Somewhere around Mile 2, we made a left to head up the Delaware coast, and there it was: a magnificent sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean. There will be no Instagram post of this sunrise; however, this moment will forever be etched in my mind. What a beautiful moment. I wanted to run slower in that space just to soak it in a little longer.
The Rehoboth Beach Marathon and scenic course would provide many beautiful moments despite not every mile feeling beautiful.
Roughly two weeks after the Chicago Marathon, a running friend convinced me to run this race. It didn’t take much to convince me: 1) I was still in decent shape, 2) I saw it as a redemption run after Chicago, and 3) One of the runners I coach was already running it, so I figured I could pace him for part of the race or just provide some additional support. Plus, I knew a few others that were running the Half.
Despite registering for this race, I had no lofty “must do” goals other than to have a good experience, run competitively, and support one of my runners. I knew I was not in PR shape; however, I also knew I could have a decent day under the right conditions. And, wow, we had perfect race conditions: 40 degrees at the start with no wind (this is practically a miracle at the beach in December).
At the start, I lined up with one of my runners, Colin. He was going for a BQ, as well as sub-three hours. I figured sub-3 was a long shot for me since I hadn’t done as much speed as I wanted to after Chicago; however, I told Colin I would stay with him for the first half, and (to myself) figured I’d hang on during the 2nd half.
We settled into a comfortable pace during the first half (hitting our miles in the 6:40s and 6:50s). The Marathon separates from the Half around Mile 3, and we headed into the beautiful confines of Cape Henlopen State Park, which consists of hard packed trail as well as a raised wood / metal (a bit slippery on this day) footpath through the woods & marshy areas adjacent to the Ocean. It was quiet and picturesque.
Yes, very quiet.
I love quiet races. If you do not like quiet races with less spectator support, this might not be the race for you. What also helped, in my case, was running with Colin. This made the first several miles fly by. If you run with a group or another runner, you know what I’m talking about here.
After the park, we headed out and back on Cape Henlopen Drive which is where the Cape May Lewes Ferry is located. At Mile 10, we looped around a parking lot near the ferry. My wife was cheering us on here. Also, once out on Cape Henlopen Drive again, I saw some friends (Chad, Dave and Nikki). This is one of the perks of an out and back portion of a race. Seeing familiar faces is always uplifting.
Once we were back into the park a bit, we hit the 13.1 mark, slightly under 3 hr pace for a marathon. I ran with Colin for another two miles; however, at Mile 15, the 6:50 pace was starting to get onerous for me, so I encouraged Colin not to let me hold him back. I did manage 6:48 and 6:49 for Miles 16 and 17 respectively, but I knew I would not be able to hold that much longer.
Here, I dialed it back a bit. Overall, I still felt decent. It was a boost coming back into the town center of Rehoboth at Mile 18 where there was more crowd support; however, just beyond Mile 20, there was another wooded out and back trail portion of the race. Despite being scenic, the surface of this trail felt less forgiving on my feet than the earlier trail did. I was getting tired too.
Plus, we were once again on the same route as the half marathoners which made the course a bit more crowded. Miles 21 to 23 were definitely slower, as my legs were fatigued and my heart rate crept up. I still managed to cheer on the other runners as they did for me as well.
Just before the turnaround at Mile 22, I saw Colin who was ahead of me, and it looked like he was struggling. I said some encouraging words to him before running under a series of flags that were hung across the canopy of the woods. These were a series of state flags for all of the US state flags (I think — I was a bit out of it by now). There was music here, and I thought this was the turnaround point; however, there was still 3/10 of a mile until the turnaround!
Despite this portion of the race becoming more crowded, I enjoyed seeing other runners and friends, such as Madeline (another runner I coach) who was running the half for fun with a group of friends, as well as Chad and Dave again (and my friend Katie).
Miles 24 and 25, despite being slower, were still under 8 minutes per mile pace. At Mile 25, I caught Colin and we headed to the finish line together. At this point, we knew he wouldn’t be going Sub3; however, he was well on his way to a strong BQ in only his second marathon.
We ran and walked a bit together, and in the home stretch we saw my wife again, as well as other friends cheering near the finish, including our friend Meredith who had done the Half and Madeline who snapped this photo…
We finished together in just over 3:06, and took 2nd and 3rd in our age group.
It was a fun experience and exactly what I needed after my disappointing performance in Chicago. I didn’t really tell anyone ahead of time I would be running this (aside from the few folks that would be there). I recommend running a race and not telling anyone about it ahead of time. It makes it feel more personal. I hope that makes sense.
This race was well-organized, easy logistically and fun! The course is scenic and fast. Having great weather definitely helped. The post-race party was pretty raucous too. We opted for the quieter setting of Dogfish Head Brew Pub for a post-race beverage / snack.
This was the first time we had spent any time at Delaware beaches. We got to see a lot of Dewey, Rehoboth and Lewes and it is beautiful there. We plan on going back in the summer, and I would definitely do this race again.
If I had one minor recommendation, it would be to use paper cups at water stops vs. plastic cups. I definitely spilled more water / Gatorade than I would have with paper cups (but maybe that is just me being clumsy).