Sunday, November 13, 2011

Manchester City Marathon

One week removed from my Cape Cod marathon, I decided to hop into the Manchester City Marathon (results) in Manchester, NH to see if I could somehow place in maybe the top 3 if it was a weak field this year.  I figured since I just limped to a 2:42 at the Cape off of no training and being injured, I could maybe run the same time on a slower Manchester course now that I have some confidence that my calves won't go on me.  On Sunday night after Cape, I felt good enough to make a decision to give Manchester a go.  I had 6 full days to recover between marathons and figured I could just go out there and muscle through it.  I took it relatively easy that week between races and ran just enough to stay loose.  I did a bunch of Epsom salt soaks, massage, stretching, proper hydration, used my night splints, and did just about everything I could to make the 6 days enough of a recovery.

On Sunday morning I headed up to Manchester (about 25-30 min drive from my house) and got there in time to talk to Pat Moulton and a few other guys before getting ready to go over to the line for some light jogging, strides, and then 26.2 miles of 'going through the motions'.  I had seen the list of entrants on Saturday afternoon when I picked up my number, and I saw that Pat was running, as was Judson Cake, David Ndungu, and a couple others.  David had beaten me at Cape, Patrick was an obvious choice for an easy win, and Judson was always a threat for a top spot or even the win if he was healthy.  The morning was relatively cool and I went with the calf guards and half tights again to try to minimize the muscles getting cold and spasming on me.

As the race was about to get underway, I glanced around to notice a bunch of VERY fast dudes, but most were running the half marathon, which starts at the same time as the marathon and runs concurrent to the marathon for the entire first half (obviously). As the gun went off, I settled back and went out pretty easy, as most of the guys up front were running the half and you could tell by the color of the bibs.  They all went out fast and I settled back to try to run my planned 6 min. pace for as long as possible.  I did notice that Paul Ryan (BAA) was up with Patrick and it looked like he was running the full.  I missed his name on the registrants list, but it was looking now like a top 3 spot (in the money) was out of the question.  I looked around for Judson and didn't notice him in the race.  By now, we were spreading out as the top half marathon guys were all well out in front and I was hanging back with a few guys including top masters runner Jason Porter (CMS). We went through the first mile a little quick, but it is downhill and flat.  I was running next to Roger Donaghy (BAA) who I also didn't notice on the reg list initially.  I was now thinking that with Roger in the race, David Ndungu (RUN) behind me, and Pat and Ryan up front, I could maybe swing 5th place.  I knew that none of those guys were from NH and the top NH runner got $150, so I was thinking that could be my outside goal.

The second and third miles are slow and there is a lot of climbing, but I hung out with Roger and Jason as I just tried to settle in. There was a long way to go and I didn't want to do anything stupid.  Miles 4 and 5 had some drops, but overall the first half of the course is hilly with constant ups and downs (not quite as hilly as the second half seems though).  Jason and I talked a bit about racing, our goals, etc. as he was cranking along in his half marathon and me in the full.  He was going for the top master and top NH double dip, but Titus Mutinda was lingering up front a bit but within striking distance.  We both started to catch Heidi Westover, who was running the half and was still in front of us.

Somewhere around 4 or 5 miles I rolled up past Heidi on an uphill stretch and Jason and some other folks weren't too far back.  I then caught Titus and went on by as well.   Around mile 7 or so you start to roll on through some neighborhoods and there was one slick section on a sharp turn, where there was ice all over the road.  The volunteer told me to watch out for the ice as I made a wide turn around the corner.  About 10 or so seconds later as I was on my way up yet another hill, I heard someone slip behind me and turned quick enough to see Jason take a bad tumble across the ice.  The volunteer neglected to mention the ice to everyone I guess and Jason went flying.

Between miles 9 and 10, Titus Mutinda rolled on past me with David Ndungu in tow.  I wasn't concerned with Titus, but David was running the full marathon and he had beaten me at the Cape so I was now focusing on being 5th at that point as they passed.  But shortly after they passed me, David seemed to slow up and fell back a bit.  I went past him again and he started to hack a bit, making me think he was having problems...but soon after that, he rolled up next to me again and we talked for a bit.  He said he was just hanging on and was definitely feeling last weekend's marathon.  We ran together down to mile 11 and then up to mile 12.  Him and I discussed just running together and trying to catch the BAA runner up ahead, who was still in view.

Down to mile 13, we went by his coach and he handed David a bottle.  David shared it with me (it was a mixture of sports drink, water, etc.). We ran together through the half, turned onto the second half of the marathon course, and started to roll all by ourselves now, as a spectator on the bridge told us we were 4th and 5th.  At the end of the long Bridge St. section, we looked back and couldn't see anyone at all.  He indicated that no one was going to make up that much ground on us and we started climbing up to mile 14,15.

By mile 15, I had fallen off the back of David a little and started to realize that my calves and hamstrings and back and hips were all getting a little tight.   But my cardio was really playing along well, so I was really only nervous about cramping at that point.  I continued to take water at every water stop and sports drink when I could.  By mile 16, 17, I was probably 20-30 seconds behind David but could see him the whole time.  Once at 17, 18, mentally I knew I could probably get through another 8 or 9 miles and things were looking up.  I couldn't see anyone else behind me and figured that first NH runner would be mine for the taking (and maybe 4th if David fell off the pace, but I wasn't planning on that).

Approaching 19 miles, I was really starting to rig up.  Miles 18 and 19 are a slow, steady climb up to St. Anselms College and I was really beginning to feel my muscles start to get really tight and a dull pain all over.  I got very nervous around this stretch and just wanted to finish.  I got my first real scare of thinking that I'd get through 20 and have to stop due to a pull or massive cramp.  As I hit the turn into St. A's, I could still see David in front and that at least gave me the sense I was still in it.

