Tri States Marathon 2014 – Race Report

Marathons: Paul #48, Leah #38, State #32 : Tri States Marathon 2014
8th November 2014, Mesquite, Nevada, USA
Finish Time = 3:55:14

Paul: 1st Place Age Group

With the number of marathons we do and running them on back-to-back weekends you might think that they come easy and that it’s just a case of going through the motions each time. Unfortunately that’s not the case. Every one is a challenge, a mental and physical battle and when we line up at the start on the morning of each one we’re never sure how it’s going to go and never take anything for granted. This is especially true when trying to aim for a sub-4 hour time, which we do try for on almost all occasions. You never really know if that’s in the bag until about miles 23 – 24, until then anything can happen.

Tri States definitely fell into this category. It was our 8th marathon in a 9 week period including completing 2 sub 4s in the prior 13 days.

The event is the only marathon in the US that crosses 3 different States, running through the deserts of Utah, Arizona and Nevada.

We were wearing our 50 States Marathon Club vests and the question we got asked more than once was “Does this count as 3 States?” No.. it doesn’t work like that, the challenge would be a lot easier if it did! The rules of the club say that you can count it for 1 State and you can choose for it to either be the one you start in or finish in. We already had the starting State of Utah, so this was for our Nevada.

I had looked at the course profile beforehand and while it was through desert land on a single road, with no shade and hot sunny weather, the course had a nice decline right from the start until around mile 14/15. On paper it looked great, a fast downhill and then flat to the end:

Course profile provided by the website

Course profile provided by the website

We flew in to Vegas the night before and drove up to Mesquite, Nevada. In the morning we got on the bus in the dark that was to drive us out to the starting area in Utah. We met up with our friend Bob Kennedy, a fellow 50Sub4 club member. In the 6 years since turning 60, Bob has run a sub 4 hour marathon in 46 States and is trying to finish off the final 4 that keep causing him trouble. It’s a phenomenal achievement and he also mixes in other marathons throughout his year including a 100 mile ultra. If I can achieve even half of what Bob is doing when I’m in his age group I will be very happy.

Note: We didn’t bring a camera so all course photos are credit of Wayne Murphy, and don’t feature us, but you can see the course.

When we set off the sun was just beginning to rise

When we set off the sun was just beginning to rise

Bob needed a sub 4 for Nevada and knew we were also going for it, so when the race started we set off running together the 3 of us. It was nice to have some time to talk to Bob, we discussed lots of different things and the miles were going by without problems. With the decline gradient we were keeping good time, well within a sub 4, with time to spare. The course was spectacular, ahead was just a long road stretching as far as the eye could see but around us was desert scenery including huge mountains and mesas, dry desert plains with sporadic small tree bushes and in some places caves in mountains either from old mining or perhaps early settlers.

Spectacular desert scenery

Spectacular desert scenery

No-one for miles around

No-one for miles around

Crossing State lines

Crossing State lines

Bob had mentioned there were some inclines on the course that he was planning to do a race-walk strategy on. The fact that the course even had any inclines was news to me and when we came to the first one at around 15 miles he kicked his strategy in and we carried on. We got to a point where we couldn’t see any other runners in front of us and of course there weren’t any crowds / supporters along the course so it felt bizarre to be out running in this deserted area while actually being part of an organised event.


The sun was heating up and into the mid 70s F / mid 20s C range. Also the inclines were getting more severe and were turning out to full-blown steep hills. They weren’t very long each time, but they were at steep gradients which sapped your energy. I hadn’t expected them at all. Several of them were reducing us to a walk as you couldn’t run any faster up them anyway.

The rest of the course was brutal. Our legs were beat up from the fast downhill section, which is harder on your body than just running on flat, and we were roasting with no shade. I started using some of the water in my bottle to pour over my skin in an attempt to cool it down a bit. We kept pushing on, walking up the steep hills and trying to make up time going down the other side. We knew we had about 10 minutes of leeway as we were on course for a 3:50, but every hill took further chunks of time away. Even when we finally got to 25.5 miles we were faced with yet another hill to climb to the finish that reduced us to a walk even though there was less than a mile to go!


When we got to the top it was a relief to turn the corner and see the finish, we crossed in 3:55 and immediately walked to the tent area with some shade. We were really hoping to see Bob come through but were also very aware of how tough the last 10 miles had just been. Bob crossed the lined in 4:05, not the sub 4 he wanted but it was a Boston Qualifying time, which did help towards his personal goal of running either a sub 4 or Boston Qualifying time in all 50 States. We were just all happy to have finished and to get some shade and refreshments.

With Bob at the finish

With Bob at the finish

When the results came in later that day it turned out I won my age group! That’s a first for me:


We went for a celebration lunch with Bob with more BBQ chicken pizza than we could eat. The day after the marathon Leah had very sore legs when trying to get down stairs, I wasn’t too bad. But then by the day after that my legs actually got worse, definitely a case of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness).

Lesson I already knew: Don’t be fooled by downhill courses, they are some of the toughest on your muscles.
Lesson I learned: Pay close attention when a course profile spans over a dramatic elevation change. The overall scale meant it hid other elements of the course that you will only see by zooming in. From my watch data here is the course overall:


But, if I just take a cross-section from miles 16 to 26, to change the overall scale, here’s what you see:


Something to bear in mind when looking at course profiles.


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