Marathons: Paul #78, Leah #68 : Prairie Fire Marathon 2015
11th October 2015, Wichita, Kansas, USA
Finish Time = 3:48:17
Leah: 3rd Place Age Group
We had run the Pilgrim Pacer in Kansas last year but hadn’t managed to get the sub-4, which was largely down to me. The good thing about needing to repeat Kansas is it’s a State we can drive to from Colorado which we always prefer to flying. It means we can leave on our own schedule and take whatever items we want, usually a cooler full of food, snacks and drinks as well as everything we need for breakfast in the morning.
It was a 7 hour, 550 mile drive though, which was set to be the longest I had ever driven anywhere. To put it in context in UK terms, it’s not far off driving the entire vertical length of England to Scotland. If you started far down south in Southampton, then Edinburgh is “only” a 430 mile drive. If you covered 550 miles you’d actually end up just shy of Inverness.
We had rented a car to avoid putting the miles on ours, and paid extra for an upgrade. 15 hours of driving over a weekend needed to be in something nice. We ending up getting a Lincoln MKX which was an amazing ride.
The expo was being held on the Saturday and it closed at 5pm. There was no race day pickup to collect bibs. We set off Saturday morning a little later than we had planned but still with time to spare. There were some construction areas on the route and our predicted arrival time was 4:15pm. We’d arrive 45 minutes before the expo closed, that’s fine we thought. Until we realised it wasn’t. What we hadn’t factored in was Denver is in Mountain Time but Wichita in Kansas is actually in Central Time, an hour ahead. At some stage we would cross into a new timezone and lose an hour, so in reality our arrival time was set to be 5:15pm and too late to get to the expo. No expo means no bib. No bib means no marathon for us tomorrow.
It made for a tense journey for the whole 7 hours. Especially as we knew we couldn’t go for 550 miles without stopping to refuel which would add even more time to our arrival. You know what’s worse than being late for something? Knowing you’re late 7 hours in advance and just watching the predicted time on the navigation system edge down by a minute every so often. Realistically there was no time for us to switch over the driving or take breaks, and when we made our fuel stop it was more like a scene from Formula 1 racing, in and out as quickly as possible. Although I don’t think they run off to use the gas station toilets during F1.
I ended up driving the whole 7 hours which was actually fine, the seats in the Lincoln were incredible, I didn’t feel any driver fatigue at all. Let’s just say.. the roads were kind to us.. and we made it to the expo at 4:50pm local time, with 10 minutes to spare. They were packing up but we still made it!
After that we could finally relax and had plenty of time for the rest of the evening. We even managed to fit in a few miles for a tune-up run along the Arkansas river.
In the morning we jogged the half mile from our hotel to the start as a warm-up and noticed our friend Cade lined up near the front. We got to chat for a few minutes before the race kicked off and then we were on our journey for our 49th sub-4 State.
The sun was out and the weather was warm. We had our Maniacs tops on as according to the club schedule there were a lot of members there. We got talking with another Maniac named Jerry who coincidentally was also from Denver. He had some interesting stories and he worked many different jobs, one of which was as a dog runner. He would run people’s dogs while running along with them, which would mean he not only got his training runs in but also got paid to do them. Genius!
After a while the half and full marathon courses split off which was good, it made the roads quieter for us. Wichita was a fun city and it was interesting to run through various areas and some of the quirky neighbourhoods.
Close to half-way we rejoined the half-marathon course but at around their 8 mile mark. This meant it was the back of the half-marathon crowd, mainly people walking. This was a bit strange and not very helpful to us that were running, especially due to the people that decide to walk 4 abreast across the road in a line. Having to go around just adds extra distance onto your run. I can’t imagine it was that nice for the half-marathon folk either. When you’re walking or slow jogging you probably don’t really want marathoners flying past and the supporters on the side tend to cheer for the people running quickly rather than perhaps the ones that are struggling and need it more. I don’t think it was a good design for either set of event participants.
After a few more miles the courses separated out once more. It had got pretty hot out there in the sun, hotter than the event is normally, we found out afterwards. We were getting through a lot of water and wished we’d brought our handheld bottles so we could take gradual sips rather than downing 2 full cups every 2 miles. For anyone running it in the future, definitely consider this if the weather is looking hot again.
At 18 miles I looked at my watch I thought “I wish it was 23 miles”. Once we got to 23 miles I wished we had finished already. We were both ready to be able to stop running. As we came towards the finish they had split it off for the half and the full which is always appreciated. We ran through in 3:48, with me holding up 4 fingers and Leah holding up 9 for our State 49 finishing photo.
After stretching at the end we explored the runner’s village which included ice-cold beer and all-you-can-eat pizza. Perfect. Knowing that we had a 7 hour drive back we didn’t stay too long, we wanted to get on the road to be home in time to have some dinner and also not be too tired on the journey. We did stay long enough for me to get my fill of pizza though.
It was only half-way into the drive home that we noticed the website had been updated with the results and Leah had won 3rd place in her age group. We didn’t even think to check before we left, I think because in our minds we had run a slower time than our last few months of marathons so we just equated that to not being in the competition for a place. There was an also an award ceremony that we could have stayed for if we had known.
One thing that did make up for it though was when I was playing around with the settings in the Lincoln I discovered it had air conditioned seating. I had never heard of this… heated seats are fairly common but AC seats? What?? As someone who is always hot I had to try these out.
They weren’t as mind-blowing as I had maybe built them up to be in my head, perhaps it’s unrealistic to expect your seat to suddenly feel like you’re sitting on a mound of snow, but it was cool (haha). The seats have small perforations and it blows the cold AC air through them. After a few minutes I switched it off.. we had hundreds of miles to drive on this tank of fuel after all.
So now we have synced our State count with our sub-4 hour State count. 49 States and now 49 sub-4 hour States. The big 50th finally really is in sight. It’s also the pinnacle of my planning prowess that we’ve managed to repeat the 8 States we needed to in order to finish both challenges on the same day at the same event. Seriously, I cannot even explain how much time and effort the planning of this whole thing took.
So next weekend it’s the Grand Rapids Marathon in Michigan and the conclusion of a 3 year goal. We’re excited but also have no idea what it’ll feel like to no longer have this to pursue. We do have a couple of other ideas of things we want to do afterwards, you always have to have something to work towards.
Note: The Race Director was kind enough to mail Leah’s award to her. So we don’t have a picture of her accepting the award at the ceremony but at least she has it!
Elevation Graph from my running watch:
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