There’s nothing like a good race report to give you those motivational goosebumps. You’ll definitely enjoy Penny Noll’s description of her most recent race and how she conquered her 56th(!!) marathon.
The “It’s all downhill from here” sign made me smile in the first mile. I had purposely signed up for a marathon with this usually pessimistic warning. The REVEL Race Series is well known for their fast and beautiful full and half marathons, and the REVEL Mount Charleston Marathon outside Las Vegas fulfilled the dual promise: It was very fast and very gorgeous.
I had Mount Charleston on my 50 State list for years, and 2023 was going to be the perfect time for my first Boston-qualifying marathon. I was sure the stars were going to align for my 56th marathon despite the April Fool’s race date: I had a strong training cycle. I ran many downhill miles at easy, marathon, and speedwork paces. I completed strength training to build my legs and improve my muscle balance. I paid attention to nutrition, stretching, bi-weekly massages, and rest. (Sorry, I still rarely foam-rolled!)
There were two things, however, I could not train for, and they ended up affecting my dream: starting at 7,600’ elevation/finishing at 2,500’ and the three-hour time difference from my home in New York State.
The REVEL race folks were excellent—very well organized, and they communicated race info well. The expo was lively, and I was impressed with the thoughtful swag: throw-away gloves and a space blanket for the cold start. Race volunteers even gave out handwarmers as we huddled under our space blankets in the low 20-degree morning darkness.
The sun was rising as the marathon began, and I knew the temperature was going to change drastically. I had dressed in warm layers to peel off as I descended. I also brought my reusable soft pouch that I emptied my gels into ahead of time so that I wouldn’t have to slow down to open the gels, then litter in the lovely setting.
The most beautiful image of the Mount Charleston Marathon came early as I was running past the snow-covered canyon hills. The rays of the rising sun lit long lines of icicles hanging from many layers of rocks. It was magical.
Extra hydration at altitude, but you can’t beat those views!
The two things that I couldn’t train for starting to kick in during the first nine miles: I had to take a potty break (#2), and my easy downhill pace felt like I was running through deep swamp water. Running at an altitude more than a mile higher than I’d logged all my training miles was wreaking havoc with my well-honed cardiovascular system. I had hoped I could bank some time on those steady downhill miles, yet when I reached the half-marathon mark, I realized I was not going to BQ.
I have been dreaming of—and training for—a Boston-qualifying marathon finish for years, especially the past two years. It’s still a challenge to balance training with a positive mindset with the reality of how to pivot when the BQ cannot be achieved again. I didn’t cry this time (I have before mid-race!) as I focused on the beautiful course; my accomplishment of completing another marathon (#56!); and reminding myself that my family and friends love me whether I BQ or not. Still, despite my race-photo smiles, the reality stung.
I decided to enjoy the rest of the course at whatever pace felt right. I was very happy with myself because I was going to finish my 46th state marathon on a beautiful (yeah, there’s that word again!) course.
While there were breathtaking views around every curve of the race course, the most lovely sight for me was my young friend Deonna and her family at Mile 21, then again near the finish. Deonna has Rhett Syndrome, and we were paired in 2017 through the I Run 4 Michael organization. She has traveled to see me at two other marathons, and I’d attended Deonna’s 18th birthday party and high school graduation after I ran the Jackson Hole Marathon.
Deonna and I crossed our third finish line together with big smiles as the crowds cheered us in. A beautiful upside to a downhill race.
Want to go downhill? Register for REVEL Rockies in
Denver on June 3 and save $10 off registration
with code AMR10 at RunRevel.com