Bradley Harris

Race Report - Pittsburgh Marathon

  • Goal: 2:55:00
  • Result: 2:59:09

At the 2012 Cape Cod Marathon, I ran my way to a bit of a free pass for marathons in 2013. With a 3:05:13, I qualified for Boston but too late for 2013 registration. I felt that this would allow me to set bold marathon goals for the year. The usual fear of aiming too high and missing out on Boston was no longer a problem. When Jesse started gathering a crew for the Pittsburgh Marathon, I jumped in and set a goal of 2:55. My training was more intense than ever before. I peaked at 80 miles per week and did some great track and tempo workouts with a crew that was targeting 2:50ish at Boston. As we moved into April, I started to believe that my goal was on the conservative side.

On race morning I got out of the hotel early but hung around to move into the coral at the last minute. I spotted Lino on the other side but decided to wait until after the start to move over there. The gun fired and I settled into the pace and started moving right. When I made it to the far right of the course I spotted Lino with John and Larissa running on the left. I made my way back over to them and said good morning. We were all targeting the same 6:40 pace. Larissa and I took the lead and started locking in the pace. Lino was having a bad day from early on and fell back pretty quickly. After a few more miles we dropped John too. Larissa was running the half marathon and is generally faster than me. I hung back just off her shoulder to keep us from pushing the pace. It was nice to have company and help with early pacing. It made the first several miles of the race go by quickly. At mile 10 the half split from the full. Larissa motored on ahead and I was on my own. Just after the split is the toughest hill in the race a long steady climb of 200 feet over 2 miles. It was here that I first started to realize where the day might be headed. I wasn’t really laboring to keep the pace but I was starting to feel fatigued earlier that I thought I should. I shook it off and tried to relax and stay smooth. I managed to hold pretty steady all the way to the 20 mile mark. The pace continued to stay quite even as the required effort spiraled upwards. In the 24th mile there was a massive downhill. I went with it and started to clock something like a 6:25 pace. For a awhile I really felt like I might glide all the way to the finish. Once the hill bottomed out reality set in. The road was flat here but it certainly felt uphill to me. I tried to rally when another runner came up behind and encouraged me as he passed but I didn’t have it. At this point in a marathon much of the effort is about negotiating with yourself. All of your body and much of your mind wants to stop. The rest of you has to convince your body to keep moving. My pace has dropped enough that my goal of 2:55 was out of reach. A big PR and a probable sub 3 were still very much in reach. In fact they were so well within reach I could still hit them even if I walked for a bit. And then I was walking. I walk/ran for about half a mile starting at the 25 mile mark. As the race moved back into downtown I picked it up and ran it in to finish it out in 2:59:09.

The marathon is really a profoundly silly thing to do. It requires months of careful and sometimes difficult training. On race day all of that preparation is a small part of an equation that includes an absurd number of things you can not control. On the other hand it offers a whole range of rewards. I missed my goal and found myself walking late in a race. Yet I couldn’t be happier with the outcome. A 6 minute PR, a sub 3 hour marathon, and a BQ minus 10. The great thing about something as big as the marathon is that it has an awful lot of room for success inside of failure.