Running to Find A Reason – Springfield Missouri

One time a friend of mine posted on Facebook that he was running a marathon in Missouri to be there for a friend and help him run his 50th state. A non-running friend (I assume) commented that was the strangest reason to ever run a marathon she had heard of. I read that post and thought to myself, she would probably not want to see the reasons I run a lot of my marathons! And Springfield, Missouri this December was filled with those half reasons. The marathon is annually at the end of December just before New Year’s Day and by December first I had come up with plenty half good reasons to run it so I signed up.

The first reason to run the annual Run for The Ranch event was to avenge my worst marathon of the year in 2012. I had a horrible day a year ago finishing in over 4 hours and had a good time helping another runner finish but that day is still sticking in my craw. The second half reason is if I did not run in late December it would be over a month between marathons! Unheard of for me nowadays. Another reason to run was to see the excellent folks at Ozark Mountain Ridge Runners – the local running club in Springfield. They have a great group that travels the country and it is nice to run their local race and support them. Also good friend Karen Andersen was going and though she can handle her own, it would be nice for me to go there, drive her around, and share expenses. I suppose I came up with a couple other reasons along the way but honestly sometimes I think I am just searching for a reason to go on these runs. Cheap plane ticket! Cool shirt! A friend will be there!

So I took off a little early from work and drove the five and half hours to Springfield on Friday night. I had enjoyed the set up the year before for Run for the Ranch. It was a Sunday marathon with a noon start time and a Saturday packet pickup. Well, that may be case, but this year it was 100 times better! A Saturday race at ten AM with packet pickup in the morning worked out much better. This meant I could go to the race, enjoy drinks afterwards and not take a day off. Plus the start time was earlier so we did not finish in the dark this year. I loved all the changes. And I stayed later in Springfield as well helping out the local economy.

So I arrived in town at 10:15 PM and just a ten minutes early to pickup Karen from the airport which worked out perfectly. After a small snafu with my car’s GPS we made it to the hotel and though it was later than my usual bedtime due to the late arrival, the ten o’clock start time let me sleep in late. I even ate in the morning due to late start time and we both enjoyed some waffles.

When we made our way to the run that morning, I felt good and really there was no true goal this year other than to improve. I wanted to do better than last year but I was also sure that was going to happen. Karen on the other hand was a little nervous. I had met Karen the year before at this exact race and it has been a great year running with her. The funny part is her goals have completely changed in the meantime. Last year, Karen was thrilled to just knock off a Midwest state. Now, after completing 8 of her last 9 marathons in under 4 hours and joining the 50 sub 4 marathon club, Karen is more than willing to repeat any state she has not run a sub 4 in. Missouri has 6 other marathons and all of them are known to be tough so Karen figured Run for the Ranch was her best shot at getting that sub 4. It is relatively flat and has good support and cooler temperatures – perfect conditions for Karen. She did not want to pay for the plane ticket to come to Missouri again!

The drive to the race was short and I was lucky enough to run into friends Lacey Firecracker and Scott Griffin almost immediately. Scott was a photographer for the run on this day and stopped to snap me a couple times. Lacey was trying to get her first sub 4 but she had been feeling ill all week and seemed resolved she would not get that goal. Brian Wright was there after just completing Hawaii and becoming finisher number 51 in 50 sub 4! It was awesome to see him and he explained how getting faster is now his ultimate goal and he had transferred to the half so he could get in a good training run. Paul Maness the soon to be president of the Ozark Mountain Ridge Runners was running in the marathon and I found out we have a couple runs coming up together as well. Paul has really started signing up for more races now that he qualified for Boston.

I was also able to say hi to Cara Whitney who did not have a good day but finished – always the main accomplishment. Stephanie Davenport was there running her 50th half marathon – good for her! Lyle Robertson was there to cheer on his friend who came with him from Oklahoma and was the overall female winner! And I was able to meet a new friend in Dennis Hafford. Dennis is who I want to be like when I grow up. He lived in Wisconsin and that was too cold so he moved to Missouri. That was still too cold so he is moving to North Carolina later this year. Scoff if you must but I would certainly train more if I lived in more welcoming weather conditions (seriously a high of 9 today in Iowa?).

