by Jeff Burtka
|A view of East Grand Traverse Bay from the marathon course|
In 2017, I ran my fourth marathon, the Bayshore Marathon in Traverse City, Michigan. I had run two Marine Corps Marathons in DC about a decade earlier and the Capital City River Run Marathon in Lansing, Michigan in 2016.
From the volunteers to the spectators to the Moomers ice cream at the finish, everything was well run. But the highlight is the course itself. For almost the entire 26.2 miles, the course follows the roads along the eastern shore of the Old Mission Peninsula. The route gives runners sweeping views of the blue waters of East Grand Traverse Bay.
|Cherry blossoms along the course|
My description of the views cannot do them justice. My family and I drove along the course several hours after the race so I could show them what I saw, and so I could take a few photos.
|If you have to run 26.2 miles, might as well enjoy the view.|
The course is mostly flat, but there were a few small hills here and there (the only ones I really noticed were in the last 5 miles, when I was struggling to keep my legs moving). Many of the residents along the route sat in their front yards and cheered the runners on, and some even offered water (or beer. . . I passed on the beer). Olympic marathoner Desiree Linden, one of the fastest women in the world [who would win the Boston Marathon one year later], even stood on the sidelines encouraging people who run the marathon hours slower than her.
|Another view from the course|
As for the last 5 miles, I had an original goal of an 8:30 minutes-per-mile pace when I began my training plan, but a few weeks into training, I realized I was hitting training paces that equated to an 8:00 minutes-per-mile goal, so I adjusted my pace to 8:00 minutes.
Before this marathon, my fastest marathon was a 4:21:18 in Lansing about six months earlier. I had trained for my previous marathons using popular training plans that rely on shorter, easy runs during the week and one long run on the weekend, including two or three runs of 20 miles. In each of my previous marathons, I fell well short of breaking four hours and didn't have the ability to finish the races without walking some.
This time around, I went with the Hansons Marathon Method for the first time and noticed significant gains in endurance and speed. I didn't hit my A goal of 8:00 minutes per mile, but I did take nearly 40 minutes off my personal best and met my B goal by going under 8:30 minutes per mile (3:41:27 total time). I probably would have had a better shot of hitting my A goal if I ran a more consistent and conservative pace for the first half. At 16.2 miles, I was at a 7:54 pace, but I crashed hard with about 5 miles left because of my aggressive pace.
|With 0.2 miles left, the crowd picked me up.|
I struggled to finish, but I never walked and kept my legs moving against their own will. I don't think I picked up my pace in the last half mile, but it didn't hurt as much because the crowd of supporters was much bigger (including my wife and two daughters encouraging me). The last couple hundred meters of the race finished on a high school track, with people packed in the bleachers cheering me on. They gave me that extra push to get across the line, where I grabbed water and found mint chocolate chip Moomers ice cream and a nice place to collapse and eat it.
After I ate my ice cream and got more carbs into my system, I felt satisfied that I broke four hours and crushed my previous personal best. It is hard to pick a better marathon than the Bayshore Marathon, and that's not just because of the ice cream at the finish.
|Struggling to stand, but satisfied|