Through 20 and 21 I was really barely hanging on but was just slightly over 6 minute pace still so it wasn't a total disaster.  I passed by Steve Moland around Mile 21 as he was announcing runners passing by, in front of a pretty group of spectators.  When I turned onto Boynton St. and through mile 22, I thought 'ok, just finish this thing!'... but my legs were pretty much as stiff as I'ver had them while running.  I had been taking my NUUN tabs (2 of them) without water for the past couple miles.  Just popping them whole, into my mouth without water.  It was gross, but I was getting desperate.

Mile 23-24 weaves through some neighborhoods off of the main street and the ups and downs continued.  My 23rd mile was my slowest of the day and I thought it was curtains in that stretch.  I wasn't sure I could do another 3 miles running and got really concerned as everything started to lock up.  6:46 for my 23'rd mile was looking like 7 min. pace was right around the corner.

Mile 24 was some well placed downhill and I was able to drop down to 6:11 again as a lot of the folks on the course started to tell me I was getting close and offering me support and encouragement.  I wasn't even looking at overall time and had no clue what I'd run, but knew it would be faster than the Cape unless something bad happened.  I was back in the city and approaching the footbridge, so I knew I was getting very close.

Mile 25 was one of the hardest miles I've run in a long while.  Over the foot bridge, down past the ballpark, and up to Granite St. it felt like I was barely running.  I hit mile 25 and the volunteer there said ' great job, thanks for running'.  I thought to myself 'whoa lady, slow your roll...I ain't done yet'.  I STILL was not sure I'd be able to finish.  The first part of the last mile feels like it is all uphill and it's ridiculous. I was almost jogging at this point and stifflegging it up the hills because of my calves.  I turned onto Auburn St. and then onto Pine St. and could see David once again up taking the turn onto Hanover St.  I glanced behind again and couldn't see anyone else.  I stifflegged it down the last turn onto Elm St. again and looked at my watch.  2:38 and ticking.  I rolled on past and into the finish in just under 2:39.  I couldn't believe I had actually been able to run faster for my second marathon, one week removed from the Cape, on a slower course!  I was pretty happy that my body held up.

It was really a fun experience to test myself and experiment with my abilities.  I now know that even out of shape, slightly injured, and with little recovery, I can still run at a decent level.  But most of all, it helped me try to get used to running and racing long again, which is going to be one of my goals for 2012.

388 Total Finishers.

1Patrick Moulton     29Providence      RI2:29:315:43
2Paul Ryan           31Boston          MA2:31:425:48
3Roger Donaghy       33South Boston    MA2:35:445:57
4David Ndungu        31Worcester       MA2:37:416:01
5Jim Johnson         34Salem           NH2:38:576:04
6Timothy Tapply      36Sherborn        MA2:46:586:23
7Aaron Ladd          28Lexington       MA2:51:586:34
8Alexsandro Moreira  31Melrose         MA2:58:416:50
9Christopher Lesenski26Northampton     MA2:58:576:50
10Benjamin Pangie     28Augusta         GA2:59:316:51

388 Total Finishers.

For anyone interested, here are the splits for my 2 marathons in one week, off of zero training, a lot of time off, and whilst injured.

2546 (1122)610 (1142) - uphill
3546 (1709)611 (1753) - uphill
4543 (2252)533 (2327)
5555 (2848)544 (2912)
6559 (3447)556 (3508)
7626 (4113) - bathroom stop602 (4111)
8600 (4713)555 (4707) 
9601 (5315)552 (5259) 
10601 (5917)601 (5901)
11613 (10530)556 (10458)
12615 (11145)614 (11112)
13616 (11802)536 (11648)
14610 (12412)603 (12252)
15610 (13022)610 (12902)
16622 (13645)545 (13447)
17617 (14302)602 (14050)
18621 (14924)601 (14651)
19626 (15551)627 (15319)
20622 (20213)613 (15932)
21630 (20843)605 (20537)
22626 (21510)608 (21146)
23631 (22141)646 (21832)
24640 (22821)611 (22444)
25627 (23449)623 (23107)
26616 (24105)641 (23749)
last. 2124 (24229) hamstring cramp111 (23900)

Next year I may try to be IN SHAPE for this one!  I liked the race, had a great time out there, and am starting to warm up to road marathons...  Now just to get healthy!


  1. Great report Jim. Manchester is a nice course. Didn't seem like there was any flat on that course. Either up or down, but nothing overly steep.
    If you like Manchester you would probably like NH Marathon in Bristol. Rolling like Manchester but the last 6 miles are pretty much flat to downhill(with a couple of bumps). Of course with that said, it didn't work out too well for me :)
    Again great race and congrats on top NH finisher.

  2. Thanks Mark. I wasn't feeling up for an in-depth writeup, but I needed to get something up there. Yeah, Manchester is a very rolling course, but it was fun. I need to try that NH Marathon sometime soon. Thanks for the props!

  3. Great writeup Jim, felt like I was back on the course. Chose the 2007 inaugural Manchester for my first marathon because my kids live there. When I checked out the course three weeks before the race I was a little concerned with the hills but it worked out okay on race day.

    Only one that really got me was that short but steep downhill as you leave the Saint A's campus, my quads were just screaming at me. Good times.

    As if you weren't battle hardened enough, 2011 was quite the year for really pushing your limits. Here's wishing you a happy and healthy new year in advance, this mid-packer is definitely looking forward to 365 more days of running as seen from the lead pack.