The race started and like last year I was near the front of the pack. And just like last year one runner sped out in front of all of us. He was so fast I figured he had to be in the half marathon. And as I looked around I noticed only one other runner was doing the full so it was possible I could do very well at this race! The course is 8 loops of just over 3 miles and I felt really good for the first loop. I was passed by two other marathoners on the first loop but still I was feeling good and putting in some speedy miles and fourth overall. I did not care if I won but I did want to have a good race day. On the second lap we started lapping people already so that is where the fun of a race where multiple laps is. It is people just all over the place running with you. The course even has runners going both ways at the water stop so you see each other several times possibly.

Lap 2 and 3 were uneventful but still fast as the course is relatively flat. I was lapping quite a few people by now but I also noticed that Karen was still out there just behind another friend Randy Acklin. Randy has been trying for over a year now to get a sub 4 so I was really pulling for him. Seeing him just in front of Karen is a very good thing. She is a master of running a 3:55 or so to get just under the mark.

Lap 4 stayed fast but there was a problem. As much as I like coming back to Springfield, Missouri and seeing friends, this course is not my friend. The water stops are plentiful. The volunteer support is great. The event is done well but there is one issue – 18 turns per lap. And by lap 4 my hip was aching! The night before Karen had asked me if all the turns would affect my hip. I told her that was a good question and that so much had gone wrong in 2012 I was not even sure if my hip hurt or not. Well on this day it did and it was only going to get worse. I watched just at the end of the 4th lap as Lyle’s friend went smoking by me and knew it would be a very good idea to stop at 13.1.

But I did not. I could only think about it. I came up with one other reason to run a marathon on this day. This would be my 78th marathon. I had to get to 100 soon and if I only ran a half that would be one more run to complete my goal and how hard could the second half be? I was at 1:32 at the halfway point and was certain to have a better day than the year before. And 1:32 was a great time, I could be exaggerating.

Well I am not about to go into the gruesome details but suffice to say I had two more good miles and then after Mile 15 water stop breaks were more frequent, walking was healing so I relied on that, runners I had lapped passed me and I ended up dropping down to 11th. I was sure I could get a 3:30 but even that goal took a hit as the last lap just turned into a walking extravaganza and I came in at 3:38. It was a bad day. And though you always hope everyone has a great day, there is comfort when others do not do well either. Otherwise you would start questioning why you were so off. Running is so mental – you cannot question yourself.

Fortunately or unfortunately, more than a few of my friends had bad days as well. Jeff Wehling came in just behind me and we were both disappointed in the day. Brian realized how far he had to go to get a Boston qualifying time as even his half time was not on pace. Paul did not even get his 3:30. One of the three marathoners that passed me in the first lap stopped at the halfway point. Even Lyle’s friend was hoping for a much better time and thought of this race as a step back for her.

The weather was perfect so it could not be blamed. So what happened? Two factors come to mind. I think that course can play havoc with all those turns and the ten start time could be an issue as well. I am not used to running that late. And honestly, I have never had a good race time that started after 9 AM. And my hip does hurt worse than it did a month ago so I was affected. Don’t get me wrong – the start time is perfect for this time of year and to capture better temperatures and I do plan on returning next year as well – should be Brian’s 100th Marathon!

After finishing I was happy to chat with Chris Revoir who has been the race director the last couple years – thank you for a race I always want to return to! I was also happy to see a newer runner Lee Lowdermilk come in – his third half marathon! And then as the clock hit 3:55 I went around the finish line to see if Karen and Randy could get their sub 4’s in. Karen showed up at 3:56 and easily cruised in at 3:57 – no need to return lady! But then at least 5 of us held our breath. This was Randy’s 25th marathon and his training was no secret and looking good – constantly hitting five miles in under 35 minutes. How could sub 4 possibly elude him again? He turned the corner at 3:58 and change and we were all scared for him not really sure how long it would take to run that last .1 but he crossed the line with 30 seconds to spare! It was a fantastic reception for him and he was overcome with emotion.

After that, Brian came up with the idea of going to a bar on the course and eventually Karen, Lacey, Brian, I, Dennis, Paul, Randy and Jeff all enjoyed a drink as we watched the rest of our friends come in. When people finished they would just walk over and join us. Afterwards we all went back and had some rest before going out for dinner that night. No, it was not my best race again however it was great to be there when Randy got his goal. And with that I found another reason to go run another marathon.ImageImageImage

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