Garmin Marathon

Despite what Crunch Time so boldly professed, I didn’t end up running the St. Louis Marathon this year. The timing just wasn’t right, and once I realized another marathon was happening the following weekend in Olathe, Kan., where my parents live, the choice was easy. I actually could have made the Go! St. Louis vs. Garmin Marathon call based on website design alone. Just take a moment to examine these two logos, and make your own decision about how likely you’d be to wear the event t-shirt.

See? Font-wise, those Garmin people know what they’re doing.

Another benefit to choosing the Garmin marathon was knowing my temperamental Garmin watch stood a good chance of actually finding a satellite and tracking my mileage. And it did, almost immediately at the start of the race. In fact, never have I seen my Forerunner perform its duties quite so eagerly. It’s possible Garmin leased its own GPS Death Star that day just to avoid the embarrassment of hundreds of runners struggling to locate a signal in the parking lot of Garmin HQ.

Sadly, the most normal I will look all day.

At roughly 7:00 a.m., one thousand Garmin watches chirped out the final note of the national anthem in unison, and the race began. The weather was perfect for running—low 40s and sunny—but a bit cold for standing around in shorts, so I was relieved when the pack shuffled into motion.

Because I’d previously only ran the 2010 Go! St. Louis, the 2011 Go! St. Louis and the 2011 Kansas City Marathon, the experience of participating in a smaller marathon was new to me. Going into the race I was a little concerned that the limited field and lack of a downtown, big-city backdrop would make the miles crawl by, but this wasn’t really the case. Sure, we took a scenic tour of such Olathe sights as the Great Mall of the Great Plains’ parking lot (in addition to other local parking lots of note), but there was plenty of human scenery to keep me entertained.

Since the Wizard of Oz is Kansas’ only enduring contribution to pop culture, the race had an Oz theme, so there were several ladies—and one really fast dude—dressed up like Dorothy in short, gingham dresses. I’m always amazed at how women can maintain staggering levels of photogenic cuteness through all 26.2 miles of a marathon. Ladies of all shapes and speeds sprint easily along in short shorts and sports bras with pristine hairstyles and the occasional full face of makeup… whereas I can’t make it through a 5K before my hair declares complete sovereignty from the rest of my head, and every milligram of sodium in my bloodstream decides to hold a flash mob on my face.

I’m not exaggerating—“Oh my God, you should see yourself!” is generally the first thing loved ones say to me after I’ve crossed a finish line, immediately followed by “We’re proud of you,” and “There appears to be some kind of pretzel monster emerging from your skin.” I can’t decide if I’m doing something wrong that can be changed, or if there’s just something inside of me that won’t let me look normal. After I crossed the Garmin finish line, my girlfriend actually told me that I look like a hamster when I run because of how I ball up my fists.

“You know how a lot of people look like they’re running really fast, but they’re actually barely moving? You’re kind of the opposite of that. You don’t look like you’re moving at all.”

Aw. Thanks, baby.

Ol' Hamster Hands in motion.

Anyway, I was able to get a good look at all the lovely, composed runners because the race involved an out-and-back portion on the Indian Creek Trail. In addition to scoping out the other contenders, I also witnessed some great sights along the meandering woodland route. I saw a tiny spectator get high-fived hard enough by a runner that he completely fell over backwards. I saw my mom and aforementioned loving partner bearing coconut water at Miles 15 and 22. And I experienced a full marching band playing jazzy, instrumental versions of LMFAO songs. (Eat your heart out, Rock and Roll Marathon series.)

Speaking of music, this race’s powerjam was Azealia Banks’ 212. When the route turned around at Mile 19, and my power meter started to run out, my friends Azealia and Skrillex fought to keep my balled-up hamster hands in motion. I was still on target to reach my 3:35 goal time, but my quads ached, my breathing got shallow, and I really choked.

The GU I was eating for energy was also making me nauseated, which leads me to believe that I should have stuck with the energy-gel homebrew I’ve been using for training lately. After writing this guide to MacGUvering DIY gels, I guess my stomach adjusted to lower-glycemic-index power. Shameless plug: Try this recipe so the same thing doesn’t happen to you!

Deviating from my training routine wasn’t my only rookie mistake of the day. I went out way too fast and thought I could sustain 8:00-minute miles for longer than three hours. I also didn’t tie my shoelaces tight enough, which means I can no longer make fun of this shoe-tying video on the Runner’s World website.

Classy route graphic

The last 4.2 miles were pretty brutal. The worst part was realizing how far I still am from my goal of qualifying for Boston. I originally planned to use an April marathon as a warm-up for the marathon in Newport, Ore., this June. I signed up for Newport on a whim back in November after spotting it in a Runner’s World feature on fastest marathons, and I hoped to train my legs off this spring in order to shave 15 minutes off my 3:50 PR. After all, why struggle through marathons in hilly places like St. Louis and Kansas City when I can take a fast, flat shortcut to a 3:35?

Unfortunately, as my Garmin time of 3:54 showed, even a flat marathon can’t make up for a lack of committed training. In the final two miles of the race, I had to stop and use my inhaler a couple of times, and I actually thought I might have to walk across the finish line. This is what I get for hustling to the 20-mile point at an 8:25 pace with no foreseeable plan. Guess it’s time to get back on the hamster wheel and start training for Newport.

Thanks to everyone at Garmin for a great race!