Have you ever heard of the Sophomore Slump? It’s loosely defined as a decline in performance following a successful debut. I’d say I had a Sophomore Slump at the St. George Marathon in 2010, except that my debut as a marathon runner in February of 2010 wasn’t exactly stellar. That being said, I have never had as poor of a performance as I had in St. George in 2010.
When my original running buddy John and I completed our first full marathon together in 2010 we were on a high. Neither of us had earth-shattering times, we were both well over 4 hours, but we thought there was nothing we couldn’t do. Local running legend Lee Elmer (who will be doing St. George Marathon #23 come October) and many other runners talked about how great a race the St. George Marathon was. It’s a downhill point-to-point course, and is consistently rated as one of the best races in the country. In fact, back in 2010 the St. George marathon was so popular that you had to enter it through a lottery.
Seeking a follow up to our amazing first race, John and I entered the lottery together. I was surprised when we got in. Part of me entered the lottery hoping I wouldn’t get it. I would have been able to say, “Well, at least I gave it a shot!”
Back then John and I had no idea what we were doing. We’d get together for runs on the weekend and go a few miles, stop and eat a Hostess Apple Pie (that was our nutrition back then), run a few more miles and eat a gel, run a few more miles and go to the bathroom, and then eventually I’d say something like, “I don’t feel good, I’m calling for a ride home.”
Back then about 50 – 60% of my long runs ended with me calling for a ride home.
Another problem was that I had the frame of mind that I had done a marathon before, so I knew what I was getting in to and the race would be easy. Plus, it was a downhill race, how hard could it be? I think the longest run training run I had was 20 miles, and I only did it once. Barely. I walked the last 5 miles of it.
Still, I was optimistic come race day. John and I boarded the bus and I had visions of running the best marathon ever. Hope springs eternal, right? I had a race belt with about 10 (I’m serious) clif shot gels on it. They shook as I walked, it was hilarious. One guy even commented, “Dude, you got any gels?” I thought, “He’ll wish he had this many come mile 24!”
If you’ve ever done the St. George marathon it has a pretty cool start. They have bonfires up at the start to keep you warm. They line you up and off you go. I remember that the first mile was lined with people pulling off to the side of the road emptying their bladders. It was comical. John and I stayed with the 4 hour pace group and we were having fun just talking. It wasn’t very long before I spotted a big hill up ahead. I kept thinking we weren’t going to hit that hill. This was a downhill course.
I hadn’t checked the elevation map. Big mistake.
Go ahead and zoom in on that elevation map. Around mile 7 you hit Veyo, and it’s about a 3 or 4 mile climb. I wasn’t ready for it. It destroyed me. Add to that the heat! October 2010 was a hot one in St. George. Temperatures reached over 90 degrees that day, and even though I was from Vegas I just hadn’t trained for the race. I remember seeing the bus going up and down the course picking up people who were quitting. I thought about getting on that bus, but I didn’t. That’s my one victory of the day.
At one point a helicopter landed up ahead. When we finally got into town there was a man laying in the gutter vomiting. I wasn’t the only one having a bad day.
Around mile 23 there was a lady on the sidewalk outside of her house handing out popsicles. I often credit that lady with saving my life!
John and I lost each other around mile 10, but he tells me that he kept seeing me in front of him making turns. At one point I came out of a port-o-potty and he was standing right outside. I finished the race exactly 1 minute ahead of him. My time? Try 4 hours, 48 minutes, and some change. I walked most of the last 8 miles. I swore I’d never run another marathon again. John and I sat in the park at the finish for what seemed like hours. We couldn’t believe we had survived, and we were both amazed at how hard the race had been. Everybody loved the race, everybody except John and I, that is.
To this day it remains my slowest marathon by over 30 minutes. I swore I’d never do it again. I don’t even like driving through St. George because I’m haunted by that race. I mutter a curse every time somebody says the St. George Marathon is his or her favorite race. That’s a lot of cursing, because it is very popular.
Everybody has to face their demons. Mine just happen to be a couple of hours up the road in a small little town in Southern Utah.
Today I signed up for the 2019 version of the St. George Marathon. This time I’ll train for it. This time I’ll be ready for heat or cold or whatever St. George decides to throw at me. This time, I’ll get the best of the St. George Marathon!
Who’s with me?