which the town is famous for mining. Definitely a special trophy.
The 5 hour drive back to Denver felt a lot shorter than the drive out, as we talked about the race and admired the scenery in the daylight.
It was a big check mark on the bucket list for Leah, winning a marathon.
Of course getting State number 24 was a bonus too.
Our Tips For This Race:
1) Gaiters are highly recommended for keeping stones out of shoes
2) Sunscreen is a must
3) Bring your own water bottle. Although the aid stations are good, the altitude and heat will be much easier to deal with if you can sip water between aid stations too
Elevation Graph from my running watch:
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