Colfax Marathon Race Recap

There is a such thing as race magic, where you go out there and everything is just right. You just know from the moment the race starts that you can conquer the whole world and do exactly what you set out to do. Usually that’s because of a combination of preparation, race conditions, and timing. The Colfax Marathon had that magic, but it was largely because of the people.

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At mile high for bib pick up the day before the race

The weather was predicted to be a crisp 40 F with a bit of cloud cover and a high of 60 F… perfect marathon conditions. The race started at 6:00 am, so I woke up at 3:15 am to make sure that I got a parking spot and didn’t get lost heading to the start. I was feeling nervous and my stomach was giving me a bit of trouble. I was in and out of the bathroom constantly pretty much until the gun went off. Food was not working out, so instead I opted for water and coffee and hoped for my stomach to calm before I toed the starting line. Around 5:50, I gave Frank my extra clothes, got into my corral and put my game face on. The 4:00:00 pacer was up ahead a bit and I planned to use the first mile to catch up to him. The race began, but I mostly just stood there waiting for the few hundred people ahead of me to go. By 6:05 am I made it over the starting mat and was running my first marathon.

I took about a half mile to find the 4:00:00 pacer and decided to just hang on to him for a while. His name was Corky and he was funny, outgoing, and pretty much everything you could hope for in a pacer. I told him that I would stay with him until mile 16 and he was happy with that plan. He told us that he wanted to start off slow and get faster during some of the downhill sections of the course. We had a group of about 5 people and for the first 8 miles, we were chatting, laughing and getting to know each other. Troy was hoping for a sub-3:50 marathon and wanted to hold on to us through the half way point. Matt was hoping to shave a few minutes off his PR and Dan and I were just hoping to finish our first marathon in one piece (and hopefully with a 3 as the first number).

Mile 9 took us to a park with a lake. It was very flat and Corky started to up the pace a bit. I could definitely feel that we were going quicker, but I still felt comfortable. So far, the miles were breezing by. There were tons of people cheering us on. This was the point in the course that I realized that I was running terrible tangents and dodging too much. I was already over .1 of a mile off from the mile markers. There were a lot of slower runners around because of the relay, and I was finding myself dodging them often. In total, there were 4 races going on; a marathon relay, a half marathon, a 10-miler, and a marathon. Run Colfax staggered the start so that all of the races would end at the same time. In total, there were about 20,000 people on the course, but less than 2,000 were running the full marathon.

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We reached the half-way point of the race and another pacer, Lauren, joined us. My shoulders were starting to tighten up on me, but everything else felt great. The race went through the Colorado Institute of Design, weaving between statues and sculptures. We had taken a bit of an uphill since the lake and I was starting to feel it in my quads. Lauren reminded me that at 16 we would have a big downhill and I just had to get there. The group hadn’t changed much besides occasional people that would run with us for a few miles and then go ahead or fall behind.

At mile 16ish, we got to the top of the hill and you could see Mile High Stadium out ahead. I was ready to do some cruising, but wasn’t feeling ready to let go of the pace group. Corky reminded me of my race plan, but I told him that I wasn’t feeling mentally strong enough to do 10 miles alone. I stuck with the pace group and just churned a few miles out. By this point, I was starting to feel a little weepy. I had already eaten 3 gels and at mile 17, decided to have another. I was scared of hitting the 20 mile mark, that I would suddenly hit some wall and be unable to move, so I stayed with the pace group. Frank was on his bike and found me around one of the water stations. I quickly hugged him, told him that I was going to do this, and ran off.

We got close to Mile High Stadium, and once again, Corky reminded me of my race plan. He told me that I looked strong, and that I should take off, but to watch out for the hills at mile 23 to the end. From there, I just went. It was past mile 20 and I felt like I could take on the world. I ran into Mile High with a giant smile on my face, because I just knew that I had this, and that today was my day.

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Outside of Mile High Stadium

The climb out of Mile High was tough and I entered into Downtown Denver. This was no doubt the roughest and least scenic part of the course. It was hilly, I was tired, and there was little to no crowd support. Everyone around me was either running the 10-miler or the relay, so they all looked fresh as daisies and I certainly was feeling the miles. This is where I made a really weird mistake. I had a water bottle in my hand that I needed to ditch and I wanted to be “environmentally friendly” and not litter, so I stepped up to a curb to throw it into a garbage can. Boy, should I have just dropped it. I stepped back down and my hamstring seized up. For a moment, I thought I had torn it. I half ran/half hobbled and looked down at my watch. I still had a 5K left and I was starting to get worried that I had just wrecked my race.

This was when I had to dig deep. Everything else felt fine. I wasn’t bonking, no real issues, just this hamstring cramp. As I was starting to feel sorry for myself, one of the guys, Dan, from the 4:00:00 pacing group came up from behind me. He tapped my shoulder and asked if I wanted to crush our sub-4 goal with him. I, of course, said yes and we were off. Dan kept repeating “we only have a few miles left, we got this” and “let’s go crush Sarah Palin’s time” (I had told the pace group how Sarah Palin had run a sub-4 marathon). We were hurting, but we were still smiling. We had another gel and we kept laughing about how awful we felt, but how good everyone else (all those freaking 10-mile runners) looked. My hamstring calmed down and I was feeling pretty good again.

