I’m about to start my official training camp for my second full marathon! I have a few fall races in mind: Portland, Santa Barbara, Seattle. I haven’t paid for anything yet but after finishing the San Francisco Half Marathon a week ago, I know I’m ready to start ramping up the miles.
Throughout the next week or so I’m going to start posting reviews of the races I have run in the past. I thought it would be appropriate to start with my experience running my first full marathon as I think about where I want to run my next 26.2 miles 🙂
Race Review: Napa Valley Marathon March 3, 2013
This was my very first time running a full marathon! I would describe the race as small yet luxurious. I paid $150 for registration and feel like you get your money’s worth. Registration is capped at like 2300 runners and it always sells out-with good reason! (Btw, there is no half marathon option)
Expo: The expo was hosted at the Napa Valley Marriott Hotel. It was a small event with a stylish vibe. There weren’t tons of vendors like you would find at a larger race, but it was well organized and uncrowded. I was able to pick up my race materials within a matter of minutes. There was also free wine and beer tasting in an outdoor courtyard! Swanky. I opted out of drinking any alcohol but that’s a great perk when running a marathon in wine country.
The shirt and medal featured the same design. The Asics tech shirt was quality and the fit good. I liked the medal a lot, it spins :).
Everyone also had a choice of a backpack or duffle bag filled with all kinds of snacks and goodies, such as a wine opener. I chose the duffle:
This is a full-sized Asics duffle bag. Not your average swag bag.
The race: I managed to skip dinner (mistake #1 of many) and sleep about 2 hours (already at mistake #2) the night before the big day. My nerves really got to me. I live in San Francisco so I decided to have my boyfriend drive me to the start line in the morning (mistake #..nevermind). I knew going in to this it wasn’t the most ideal situation but with our work schedules this was the easiest option. I would definitely recommend staying at a hotel in Napa. There is a shuttle that departs near the finish early in the morning and takes runners to the start line.
The marathon started promptly at 7 am. The weather was cool to start but perfect for running; the race is a gorgeously scenic course through wine country- miles of wineries, grapevines and misty mountains. It starts in the town of Calistoga and follows the Silverado Wine Trail.
The course is not completely flat-there are lots of low rolling hills throughout but nothing torturous. Traffic is blocked off for much of the course so it’s just runners and the road. Headphones are completely banned (although a few people got away with it), which made me really nervous at first. But for the majority of the course I didn’t feel like I needed any music. Also, there are plenty of aid stations with water, gatorade, orange slices, bananas, gels and all kinds of fun stuff.
This is a small town race so you don’t have crowds of people cheering you on the whole time. However, the volunteers at the aid stations and the spectators who showed up were AMAZING. Large groups of people-my boyfriend included-traveled every few miles along the course to cheer us on at the crossroads to the trail. I’ve never experienced that kind of support before and I will never forget it!
I had a goal of “just finish” for this marathon, and that’s what I did! In my mind I wanted to finish in under 4:30 but I knew I was slightly under trained. I was limping only weeks before with sore hip abductors. I finished in 4:52. Not my goal time but now I have a number to beat.
Miles 1-13.1: I felt confident and passed the half in about 2 hours.
Miles 13.1-16: Runner’s high! I even responded to a facebook post on my phone 🙂
Miles 16-20: Started feeling the fatigue of running without headphones, maybe a little too fast at the start.
Miles 20-23: No bueno. I let my mind slip and I felt very discourage and drained. I stopped too many times at water stops and wondered if I would finish.
Miles 23-25: There was wine and sherbert at some point near mile 23 so I decided if my time was already slower than what I wanted I was going to enjoy the race to the fullest. I grabbed a small cup of sherbert (if you want to know what a little piece of heaven tastes like, have sherbert during a marathon) but passed on the wine. Then I prepped for the last 3 miles to the end.
I love you, 26 mile marker
Miles 25-26.2: I realized I was actually going to finish! Eventually, I could hear the crowd at the end and that was enough to push me!
Always finish strong!
The post-race luxuries continued. I had a medal and a water bottle in my hand within seconds and someone escorted me to get my picture taken. I met up with my boyfriend right away and we went to a cafeteria where soup, bread and yogurt were being served. There were also showers and free massages available! We participated (unsuccessfully) in a raffle drawing. They were giving away tons of goodie bags from places like Trader Joe’s.
The organizers of the Napa Valley Marathon know what they are doing-the course, volunteers and amenities are A++. I would definitely recommend this experience!
I was a little intimidated by this race, there were a lot of more experienced runners and it was noticeable in such a small group of people. I definitely let this get to me unnecessarily, leaving me a little defeated when I needed to stay positive (I’m looking at you mile 22). But I’m so happy I went through this and now that I know I can finish, it’s time to put some more work in.