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GW Birthday Marathon Relay Race Report

And survey says….


Marathon Relays are super fun and a total win of a race event.

Not that I ever really doubted they would be.

Yesterday morning, my friend Alejandro picked up me and our third teammate Tris  at the not-so-early hour of 9am. For some reason, the race organizers decided to start the marathon at 10:30. If I had been running the full 26.2 miles, I probably would not have loved this rather unusual start time, but for the marathon relay, I was not complaining about having a few extra hours to sleep in and let Prefontaine motivate me through final race preparations.


Our team (The Infallible Sweaters) wore all orange in honor of Alejandro’s undying love for the color, with the added bonus of standing out in the back roads, rural, total sticks of Maryland sections of the course. There is a backstory to why he is so fond of neon orange, which I won’t go into now, but it involves a particularly bright orange tri suit and some unfortunate (or fortunate, depending on how you feel about my friend’s backside) transparency during the swim leg of a triathlon. He claims the rather sheer suit is now (mostly) kept in storage but friends, family, and Alejandro himself, have continued to fuel the love with many articles of orange athletic apparel.


I managed to dig up an old orange running skirt I hadn’t worn in years and Tris found a not-at-all-tight women’s size small shirt from one of his friends.


I say, if you’ve the body for it, and let’s all just agree that Tris does, then work it.

After picking up our team bibs, we meandered over to the start and found a trio of our friends ready to get their race on.


Fun fact: racing marathon relays with friends is infinitely more fun when you have even more friends doing the race. Fun fact and also science.

The race was organized by a local running club and had all of the makings of a fantastically bare bones small race.


Including have the start line open to traffic until about 30 seconds until go time.  

Alejandro was our lead runner with the longest leg of the relay at 9.7 miles.


In our initial team email exchanges about race logistics, Alejandro pounced on the longest leg saying, and I quote: “I would like the longest leg (yes, I am ‘that’ guy)” and while I am also often guilty of being ‘that’ girl, I decided that in my post-injury state I can back off this title. Next time though, I’ll be ready to throw down with my boy Alejandro over that extra .4 miles of relay fun.


After the organizer’s put a momentary stop to cars driving over our start line, the race kicked off with “the G word” as the announcer so officially called it.

Tris and I cheered furiously for Alejandro as he ran by and then darted to the car to head to the relay exchange point which was located 2 miles from the race start.


Would you like to see more signs of a bare bones race?


How about getting stuck in traffic heading to the relay exchange because you’re sharing the road with runners and the running juggler is taking up more than his fair share of space.

After inching along behind The Juggler, we finally made it to the relay exchange and set up camp to wait for Alejandro to come flying in.


Another bonus of marathon relays is getting the chance to spend some QT with friends. I hadn’t seen Tris or Alejandro for a few weeks, and what better way to share the latest and greatest life events, than standing on a race sideline, cheering for runners between bits of conversation? Screw coffee dates, from now on, I am solely suggesting marathon relays for catch up dates with friends.

Our time parked on the sidelines also afforded me the chance to body glide up my blister. Warning: slightly graphic content ahead.


This thing was red, angry, and ready to rumble, but definitely not rumble in the good, let’s hit the road for a race kind of way. My efforts to calm it down with bandaids weren’t really working, so I decided slathering on some lubricant might be my best option.


Turns out, there really is no good option when it comes to blisters on your feet, but as far as not-totally-terrible options, loading on the body glide seemed to help a little.

A little over an hour after race start, and we spotted a bright orange blur cruising in to the relay exchange.


In a very Emily Halnon style move, Alejandro totally followed his coach’s instructions (that’s sarcasm, friends) to race at a Zone 2 effort, and pulled off a 7:15 pace on a rather hilly 9.7 mile loop.


Alejandro is currently training to crush some swim, bike, running at Ironman Coeur D’Alene this June. (And yes, I did just have to google how to spell “Couer D’Alene”). I would say his race performance yesterday is a good indicator that he is going to dominate IMCDA, and I’m pretty much the McMillan’s Running Calculator of Ironman Performance Predicting, so Alejandro should be real excited for this summer.

Alejandro handed off to Tris who had volunteered to run the 7.2 mile loop of the course.


Basically, the course was set up as a three loop course with an out and back portion to get to the loops. So, the first and last runner got to add on a couple of extra miles to our loops, while the middle runner just did one loop. Great for relay running, not-so-great for full marathoning. I think I would have been raining F bombs on the course as I rounded onto my third, hill filled loop of the course if I were running the full 26.2 miles.

Once Tris was off, it meant my turn was next. After waiting around for 2 hours, I was ready to rock my leg.


