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Junque Miles:

By Mark Roberts

The Vermont City Marathon

After the spectacle of Boston, I decided it was time to get serious and try for a fast spring marathon (Well, fast by my standards). Several friends had recommended the Vermont City Marathon and, since I have friends in Burlington whom I hadn't visited in some time, I decided to give it a try. Coming on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, this race allowed six weeks of recovery-training-taper after Boston. Plenty of time for someone who took it easy at Boston and wanted to try for a fast one, but also enough for someone who had run hard at Boston to do a more relaxed event.

I rode my motorcycle to Burlington on Friday and really enjoyed the trip. Stunning scenery even if it was a bit cold. I suspect that a 7 hour motorcycle ride two days before a marathon isn't conducive to optimal performance, but I couldn't travel through country like that inside a metal box!

Fellow Oven Door Runner John Prohira and I met for breakfast on Saturday morning at my favourite vegetarian health food place (City Market Cafe). Then we wandered down to the expo to pick up our numbers and browse around to see what trinkets might be worth purchasing. As is my habit (superstition?), I bought a pair of socks for the next day's marathon. Then I picked up my number (1111 - cool!) and did as little as possible for the rest of the day.

Sunday was a near perfect marathon day: cool and sunny with no wind. There was a record turnout for the race: 1750 marathoners and almost 500 relay teams.

Any race director who wants a model for "How To Do A Marathon Right" they should go this event. Great support from a small city and a course that loops through the center of downtown several times, allowing spectators to see a runner five times, counting start and finish, without having to walk more than half a mile. In the center of Burlington is the Church Street Marketplace, a pedestrian only section of Church St. lined with cafes and assorted small shops. The marathon passes through this area twice where runners pass people enjoying coffee and bagels and watching the race close up.

Miles 4 through 9 run out-and-back on a closed-off stretch of highway. I like races that have out-and-back sections because I can see friends who are also running the race. I saw Linda Grossman who was running her first marathon. She had told me she was going to try for an 8-minute pace, but from where she was when I saw her I thought she must have been running closer to 7 minutes per mile.

I ran the first half in 1:26 and it felt pretty easy although I started to get a side stitch just before the half way point. Since this was the problem that ruined my Toronto marathon a year ago, I decided to postpone my usual practice of drinking both Gatorade and water from 13 miles on and stick with water alone for a while longer. Also: my watch battery died between mile 12 and 13 and there were no clocks on the course so I had no idea what kind of time I was running from that point on.

Anyone who ran Boston will remember the Japanese Taiko drummers who were playing at the top of heartbreak hill. Well, Burlington is their home town and they weren't about to let down the runners at their local marathon. They were pounding away wildly at the base of the hill just past the 16 mile mark (the second of the two significant hills on the course).

By the time I'd run up that hill the temperature had risen a bit and my side stitch had subsided to the point at which I felt comfortable taking in some Gatorade, but I had become slightly dehydrated and was feeling pretty awful. Actually, I felt like death from about 17 miles on. I've never run so long while feeling so bad in my life but somehow I was still passing people. (Remember: no matter how bad you feel in a marathon, there's always someone who feels worse. Knowing this won't help in the least during the race, but you can say it afterwards to give an impression of Wisdom and Experience.)

I got some encouragement at mile 19 from a relay runner from Rochester whom I didn't even know ("Joe"). He saw the "Rochester, NY" on the back of my Cats cap and yelled "Hey Rochester! Way to go! Can of worms!" etc. (This last being hardly the thing to inspire athletic performance in my opinion, but I guess he just wanted me to know he was a local) I ate a pack of GU at mile 21 (thanks to Kate Spencer) and kept slogging along for the last five miles all the while thinking I couldn't go another step. Strangely enough, whenever I fell in behind another runner and decided to just follow him in, he'd drop back after a short while. At that point I wasn't thinking clearly enough to wonder about this. As a matter of fact, I couldn't even tell you what the last five miles of the course look like except that they're on some kind of asphalt bike path. The only reason I didn't slow down or walk was because I couldn't stand the thought of doing anything that would make the race take longer to finish. I had given up hope of even breaking three hours when, about 20 meters from the end, I saw the finish line clock and could hardly believe it. My actual finishing time was 2:55:03. (P.R. by almost five minutes)

As soon as I stopped I was politely but firmly ushered aside to see the medical crew. I really didn't want to go to the medical tent and didn't think I needed to at first. But when I realized that I didn't even have the strength to object I decided that maybe it wasn't such a bad idea. Lying down for 10 minutes or so made me feel much better. I didn't quite need the saline I-V treatment but was advised to get a lot of fluids as soon as possible. Fortunately the post-race festivities were as good as the rest of the event and there was plenty of good food and drink available.

I spent the next day catching up with the friends I had come to visit, doing the snack food tour of Burlington and watching the Adirondack mountins while soaking my feet in Lake Champlain. Not a bad weekend, all in all.

Other Rochester runners:

Linda "I'm just going to run an 8 minute pace" Grossman finished her first marathon in 3:14 and won her age group after stopping at every porta-john (so she said) on the course.

Dick Courtright ran 3:23 and got a Boston qualifier.

Don Totten finished his second marathon in a little over 4 hours. He says he was really hurting for the last nine miles but that it still went much better than his first marathon last fall.

To sum up: Fabulous city, scenery, course and post-race festivities. I can't recommend this marathon highly enough. Just be sure you drink enough fluids.

Copyright © 1996 Mark Roberts

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