Race Report: Bootleg Tucson Marathon

First, I’d like to thank my friend Brooke for this disclaimer which I have shamelessly stolen from her google Doc about the bootleg race: Please note that this is NOT an official event in connection with any particular individual, club, or organization.  This event has no connection to or affiliation with the Tucson Marathon, it’s race directors, or the Holualoa Companies.  This is classified as a SELF SUPPORTED group of friends choosing to share the experience of running various distances together.  Any help, aid, or supplies are being offered by individuals in a Good Samaritan capacity and said help, aid, and supplies are not guaranteed.  It is additionally stated that no individual or party participating in connection with this event is being monetarily or otherwise compensated to do so.

So yeah. I finally did it. A full marathon. I decided back in the spring that this was going to be the year I finally ran a marathon. I chose not to talk it up much because with COVID and all… well, there was no telling what the future was going to hold.

A couple of months ago, my friend Don invited me to join a running/riding social group on FaceBook, so I decided to check it out. There was a thread about the 2020 Tucson Marathon – which was scheduled for December 5 – where I chimed in that I was planning to do it but was waiting to register because there was no telling what COVID was going to do to it. (Spoiler alert: it got COVID Cancelled.) My new friend Brooke from the group had wanted to meet up for a long run since she was also training for the 2020 Tucson Marathon as her first so we did a 20 miler together, which was fun.

The race cancellation notice came out just a day or two before that run, but we decided to run anyway. It was during that run when I mentioned I was planning to run the marathon on my own anyway because I’d come this far in my training and wasn’t about to give up on it. To which Brooke said, “Well… if you’re going to do it, then I’m going to do it too! I bet we can even wrangle up some volunteers for support.” A quick poll on the FB group showed further interest, and we were off and running. (HA!)

Brooke found, mapped, and chalked markings for an out-and back 5k, 10k, Half Marathon, Marathon, and 50k route, and organized volunteers. Another group member came up with a shirt design. I coordinated with a local business to put that design on shirts and medals which interested runners could then purchase at cost. Another member of the FB group volunteered to hang out at the start/finish with her camera to take photos for us. And the volunteers provided water (individually bottled, no big jugs) and snacks at a couple of drop-tables along the route, with my dear friend Don manning a goodie table at the start/finish line.

Tucson has an amazing community, and the way everyone worked together to accomplish this was just… stunning. Thank you all!

So, the race itself. We met at the park early for a planned 7am race start. (Yes, everyone masked up and maintained responsible distancing.) It was quite the cold morning – 32°F/0°C – and because the Catalina Mountains were between us and the (eventually) rising sun, it stayed rather chilly for some time. But by the time I made my way across the finish line it was a lovely 62°F-ish/16.7°C-ish. The out-and-back route was generally uphill on the way out, with the last 4-ish miles at a more pronounced grade, then (obviously, though it didn’t feel like it many times) mostly downhill on the way back.

So, how was my experience with the race itself? Well, here’s the gist of my inner monologue.

  • Mile 1
    • ZOMG I’m doing this! I’m running a marathon! (checks Garmin) 10:00/mile? I need to slow down or I’m going to burn out WAY too early!
  • Miles 2-8
    • This is quite lovely, if rather cold. I’m not sure why I was thinking this might just be a “one and done” thing. Maybe I’ll go ahead and make an exception for a second one at a “real” event when those are happening again. I mean, I got up to a 22 mile long run in training and didn’t die. This will just be another 4-ish miles on top of that.
  • Miles 9-13.1 aka “The Climb”
    • This sucks. This sucks. This sucks. This sucks. Why are the tops of my feet so sore? That’s a new one. And I’m not even close to the mileage I was making on my training runs yet. Am I doing something weird with my form? I’ve got a bad feeling about this.
  • Miles 13.2-17
    • I know this is supposed to be pretty much all downhill now, but… where the hell are all these inclines coming from??? This still sucks. This still sucks. This still sucks. This still sucks.
  • Miles 18-19
    • These were probably the two most difficult miles, both physically and mentally. My internal monologue said “Eff you… I’m done” and went off to smoke behind the gym, so this was basically two miles of pain and fighting the urge to break into tears for no particular reason. Much walking was done.
  • Miles 20-25
    • Having realized it was in it for the long haul, my internal monologue came back. Mostly in the form of choosing a landmark some distance ahead which I could have a walk break after passing, and chanting the name of that landmark until I got there. “Trash can. Trash can. Trash can.” Or “To the bridge. To the bridge. To the bridge.” Or “Big shadow. Big shadow. Big shadow.” I may have chanted along out loud a nonzero number of times.
  • Miles 26-26.38 (I intentionally overshot my turnaround point by a touch just to be sure my GPS wasn’t playing games with me)
    • ZOMG I’M DOING IT. I’M GOING TO HAVE DONE IT. I’M ALMOST DONE!!! I’M NOT DEAD YET!!!
    • Also, resisting the urge to break into tears of joy at the thought of finally getting to stop.
    • Also, also, I was right the first time. I don’t want to do this again.

So, yeah… that’s about how it went. I was hoping for a finish near 5:30:00 but expecting something closer to 6:00:00, and would have been thrilled with anything below six hours. And? My Garmin said 5:28:09, and Zombies, Run! said 5:37:44. The Garmin time is shorter because it auto-paused whenever I had to stop for traffic signals or to refill my water bottles. So that’s my actual moving time. Zombies, Run! is nice to have for the total time though.

When I crossed the finish line I felt terrible and proud at the same time, which I think is pretty standard for this sort of thing.

I’m glad to have this accomplishment under my belt, but these super long distances just aren’t for me. I think the half marathon will be my long run “happy place”. I can knock one of those out in about two and a half hours and be pleasantly tired but not so wasted that I can’t accomplish anything else for the rest of the day – much less being wiped out for the next couple of days.

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