My original race plan and expectations were a little derailed when Alejandro and our friend Jimmy finished the first leg and started spewing off words like “rolling” and “bitch of a hill” and “whoops, I went out too fast on that huge incline.”


So when Tris came sprinting in, I took the relay “baton” (read: gross wristband that had been worn for 17 miles of racing by two rather sweaty boys) and hit my leg in cruise mode.


When I glanced down at my garmin about a half mile into my leg, it was pretty evident that I’d been sitting around for hours, letting my adrenaline build up to a dangerous level. I saw a very sub 7 minute pace on the screen, and immediately tried to pull it back a little to slow it down and avoid the whole going out too fast thing that plagues so many of my races. But you know how those early miles of the race go, right? You just feel SO good and it’s so easy to forget how much it sucks later in the race if you’ve been stupidly speedy at the start.

While my own efforts to slow my speed may have been a bit of a struggle, the hills that I’d heard so much about for the past hour had no problem getting me to put the brakes on. I watched as hill after hill continued to loom in front of me and the time on my garmin started to level off a bit.

Mile 1: 7:01

Mile 2: 7:11

I would like to thank the man in capris who got me to power up the early hills. While chicking any man is fun, chicking a man in capris is pretty much a requirement. It’s impossible to let that crime against running apparel go on in front of you. (My apologies to any male readers who sport the things, but really? Word of advice: stick with the shorts.)

Mile 3: 7:13

Mile 4: 7:09

The nice thing about rolling courses, is that you get the downhills to balance out the uphills. The not so nice thing about rolling courses, is the severe pounding of your toe against the front of your shoe as you cruise some steep descents, resulting in some unexpected, tragic and painful death of toenails. This coupled with the blister on my left foot and my feet have had happier races. But, I thought about Pre and his busted stitches winning a race, told myself to stop being a wimp, and soldiered on.

After I hit the halfway point, I picked it up a little to try for the whole negative split thing.

Mile 5: 7:04

Mile 6: 7:05

Mile 7: 7:04

Mile 8: 7:07

And then, while my legs still felt strong, shortly after completing the loop and heading back into town for the finish, it became clear that there would be no negative splitting my leg of the relay. Because what loomed in front of me, was not just a “bitch of a hill” as Alejandro and Jimmy had so fondly described some of the rollers, but a mile long beast of an incline, that wanted nothing more than to end my dreams of negative splitting.

Mile 9: 7:43

It was one of those hills, that reminded me of the many, many hills during Hood to Coast, that kept winding around a bend. “Winding around a bend” sounds like this really quaint thing that dirt roads do when you’re on your way to grandmother’s house to snuggle in a quilt and eat cookies while snow falls outside the window. But hills “winding around a bend” during a race? Not so charming. It really just means the steep bastard keeps cruelly trying to trick you into thinking you’re done, until you wind the bend and see another massive incline trying to break you into a walk, or just a complete stop. Not such a fan of the bend winding at the end of race.

At this point, I was mostly just proud of myself for not walking and holding a steady march up the hill. Don’t let the 7:43 fool you, part of the hill started during mile 8, and there were some very slow numbers that creeped onto my garmin as I tried to tackle that beast.

One ridiculous thing, which hurts a little to confess on the internet, that got me to push a little harder to get up the hill was “Give me All Your Luvin’”shufflin’ to play on my ipod. While I kind of detest this song (no offense, Madonna, it’s not your best work, still love you), it makes me think very fond thoughts of the GMEN and their wonderful winning of the Super Bowl. Fond and rather motivating thoughts.

And while I was zoning out thinking sweet thoughts of Mario Manningham and Victor Cruz, I actually tuned into the lyrics of the song for a second, just as Madonna crooned this little gem:

“Keep trying don’t give up, it’s if you want it bad enough
It’s right in front of you, now tell me what you’re thinking of”

And I was all, “oh hell yeah, Madonna, we’re going to take this thing, because I do want it bad enough.”

(My head is a scary and cheesy place during the last mile of a race).

So I picked it up, charged the last part of the hill, and sprinted the last few tenths into the finish.


Final .3: 1:53 (6:21 pace)


Final time: 9.3 miles in 1:06.30 (7:09 pace)


Relay time: 3:10ish? (Waiting for official results to be posted)


Team Infallible Sweaters. So infallible. So sweaty. So much fun.

While I’ll never quite loving marathons the mostest, marathon relays presented a very strong case yesterday for why I should continue to race them over and over and over again during my athletic career. I think it’s safe to say, I’ll probably do just that.

