10/2/2010 – This day will forever be marked in your memory if you are running the 2nd Freedom’s Run Marathon in West Virginia.
Last year I had the honor of running the inaugural Freedom’s Run Marathon. Despite the course being incredibly hard I finished 3rd female overall with a PR at the time of 3:35.
Here are my tips/thoughts for those of you running this years race:
1. There is no need to rush to make it to the expo. The expo was next to non-existent, essentially I just picked up my number. Race morning race volunteers are set up right next to the bathroom area with numbers for those who didn’t pick them up the day before. Save yourself a trip and pick it up easily race morning!
2. Drive the battlefield portion of the course the night before the race. I’m not telling you to do this to scare you, but to prepare you. If you look at the elevation chart on the race website you will see that the unit of measurement is 100. It’s common for most races to use much smaller units to measure the ascents and descents during the race.
Make no mistake Freedom’s Run Marathon is hilly. It’s better to know that you will be running up hills that at times will feel like mountains, than to enter into this race unprepared. According to my Garmin last year the overall ascent for the course was 3,606 feet and the overall descent for the race was 3,751 feet. Your thighs will hurt the next day.
2. The race conveniently starts next to the bathroom facility. This means no yucky port-o-potties with lines out the wazoo. My husband came with me to the race start so I was able to stay in the car and stay warm for as long as possible before doing my last minute race preparations. NOTE: There is NO parking at the start of the race. This just means you can’t leave your car there. There is however plenty of parking for any friends and family that want to briefly accompany you to the start.
3. Familiarize yourself with the course map. Shortly after the start of the race you are directed out towards a field. It’s a small out and back, but if you aren’t careful in this section it’s quite easy to fall and start your marathon off on a bad foot.
4. When entering onto the C&O Canal you will be descending down a flight of stairs from the bridge above. Be sure to look at the majestic view from the top of the bridge as you run across – it’s one of my fondest memories of last years race. Know however that this means that the stairs are only moments away. They are metal and twisty. They were slippery last year from the fog coming off of the water. BE CAREFUL.
5. The canal portion of the race is flat. However if you have never run on the canal before be prepared to run most of this section looking at the ground. The pebbles, dips, leaves, small holes, etc – make for a challenging flat section. Enjoy the shade as it will soon end.
6. At mile 15 the course turns off of the canal. Last year you ran across the grass dip to get onto the pavement. Again be careful not to trip and fall. The next mile is straight up hill. Mentally prepare yourself that this mile will be slower than the previous ones you were just running regardless if you hold your effort level the same. If you choose to walk just know that it’s uphill for the entire mile.
7. From mile 24 on the race is described as down hill. It’s not straight downhill. There are rolling hills that make it less of a challenge than the monsters you just climbed. Rest assured that the end is near. Do not let yourself give up at this point.
8. When you see the college, it’s time to pick it up. The finish line comes upon you extremely fast. If you don’t push it at this point you will finish the race feeling like you could have gone faster at the end. Finish strong! You just completed what I consider to be the hardest race of any distance I have ever run.
Here is what I felt I did right at last years race and here is what I thought I did wrong. These tips are meant to be helpful for not only those running Freedom’s Run Marathon but for anyone who is running a marathon this fall season.
Best of luck to all those who are running! Let me know if you have any questions. I hope these tips help you enter this race prepared!