Race Recap: The Queen City Marathon for Active Water

I did it! I finally got around to running marathon #2 after an entire year!

In all honesty, I never truly got amped up for this one since it was just in the training plan for the Rock n Roll Marathon in San Diego, but I was wrong about how meaningful that finishing this race was to me.

The week prior to the race, that's when I actually decided to research the course. I knew it was on the C&O Canal and that it would transition on to the Great Allegheny Passage, but what I did not know was that this so-called "gradual, steady incline" was a bit more than I expected.

That there, my friends, is an incline of about 800 feet for 10 miles! So I took to Facebook and asked those who have run before what to expect with this 10 mile battle. Here are some of the responses:

"Not steep, but unrelenting for the better part of 10 miles. So, not easy either."
"It's roughly an average of 4 to 5% with some spots of 7%. Your typical Interstate off ramp is about 4%. The up side is that the last 10 miles are downhill and flat to the finish!"
"It's a grind so be mentally tough."
I'm just going to pretend it's flat." - My favorite

I got a bit nervous, but I tried to remind myself, I have run some pretty steep inclines in my time and have conquered them. A gradual incline shouldn't be a bad thing...right?

On marathon eve, I carbed up (gluten included!) so I was ready to conquer this 10 mile hill. I was more worried about that than distance or time!

We went to Olive Garden where I pigged out on breadsticks, flatbread, and seafood alfredo!

I also threw in a 2 miler just to reactivate my legs for the big day.

I went to bed early that night, as I needed to get up to travel over an hour to get to the race on time. I was NOT prepared for the cold.

Literally, the day before it said that it would be around 40 degrees at 8am. So, I packed shorts and a t-shirt to wear. Thank God I had a running jacket and opted for compression socks because that race did not see anything over the 20 degree range. I also wore wool gloves since I didn't think I would need my running gloves.

Don't be fooled by my smile, I am freezing!!!

The race started promptly at 8 and I was relieved to be running. At least the blood would start pumping through my freezing veins.

The course started on mile 184 of the C&O Canal (I typically run around mile marker 81 at home). This part was relatively flat and follows along the Potomac River. I must say, I was expecting the canal portion to be much like my usual route at home, but it was not. I was not surrounded by trees and wildlife, which is what I prefer. Everything was quite open and the path was just...different. Needless to say, I was disappointed that it was not like home, but hey, it was a great warm up, still scenic and no hills. Yay!

After about 3 miles of canal running, you are prompted to turn around and return near the start. I was able to catch a glimpse of Peter and told him how cold it was.

He just laughed and told me that I would get over it.

I made my way towards the Great Allegheny passage, which was, from what I understood, to be where that "gradual incline" was waiting for me. I was worried but tried to remember that as soon as I climbed that hill, I had 10 miles to run down it.

At first, it didn't seem so bad. You could barely notice that you were even going uphill. Yet, it seemed that after a few miles of the climb, it started to wear on you. For me, that wear was on my hips.

You can barely see an incline in pictures, but it is there!! Oh and don't worry, that smile...


I was so uncomfortable. At some points, my cheeks stung because of the frigid wind blowing directly in my face. At times, my legs were so numb it didn't feel like I was wearing shorts (nothing is worse than thinking somehow you lost your shorts during a marathon). Hell, it even snowed while making my way up!

At about mile 10-12, my bottle froze as I made my way up in elevation. I couldn't drink through the nozzle which was super frustrating. I stopped only once to unscrew the cap to sip out of it, but I hated stopping and restarting because I ultimately wanted to walk back to Peter.

Yet another fake smile.

Since I was ahead of my set pace, I played with the thought of walking for a few minutes, running for a few, etc, but I knew better. I knew that if I started walking, I would give up.I just trucked on until I reached about 16 miles. That was where the long-awaited turn around spot was.