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39 Responses to GW Birthday Marathon Relay Race Report

  1. Yup the guy in the pic in mancapri’s has confirmed for me why its either shorts or tights and no in betweens.

  2. First of all, VERY IMPRESSIVE! Congrats! Those splits are all so consistent and speedy! Second, do you sing “Aly-alejandro Aly-aleyjandro” to your friend all day long? I would. Third, someone juggled throughout the ENTIRE race? I wonder what their finish time was?

  3. Bare bones small races are my absolute favourite. Awesome running, and great chicking at the end there!

  4. good job! I hope your blister heals quickly

  5. Awesome job! I still want to run a relay. My friends won’t commit. They are all on board until it comes time to sign up, then it becomes “Well… if you can find someone else… if so and so wants to run…. I don’t really think I can because I have a DDD League softball game that afternoon and God knows I can’t run to first base after running 6 miles that morning” and then I hate them all. I need to be friends with people who will fight for the harder legs, not flake on me!

    Also… I live right near CDA (and volunteer at IMCDA, I’ll be on the lookout for orange!) and I still can’t spell Coeur D’Alene with much consistency. Hence why I always just go with CDA. :-)

    • If I lived near you, I would totally fight you for the harder legs. Definitely look for orange on IMCDA day! I’m sure Alejandro will be sporting it in full force!

  6. I have listened too closely to a few of Madonna’s songs on some long runs, for example her song ‘Push’ pretty much she says “you push me to run another mile…” so if Madonna is doing another at 53 I can do one at 33 ;) I would love to do a marathon relay! They sound like so much fun!

  7. you are a speedy beast, my friend!

  8. that damn juggler took up more than his fair part of the road the ENTIRE RACE. super dangerous when the entire course is open to traffic, and gave us volunteers a little heart attack every time he went by, veering wildly into the road regardless of whether there was traffic coming. jerk.

    you looked awesome out there! wished I were running instead of standing around freezing my cheeks off…

    • Thanks for cheering! It was fun to see a friendly face out on the backside of that hilly beast of a loop.

  9. Great race report! Relays are the best and this looks like a great team.

  10. As always great race report for a great race. It was SO.MUCH.FUN. Love the pics! Your camera makes my back side look good. When is the next one?

  11. That sounds like a super fun relay and holy cow you guys were all smokin’ fast, especially with any kind of hills involved.

  12. Marathon relays always sound SO FUN! CIM has one… one of these years I will run it :) your legs are making a very speedy comeback my friend!

    • And the year you want to run it, you tell me, I’ll fly to Cali, and we’ll run it together. Deal? Deal. Splendid!

  13. A trick for the blisters, especially on your heel or instep… DUCT TAPE. I know it sounds ridiculous but it stays in place and is nice and smooth to prevent any further running – give it a shot next time, you won’t be disappointed.

  14. I need to find a marathon relay in my area! It looks like you had a sweaty blast! (because really can you have fun without sweating :P)

  15. Congrats! And love that you celebrated with food after – you know that’s my favorite way to finish any kind of exercise :) (Which may explain why I can’t seem to lose weight)

  16. Way to go Em! Good job!

  17. Awesome job em!! eww no man capris!!

  18. A man in capris?? Made my day. This whole race sounds so much fun. And ow, the blister! You earned Iron Girl points in my book for running on that puppy!

  19. Your blister must have been screaming during those insane splits. Nice work!

  20. It looks like you guys had so much fun! I am really glad that your first maratho relay gave you reasons to come back to it!

  21. I have only done one marathon relay before and had a blast doing so. This one looks like a lot of fun as well.

  22. Almost 10 miles in a little over an hour… my mind is literally blown. I’ll be happy if I complete my first 10K in that time! You are a rock star.

    xo Marie
    Chocolate & Wine

  23. Way to go! You’ve now hot me thinking about doing a marathon relay. I’m with the other Marie above….I’d be happy with your 9.3 mile time for my 10k time. ;)

  24. […] Sunday’s race left me with a blister that bled through its bandage on one foot, and a nearly dead toenail […]

  25. It would help if I post my sweater idea BEFORE the race took place :) :)

  26. Loved your description of the race/course. I ran the 3rd leg too–I live in Gbelt so the course is my home turf and I run up that beast at least once a week. I pretty much curse up it every time, but it makes me feel like less of a wimp to see that such a kick-ass runner also thinks it sucks!

    • I am SO impressed you train on that beast on the reg. It’s killer! I got mad at my friends who have done this race in the past who didn’t warn me! Although sometimes it’s best not knowing when things like that await you at mile 8…

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