Back in February while sitting at the Barley Mow, on a usual Thursday night over a couple of beers, a few of us were trying to figure which fall race we should do next.....and we came across “The Steamtown Marathon” https://steamtownmarathon.com
We checked out the elevation, the size of participants (capped at 3,000), the location (close to home), time of year (Thanksgiving) SOLD!!!!
We heard from another K2Jer how much he loved running on the quiet roads and paths from Forest City back into Scranton (where?) PA. We also have previously ran the Mohawk Hudson and the P’tit Train du Nord which we heard were similar to this next one and we really enjoyed those other ones, it really did peek our interest, so we signed up eager to start our training.
Training through the summer was tough as the humidity never gave me a break. It seemed liked every Sunday long run was hotter than usual. I ended up starting as early as possible, which wasn’t hard for me as I don’t sleep in as it is. I did a lot of my earlier training and longer runs on my own along the Trans Canada Trail from Kanata into the city. Running alone allowed me to run the pace I needed and wanted to,(slower) and gave me some time to reflect on myself. When I needed some motivation and company, I joined the small group I run with, which gave me some good rolling hills in the middle of our long run near Fitzroy Harbour.
Then there was the hill training.....everything I read about this race talked about the downhills and how tough they are on your quads, especially when you’re running mostly downhill (I should say “steep downhill”) for most of the first half of the race. So the coach (and I agreed) thought it would be beneficial to do 800m hills....the best I could find was Corkstown Rd which was 750m up and then I powered down as well (up to 10 times in a row). Did I mention it was a very hot summer??? So I guess I thought I should take advantage of it and I did some of them in the mid afternoon. I definitely do not recommend you do that, but sometimes you just don’t have a choice and have to get your workout in somehow.
I did a lot of smaller races through the summer hoping that running hard in the heat would help my confidence, plus pushing myself hard on the track. I have not felt this strong going into a marathon in a long time and I had a few goals (which I kept to myself at the time) I didn’t want to jinx anything especially when everything was going so well.
4 of us ended up running it in the end. Jesse, John, Mike and myself, plus JR was there for support. We got up Saturday for a shakeout run and didn’t really know where to go so we stayed on the main roads and noticed how “small town” Scranton really is. NOTHING was open....it was like a ghost town. We walked around to find a place for breakfast but had no choice but to head back to the hotel as everything else was closed. We walked over to the High School to pick up our race kits. Small town race = small town expo....quick and easy. As we were walking back we found the Lackawanna River Heritage Trail, a nice change to the rundown city streets.
Race day morning; we had to get up early to board the buses for 5:30 am, it was a 45 min bus ride to Forest City. When we arrived we had cheerleaders cheering us on and leading us into the warm and dry school gym to wait until the start of the race. We got to chat with some other runners and relax a bit. I went to the washroom one last time before lining up which gave me a chance to be on my own for the start and focus on MY plan and what I need to do for MY race. It was about 20C at the start and you could already feel the humidity. Luckily it was cloudy and we had a bit of a headwind for most of the race (a little blessing in disguise).
I saw Mike ahead in the starting line and no sight of John (whew). The cannon went off and we started on a steep downhill, so it was hard to have a slow start, but I just let my body go and did not force anything until I could calm myself down and get into my pace. It didn’t take too long for John to find me and we ran together for a little bit but then another steep hill was here and there went John, I quietly said goodbye to him.
A lot of women passed me early on as well and I tried not to let that get to me(one of my goals was to place top 10 women). I kept running what I needed to run and to feel relaxed doing it (lol). I did keep a mental note of who they were so if I passed them I would feel that much stronger.
There were a lot of twists and turns in the first part, but it felt good seeing something new and seeing where we were going next. The volunteers along the course were great and there was lots of water stations along the course. At about the 10km point this big guy was yelling out numbers, it took me a minute to figure out what he meant and realized he was telling me what place woman I was (10th). At about 15k I caught a couple of the women that had passed me earlier but I needed to stop at a port-a-potty so as I did I knew I had to pick up my pace a bit to get back on track to where I was and pass them again.
The trail was a nice change from the roads we were running on until we came to one section that was big gravel and roots and mud (luckily it was only about 1km on that) Other runners around me weren’t too fond of it either. Then came the last 10k and the uphills. After running downhill for so long I knew the ups were going to be challenging (so did my calves). I knew that I did the work on the hill training and I could do this too. Plus a little incentive was just in my view up ahead, two more women, coming from behind can be a lot of fun 😏 I counted myself as now up to 5th place (in for the prize).
Still feeling mostly good with only 5k to go (5k is easy....we always run 5k....) I see this little Italian guy up ahead.....hmmmm could it be? Here is my chance, although the last time I ran a marathon catching up to John this close to the finish he took off on me and finished ahead of me. I couldn’t let that happen again. I did catch him with 3k to go and he ran with me for a while until we passed another woman and made our final turn to see another long up hill and I left him behind (goal #2...beat John)
As I crossed the finish line I heard them say my name and announced that I was the 1st Canadian woman to finish and I also knew that I was 4th woman overall (and 1st Masters). I finished with a chip time of 3:12:48 (only 1 minute off my PB 😒) I felt so strong and so happy with how everything worked out during this day. Everything went as planned and I am so excited and proud for finishing this tough race on this hot fall day. Thanks JR for all your support and encouragement along the way during the training and during the race.
Would I go back again? No, but I do seem to like the small town feel for races and the prize money is not so bad either. On to Boston (#10)