Three lovely ladies sat atop the hill and cheered as I reached the turn around. I managed to say aloud "Oh thank the Lord that's over!!!" I started sailing down the hill, but it only provided some relief. The damage that hill did to my hips was done. They hurt so bad and although I was able to get some of my miles under a 10 minute pace (my average pace goal was 10:30-11), my hips screamed.

With every mile that passed, I continued to play with the thought of walking for just a few minutes and starting again. I thought that the walk may reset the pain, but I pushed the thought away as I reached every mile. The only time I stopped was to grab a sandwich cookie (I haven't had one in months!) at an aid station at mile 21. I deserved it with the pain I was experiencing. The volunteers were like "Do you need water?" I answered honestly, "I'm just here for the cookies."

As I started loosing elevation, my bottle finally began to melt and I was able to drink again and somehow, I was passing people left and right. I didn't understand how it was possible since I was in some serious pain.

Yet, I still managed to smile AND give a thumbs up!

Once I reached flat land around mile 24, I was in no-man's land. I didn't see a single person in front of me and I couldn't see anyone behind me either. This allowed me to talk out loud about the pain I was experiencing. I think it helps to verbally talk about pain. I definitely let out some audible grunts and curse words as I went from gravel to concrete and pavement, but the finish line was right around the corner so the pain would be over (in a sense) very soon!

I don't know what it is about finish lines, but I get a boost to tear through that finish line like I just started the race. Once I stopped though, I felt like I was hit by a bus. All the race volunteers looked at me, asking if I were okay, if I needed a blanket, but honestly, stretching was the first thing on my mind. I wasn't even cold anymore. It was probably because I was numb.

So after getting my medal, which was pretty sweet...

I sat myself in the grass, did a few stretches, and then decided it was time to go. I grabbed a cookie and a cup of soup to join me, but I was ready to be on my couch. My hips were killing me so walking to the car proved difficult. Once I sat down on those heated seats, ah, it was a feeling like no other.

Here's the stats from my run.

My goal for this race was 4:45 only because that is the women's JFK 50 qualifying marathon time. Since my only marathon was at 4:47, the only way I could participate was running for charity. I have no problem doing so, but there is also joy in running a race because you qualify! So the fact that I not only beat the qualifying time by 15 minutes, I also beat my best by 17 minutes! I also got second in my age group (though there were only 4 of us...still!). So I think I deserved eating a whole large pizza to myself yesterday.

As for my review of the marathon, I loved the volunteers. They were ultimately what made this race come alive. They stood in the bitter cold cheering us on and I NEEDED that. But I don't think I will participate in Queen City in upcoming years. Not because it wasn't a great race, but because I told myself last year, no more March marathons! The weather is unpredictable and it's hard to properly train when there's snow storms coming at you every few days. Still, I give this race a 7/10!

1. What is the worst incline you have ever dealt with in a race? What made it so hard? Aside from this race, one of the worst inclines was at the Freedom Run 2013. They had to alter the course due to the Government Shutdown. We had some dramatic climbs, one which was at the end. It ultimately led to the slowest half I ever ran in a race.

2. How do you cope with pain when barely halfway through a race? I try to remember what is waiting for me at the end. Like Peter or pizza. I also try to keep the mentality "just one more mile." It has helped me in several 20+ mile runs.

3. Do you try to stretch immediately after finishing a race? I don't typically. But this year, I have made it a point to stretch after runs and running a marathon race is no exception to this rule!

4. What body part do you find hurts most after competing? Almost always, my hips get really sore. And my lower back.

5. What is your favorite food to eat after a completing a race? Pizza is my go to when I run anything over 20. Or Chipotle.


  1. Wow, that seems like a tough race. 10 miles of incline, no thank you! Great job, way to push through and finish!

    1. I mean, the incline was extremely gradual, but even still, 10 miles of uphill is going to be taxing on any runner. I must say that if I can do that, then some of these hills that I was worried about in San Diego will seem like nothing in 2 months.


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