In the last mile, we could see the finish line and all of the people. The crowd kept telling us we were almost there… although by this point, a mile felt like a freaking marathon. As much as it was hurting, Dan and I were smiling and thrilled. As we were heading into the finishing chute, I thanked him for catching me and pulling me along. He had found me as I was going into a dark place and he made everything better. As we crossed the finish line, we both threw up our arms and had big smiles on our faces. The final time was 3:57:19. We crushed that 4:00:00 goal. Dan and I hugged, congratulated each other and went to meet up with our families. As soon as I got out of the finish chute, I saw Frank and gave him a huge hug. I was happy to be done, but honestly, I was most happy to have had such a great time doing it. Maybe I am crazy, but running that marathon was a thrilling experience, and I seriously can’t wait to run another one.

I worked so hard to get to that finish line. Between injuring myself before Chicago and training for this race, this journey has been a long one. As I was running through mile high, all I could think about was how thankful I was for being able to do this and for finally not being injured. I ran a solid and smart race, definitely a negative split and my two fastest miles were in the last 6. I did not bonk, I never found my wall, and I had a ton of fun. I am so glad that I got to run with Corky, Dan, Matt, Lauren, and Troy. They really made the day perfect.

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Exhausted, cold, but a marathon finisher!

After the race, Frank and I chilled out for a bit and waited for my leg cramps to subside. Our friend, Mary, joined us at the finish line and helped me message out my hamstrings (she’s a message therapist). After a little food, Frank and I loaded up in the car, and drove home to Kansas. I gotta say, driving 7 hours after running a marathon is not advised.

I am still over the moon about this race, and to be completely honest, I can’t wait to run another marathon. Everything about Sunday was perfect and I couldn’t have asked for a better race.

Thanks, everyone, for your support! I loved receiving the texts messages from my friends after the race and knowing that all of you were tracking me and cared about my race really meant a lot.

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I’m a marathon finisher, and I have the medal to prove it!

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28 thoughts on “Colfax Marathon Race Recap

  1. Congratulations Kerry!! You totally crushed it out there!! And yes, it does make you a little crazy that you can’t wait to put yourself through the pounding of another marathon, but I’m happy you had a great experience and that you had such an awesome support crew ;-). I was getting worried for a while because the text alerts I got were showing some odd split times, but I knew you would pull it off!

    I love that Sarah Palin was your inspiration and I’m glad I provided that for you, LOL. Congrats on beating her time. She’s the worst. #YeahISaidIt

    By the way, did you find out if Troy met his sub-3:50 goal? Doing the math that would require his second half after he left the group to be 10 minutes faster than the first half, which if he pulled off, is seriously impressive.

    Enjoy your recovery!! When do you leave for Europe?

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    • Yeah…for like the first half I kept saying to myself that I was going way too slow, but the pacing worked out for me. The course climbs until mile 16 and then is a big downhill for about 5 miles and I made up a lot of my time then.

      So, unfortunately, Dan and I were the only ones that hit our goals. I think Troy bonked because his split for the last 6 was close to 11 min/mi. Matt came in about a minute or two after the pacers. While we were running, Dan said “We need to stay together because we’ll stay stronger as a team” and he was so right.

      I leave a week from tomorrow, actually! I might be running a half marathon in Liverpool… have not decided yet though. I’m still pretty sore. Thanks for your tidbit about Sarah!! It definitely helped!

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  2. CONGRATS!!!! When I got your text I was over the moon for you! Obviously I knew you would do it, but it’s always nice to hear when things become official :). As I was following your splits earlier in the morning I couldn’t believe how consistent you were.

    I can definitely see how running with someone would help keep a runner accountable to the plan! I’ve only run with a pace group once (during a half), but I split away from them at mile 8 because I don’t like a lot of chit chat when I’m running, haha.

    CONGRATS AGAIN!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

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    • Well, in the early part of the race, my consistency was really due to the pacer. Haha! I really like running with other people. The chit chat helps me stay positive and gives me something to think about.

      Thanks so much for texting me! I really appreciated the encouragement. It was such a fun day!

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  3. I couldn’t WAIT for you to post this! I will be creepy honest: I got text alerts and when I watched your splits come in I was cheering, and when I saw your finish time I totally tried to FB stalk you to congratulate you – but then I wasn’t sure if who I found and thought was you was really you. I was so excited for you. 3:57! Your FIRST MARATHON! DUDE! That is incredible. I am so happy for you, and I totally get you wanting to do another one. Any ideas what you want to do next? Enjoy your recovery and keep riding that high. There’s nothing like it. You CRUSHED it!

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    • Haha! I should really trade numbers with you, Megan and Hanna since we’ve all been following each other for a while now. It was the most fun! I absolutely loved almost every minute of it. I am considering going for 3:45 for Chicago… but I’m not totally committed to that yet. I had a lot of gas in the tank at the end, although my legs were very tired. I am pacing a half this weekend and I might be running a half in Liverpool the weekend after. Haha!

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      • OMG YESSSSS TO A 3:45 IN CHICAGO! That is absolutely, 100% a possibility! You had a lot of gas in the tank at the end because you ran a very smart race. You went out slow and steady and you picked it up at the end. Perfect pacing. Your race schedule makes me PROUD. I love it!! Good luck pacing this weekend! And yes – we totally need to trade numbers – I have Hanna’s since we met up in MN last year. So fun!!

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      • My email is kerrylregan@gmail.com. I’ll trade numbers with you so we can cheer each other on during our races!! Haha!

        I worry about a 3:45 in Chicago because I never hit the wall at this race and I don’t know what it is like. I worry that I’ll find it at that faster pace in Chicago. Also, seriously… I feel like 8:35 pace for 26 miles is REALLY REALLY fast. I don’t know. The risk is probably good for me… I never run aggressive races.

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      • Don’t worry. If it scares you, it’s worth it. When I started training for my last marathon, marathon pace scared the crap out of me. But by the end, it was doable! It was crazy. Chicago is a great course, you are speedy and train smart –> 3:45 is TOTALLY doable!

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  4. So many first marathons are horror stories, and I had a feeling yours wouldn’t be — I’m glad that I was right! I’m so happy for you.

    I’ve no idea how you got right into a car (or how you got back out of it when you got home!).

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    • I know… I was so scared going in that it was going to be a horror story. But it wasn’t. Besides the leg cramp at mile 23, it was totally fine. I was tired for sure, but I never doubted that I could get to that finish line. The last 3 miles were definitely just autopilot, but that’s good, I guess.

      Oh the car ride was horrible. I tried to sleep. I just felt like absolute crap.

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  5. CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!!!!!! You are a rock star!!!!!!!!! I am SO GLAD IT WAS YOUR DAY!! You seriously earned it. I was tracking you and thinking about you all day. While I was on my little measly 8 miler I was singing you songs about grabbing the marathon by the balls. I hope you don’t think that is creepy. 🙂 I was telling my family all about you because I was at my mom’s house and they were wondering why I was cheering so loud when I got your final update! I said to my mom, “She is in DENVER! I wonder how long it would take me to run a marathon in DENVER???” And then I determined that it is not something I could physically do!!!!!!!! lol. So impressed, Kerry. I hope you are still riding high and enjoying your post race glory!!! 🙂

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    • Haha! That’s not creepy at all. It’s what I am going to be doing while you run Via in a few months!! Frank and I were talking about the altitude on the way home. For some reason, it doesn’t bother me. I was born in Florida and I live at 1200 feet… so I have no idea why I have that weird little gift. People were asking me about that at the race. I just try to stay hydrated and not think about it. Haha!

      Thanks for cheering me on! I know all of the good vibes I had coming for me from across the country helped SO SO much!

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      • I’m 29. I want to qualify for Boston before I’m 35 and now I actually feel like it might be possible. I did feel like I still had gas in the tank at the end and the race was at 5200 feet, so maybe I could be a little faster. I think I’m going to try for a 3:45 at Chicago in October… we’ll see. 🙂

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  6. YAAAAAY!!!!! I’m so glad this race has race-day magic there for you, and that the 4:00 pacer was fantastic and encouraging and just so awesome, and that the pace group ended up really helping in the end because of your new buddy, and that you killed that last 10k that had you worried…and I know this is a run-on but I’m just SOOO thrilled for you!!!! Isn’t it great to finish one and immediately be addicted?! Isn’t it crazy how the last mile feels like FOREVER and even when you see the finish it still takes EONS to get there?! There are some things that people who haven’t run a marathon will never really “get”, and now you DO!

    You’re a marathoner!!!! Your hard work, dedication, guts, and tenacity got you here. You earned it. Congrats!!!

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    • I figured I would be feeling like “never again” after the race, but instead I was so excited for Chicago. It was such a gratifying experience and I really loved every minute. The last mile did seem really long and it got especially long after I saw 26.2 go by on my watch (I ran 26.5 total). I’m so glad that I ran this race and while running, I was so thankful for being able to do it. I was completely devastated when Chicago didn’t happen and this was a really great way to get redemption. Thanks for all of your encouragement.

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  7. This is freakin awesome lol.

    This has me so pumped I want to go run right now. I need one of these days for a marathon in my future. It all comes together!

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  8. Congratulations! What a great experience for your first marathon! It does sound like a magical day. While the pacer and the others you ran with on the course helped, don’t sell yourself short. Clearly your training paid off, and you had the mental toughness to go on your own after the comfort of the pace group and then dig in and hold on in those long miles at the end. Congrats again!

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