Race Recap: Carmel Marathon

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Marathons are coming back!
The Carmel Marathon was one of  the first marathons to take place in the Midwest since the pandemic started back in March 2020. It has been a long year of changes, challenges, but also opportunity for us all.

I had been lucky enough to have a great group of like-minded people around me who have encourage me to stay active and positive during some pretty dark times. My running pod and I were able to get vaccinated at the beginning of the year, we have continued to follow social distance, city mandates, and winter marathon training in Chicago. We decided to run Milwaukee marathon which was postponed a few weeks ago. After managing the disappointment, we came across the Carmel Marathon as our plan B (Thanks to my friend Jodi)

Carmel is a northern suburb of Indianapolis, 3.5hrs drive from Chicago. We adjusted our training, crossed our fingers, and signed up for the race 4 weeks ago. The race hosted a 5k, 10k, half marathon and a full marathon. I have not done a big race since last February when I ran the Miami Half marathon. Who would have thought that would be my last race?

The race organizer sent final week email which included a Covid-19 waiver and integrity policy. All participants were required to sign this document prior to race day. In order to enhance social distance the Fitness expo and packet pick up was held outdoors at Carter Green next to the Palladium  (Center of the Performing Arts) If you never been to Carmel, it is a beautiful and affluent suburb of Indy (100,000 population) with stunning architecture and the Monon greenway trail. The race hosted a pasta party at a restaurant, we decided to bring our own food and stayed at our hotel. There were plenty of places to stay near the finish line at reasonable prices and with plenty of parking which made it easy on race day.

Race Day
This event was hosting 4 different distance races in one day (Around 2,500 participants). As you can imagine there were so many people at the start of the race. We arrived closed to the start of the race and waited to line up at the start. We had received corral assignments but unfortunately those were not really enforced. The good news is everyone was required to were masks at the start and after the race. The race organizers had new disposable masks at the finish line for every finisher.  There were water stations with Gatorade and water every 1.5 miles and runners were required to bring their own nutrition. They had plenty of volunteers helping out along the course but each runner had to get their own cups and food at aid stations and at the finish line. They had different start time for each distance, but the marathon and the half marathon started together which made for a crowded few miles. The course was mainly on open roads, but we ran on the trail for several miles which was a nice change of scenery. I was pleasantly surprised to see people all along the course cheering for runners with the usual hilarious motivational signs. Overall, the race tried to implement social distance and had in place safety protocols but it was challenging with the amount of people participating in these events. They truly did the best they could. I personally felt safe and was careful to keep social distance whenever possible.

The course was mostly flat with a few inclines, but truly a fast course especially for those wanting to BQ. We had perfect weather conditions for a marathon with temps in the low 30’s at the start with sunny skies. I was personally very nervous on race day, had mixed emotions about racing and performance expectations. After all, I had trained for a marathon (And I have done this many times) but my focus had changed from speed to just finishing. I made the conscious decision to stay mindful and listen to my body, shifting expectation about time and PR’s. I was so happy and excited to be there, and I could see people around me were too. Everyone was smiling and laughing. There were pace groups which I very much appreciate in Marathons. I stayed with a pacer group with about 10-15 runners and listened to people’s stories about the pandemic and training challenges during the past year. There was a sense of community and familiarity that reinforced my love for running.

As I approached the finish line, I became emotional, 6 months ago I was not sure I would be at a real in person race and here we were, it was happening. Racing was back in full force. It was exciting and I was very grateful I got to do this, and my body and mind were healthy and willing to cover  26.2 miles.
I am not sure if it was the excitement to be back racing or the perfect conditions, or perhaps a combination of the two, but it was a fast crowd for sure. There were some course records at Carmel, marathon male winner was Adam Schroer with a a time of 2:22:10 and the female winner was Kathy Derks with a time of 2:36:47

Congratulations to all finishers, it was so good to see so many familiar faces of runners from Chicago training groups including Fleet feet and CARA.

The bond that runners have with their training group and partners is stronger than I can describe. It’s not just about running it’s about friendships, motherhood, community, and motivation. My running pod and I have shared many inspiring, motivating, and heartbreaking stories over the course of many miles.

Today’s race was a celebration of overcoming an extremely challenging year that impacts us all, and a return to a new normal full of possibilities.  Especial thanks to Jodi, Sara and the Well-Fit community for your endless support and motivation.

Keep on running!

 

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Erika has been an endurance athlete for over 20 years. She fell in love with running in her 20’s in graduate school, working full time and being a single mother. Running became time for reflection. She has run over 30 marathons and countless triathlons; qualified for 70.3 World championships. To qualify for Kona is her next goal! She loves being a mom to a wonderful young lady and a fur puppy (cocker spaniel). Travel and exploring new places to train around the world is a passion. She is a licensed clinical counselor who specializes in the treatment of anxiety, depression and trauma. She spent 15 years in academia and has recently taken a role as a clinical director to focus on her clinical work. Erika believes in the therapeutic benefits of endurance training for people who struggle with mental health illness and stress. She is patiently waiting until we can all travel and race safely again, until then she recommends staying active, healthy. and consistent.

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