Why El Paso? This was a question I have been asked many times by runners and non-runners alike. With all of the great races that take place in the state of Texas, what caused me to choose the El Paso Marathon as my marathon to represent the state? My non-running friends felt that there were cities that were more representative or more attractive than El Paso. My running friends felt that there were bigger races, more challenging races, races that were better designed or a better party or better support. To be honest, it was a combination of timing and not following up on the race. Initially, I had planned to start my journey two weeks later than I did, which would have lined up with The Cowtown Marathon in Fort Worth. When my plans changed, I had budgeted for a Texas Marathon and the only one on that date was in El Paso. When I did research on the race, I really liked the fact the marathon started at the top of a mountain and we had 7 miles of downhill momentum to set us up for a possible record time. Unfortunately, the race directors announced in September that due to construction issues, there would be a new race route. If they sent out an email about it, I didn’t get it and I didn’t go back to their website until the week of the marathon. That is how I got to El Paso.
I was very fortunate that my host for the city was Edward Broadnax, a fellow pacer with Beast Pacing. Edward was one of the first people to offer to host me when I asked my pacing family for some help. It was truly inspirational staying with him. At the time that I was staying with him, Edward has run over 150 official marathons in the past 3 years, despite having a pacemaker implanted in October of 2015. Edward is also incredibly high energy and brings that energy and support to any running club or event in which he participates. It was great to stay with somebody who intrinsically understood my drive to just keep running. He made sure to introduce me to all the Marathon Maniacs who were at the race (which I appreciated since I am a new member) and invited me to a pre-race meal with the local chapter of Team RWB, an amazing organization which I will talk more about in a separate post.
El Paso is a much prettier town than I was led to believe. Sandwiched between the Franklin Mountain range to the west and the Juarez mountain range south of the border, there is always a picturesque scene hovering on the horizon. Like many desert towns the profile of the buildings is kept low, however running on the course you couldn’t always see that gorgeous view. Please remember that the route that I’m reviewing this year is an alternative course. Typically this course starts with 7 miles of downhill running with a beautiful overview of the city. That scenic overlook was sadly missing from this year’s course. On the plus side the route is mostly flat for the first 15 miles, then there is a gradual decline of 300 ft over the next 9 miles with one little hill to conquer around 23.5, but then a fast downhill entering the downtown core. I found this course very boring. For most of the course, we were running through nondescript neighborhoods with no architectural variety and a numbingly neutral color palette or the kind of urban sprawl that makes me shy away from modern cities – strip mall after shopping plaza after outdoor food court ad nauseum. If the course was to stay the same in future years, I would not make the trip back to El Paso for this marathon. Two other disappointments included not enough Pacers and race shirts. They only had 5 Pacers up to a 4:45 time. This was a little frustrating, because I have come to rely upon the Pacers when they are provided. Secondly, as a bigger runner, I was greatly disappointed with the lack of 2 XL shirts this year. My understanding is they had them in the past and now it’s sad to have a shirt that really doesn’t fit me.
There were three highlights in this marathon. The first was the water stations. Of all the races this year, I felt that the groups who manned the water stations truly made an effort to individualize their part of the race. Everybody had a different theme and they truly committed to their theme and to helping motivate the runners. Stand out stations were the water station manned by the Army’s medical unit, the superheroes of Team RWB, the vinyl disc crew, the M&M fanatics, and the Chinese New Year group. There were not many spectators on the course, so these folks at the water stations we’re working doubly hard to support the runners. The second highlight, was the finish line in Southwest University Park. I remember the first time I heard my name called out at a race as I was crossing the finish line. It really has nothing compared to the sound of your name and your town being broadcast all over a professional ballpark with fans cheering in the stands for you. Thirdly, I was very happy for the free race photo downloads! This week’s photos didn’t compare to last week’s but I feel that has to do more with me and my performance than the photographers. However, I am disappointed that there weren’t any photos of the mountains as a backdrop or a pull away shot of me crossing the finish line on the baseball diamond.
Keep A Closer Eye On Race Websites
Finding out about the course change last minute is the least of my worries. It’s possible the El Paso Marathon emails were going to my spam folder, but I could have missed some really important information. I need to make sure that I am checking the website at least a month in advance.j
Food As Fuel
Weight loss is not a priority for me this year. However, I need to be particularly observant during the weeks when I am spending time with close friends. When I am visiting, obviously they want to take me to their favorite restaurants and drinking establishments. The week before this race, I may have indulged just a bit much. I definitely gained weight this week and that may have led to a less than stellar performance in the race.
I felt strong and confident going into this marathon. I had indulged in an amazing spa day with my best friend, Kiana Cornell in Dallas where a variety of water and sauna treatments helped align my body and spirit. Strangely enough, I performed less than desirably. This was the first week where I felt tired after the second hour of the race. The week before I had a strong wind pushing at my back for the first two hours, so I can understand why I felt a little sluggish during the beginning of this race. I did reach the half marathon point right around 2:30. From there it became a bit of a struggle and I had very little energy left in the last 3 miles. It essentially took me 3 hours and 15 minutes to finish the second half. The sun was definitely a factor in the last hour. The morning started off nice and cool and we had a great deal of cloud cover until noon. When the sun finally came out, it raised the temperature about 20 degrees. That and my three burgers and a bunch of burritos earlier in the week may have contributed to my second half slowing down. My chip time had me at 5:44:48 – about a half hour from where I wanted to end this race. Next week I start my high altitude training in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The next 4 runs are all at higher altitude and I look forward to the new challenge.