Madison Garden Marathon 2015 – Race Report

Marathons: Paul #76, Leah #66 : Madison Garden Marathon 2015
27th September 2015, Madison, Wisconsin, USA
Finish Time (Paul) = 3:23:56
Finish Time (Leah) = 3:35:20

Leah: 2nd Place Female, 1st Place Age Group
Paul: New Personal Record / Personal Best

For our repeat of Wisconsin we visited Madison, after running in Milwaukee the previous year. This had an additional benefit as Leah has family in Madison, some of whom she hadn’t seen for years and a very young nephew she hadn’t had the chance to meet at all.

After flying in the day before we all met up at Leah’s Uncle and Aunt’s house along with her Great Grandmother, her cousin and her husband as well as their 18 month old. We had a great time catching up and looking at some old family pictures. It’s also very rare and special that you can have 4 generations all in the same room together.

4 generations in the same room!

4 generations in the same room!

We picked up our race packets on the morning of the marathon and lined up for the toilets. There were only 4 between around 400 participants, made up of marathon, half-marathon and 4 mile runners, which definitely wasn’t enough. The queues were long and not moving very fast. Leah’s Aunt had come by and found us in the queue to wish us luck which was nice. As the start time of the race got nearer and nearer some people gave up queuing and went to join the crowd, we stood our ground. Then just before the race was due to start they announced it would be delayed 15 minutes to try to resolve the toilet situation. We even ended up with a little time to spare to warm up which was great.

The fastest pacing time was a 3:40 so we made our way to the front of the start line. The prizes on offer were $300/$200/$100 for 1st/2nd/3rd male and female, the course was 2 loops of 13.1 miles and so they also were giving $200 to each male and female that were in 1st place after the first 13.1 mile loop. We were thinking that perhaps we should try to run a fast first half to see if Leah could get that money, even if it meant slowing down a lot for the second lap. As we set off though, we realised that some of the others had that exact same idea!

The course was nice, through a mixture of neighbourhoods and around the circumference of Lake Monona, with some rolling hills. The course was marked with white signs that had dark blue arrows on them, although they were a little small, and after a few miles a group of runners in the lead ran straight past one of the turns and kept going ahead. Any amount of backtracking in a marathon is frustrating even for a few seconds. Luckily we were just behind the people that realised and turned to take the correct route. If you zoned out they were easy to miss in places.

In a couple of places through the neighbourhoods there were horse chestnut trees and given the time of year, the conkers (“buckeyes” in American English) in their spiky skins were dropping off the branches. At one point a huge one dropped and whacked the ground about 2 feet in front of me. Lucky I hadn’t been a second quicker or that could have been a new, and unwanted, race experience. “This is the medical tent, what do you need… massage, hydration, vaseline?” … “Could you remove the conker that is embedded into my head please?”

We weren’t sure what place Leah was in, a few females had overtaken her near the start but we were also running with the half-marathoners and although they had different coloured bibs on, you can’t see what colour they are on their front as they run by. We knew at least one marathon female was in front though, she had made a distinct point of always being in front of, and re-overtaking Leah, if we got anywhere close. We hadn’t caught back up with her.

We finished the first lap of 13.1 miles in 1 hour 44 minutes, it was a fast first half for us as part of a marathon and yet I felt good. I felt like I could do another lap at this pace, perhaps even faster. Another lap at the same pace would equal my best marathon time, if I could push it out slightly quicker I could actually get a new record, even though this was our 25th marathon of the year! I had to try.


I pushed on and Leah knew what I was going for. I caught up with 2 other guys which was lucky because otherwise I would have possibly taken a wrong turn. There was an arrow pointing to the left across traffic, the guys ran past it. I asked them shouldn’t we have turned, they said they thought that one was for the shorter 4 mile course. About half a mile later I was relieved to see the 14 mile sign and confirm they were correct. I can’t imagine anything more frustrating than being on course for a new record and then running the wrong way.

The second half was much quieter, with the majority of the half-marathoners either finished or further up ahead on the loop. The crowd support had dwindled and there were sections where I was running with no-one in front of me and no-one behind. I don’t mind this, as long as I’m still heading the right way. At every mile marker I kept doing various mental sums in my head… if I run the next x miles at this pace, that would mean a finish time of that. What about if I manage 10 seconds quicker per mile? And so on.

I contemplated pulling out my iPod, I wondered if I could run even faster with music on. I decided against it in the end. I prefer being able to run, listen to my surroundings and to my body and breathing. I prefer being in the moment rather than distracted by music. Plus it wasn’t a closed course and we were on roads for part of it so there’s the safety aspect. I usually only reserve the music for times when I’m in a lot of pain and need a complete and total distraction.

When I got to 18 miles the calculations really started kicking in. I knew I could set myself a new record but now it was a case of by how much? It looked like it could be a 3:26 (my current record was 3:28), so then I upped my pace to where it could be a 3:25… that sounded like a much better time. After I got to 20 miles I realised if I ran the remaining 6 miles at 7:40 per mile or below I could make a 3:24 finish. Now that sounded EVEN better. Let’s go for that! I managed to run the last 6 miles in 7:37, 7:30, 7:34, 7:33, 7:26 and 7:17, really pushing everything out for that last mile.

The finish line was at the bottom of a short steep hill and as I was approaching it there was a guy in front of me. Typical – there had been no-one around for miles and just as I come to the finish they’ll be someone else in my new record finishing picture! I saw on my watch and on the clock by the finish line that it was possible I could actually make it a 3:23 finish time but the seconds were rapidly adding up.

I absolutely sprinted with everything I possibly had left. Finish times with high seconds are quite satisfying, finishing times with low seconds attached are frustrating. A record with low seconds would be even more annoying. Like 3:24:05 … then you think to yourself that if you’d just run 6 seconds quicker it would have been a 3:23:xx time. The guy in front of me was sprinting towards the finish too but I was faster. I knew it would look like I was trying to out-sprint him to the line which I really wasn’t… I didn’t care about beating him, I just wanted to beat the ever-increasing seconds count on that clock.

I flew by him and through the finish with an official time of 3:23:56, the other guy finished 2 seconds behind me. My running watch says at peak I hit a pace in that sprint the equivalent of a 4:39 mile, if I could have kept up that speed, which of course I wouldn’t have been able to for a full mile, but it’s an interesting data point. I had also run a 1:39 second half, which was a first for me. I’d never run under 1 hour 40 for a half before, not even at dedicated half-marathon events.. although I haven’t run one of those for 4 years. It’s a little crazy that my half-marathon PR is as part of a marathon, and the second half at that.

After crossing the finish and being handed my medal and a bottle of water, the pain of pushing for the last 13 miles… well actually for the whole race, caught up with me and I just walked around covering my face.


After a little while Leah came down the hill and through the finish in 3:35, her 2nd fastest marathon time. She had maintained her 2nd place female position, for which she won $200 and came in 1st in her age group! I was 7th overall out of 70 runners but unfortunately 4 of the top 6 were in my age group so I was 5th.


After setting a new personal record at the beginning of the year in Maui I never expected to set another one in 2015, especially given the volume of races we’ve needed to run this year and the proximity in which they’ve taken place after each other. I couldn’t be happier. Now I just have to hope we can both continue to run sub-4s for the remainder of the races we need for the 50 States Sub 4 challenge this year.

Elevation Graph from my running watch:


We love hearing your comments and feedback! Please feel free to add a message to this article. Your email address will not be published on the site.
When you press Post Comment it might seem like it has disappeared, but it has been sent to us. We’ll read and publish it as soon as possible. Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *