The Carmel Marathon - What a Deal!
by Ryan Anderson
It was about this time a year ago I got super excited for the 2018 Carmel Marathon because they were offering a very special $31 entry fee for any of the races they offered. At that price I could not resist the chance to run a marathon. Every year the Monumental Marathon offers a $60 sign up fee on new years day and this was half that cost, no way I was missing out on that price. The reason for the super low entry price, they were rebranding the race and calling it Carmel Marathon 2.0. It came with a new course and a new date, March 31st instead of early April, hence the $31 entry fee. Apparently they thought they were losing out on too many runners who were picking the Illinois Marathon over the Carmel Marathon, and I thought why not do both. I had heard some good things about the race from Bruce Butler who ran it before, and had good things to say about it, so I thought since it had good reviews and was only $31 it was well worth trying out.
I was a bit nervous about running a marathon this early in the spring because of the possibility of bad weather on race day, and bad weather for training runs. The winter was touch and go as far as training with some bad weather early on and some better training as race day approached. And then 6” of snow the weekend before the race.
As race day approached I was doing the same thing we all do, check the weather and scour the race website and social media sites to find out as much information as I could about the race. This is when I discovered my biggest surprise of the race. The only aid on the course was going to be water and Powerade. They were not going to offer any Gels, bananas, oranges, pretzels or anything other than water and Powerade. This was not even written in big letters, it was a small section under the FAQ, I was so glad I found this because I would never have guessed that a 1,000 plus person marathon in its 8th year would not offer aid on the course. I just made sure to cram as many gels in a pouch as I could and carried one for the first 5 miles. For a $31 marathon I can overlook a few things.
The next big surprise was on race day, gear check was about 4 blocks long just 5 min before the race started. Luckily my awesome wife volunteered to bite the bullet and start late in order to gear check. As the start approached they abandoned their gear check process and just had people throw their bags in the tent and they organized them later allowing Amber and everyone else to make it to the start line on time.
My final surprise was that I could not find any satellite signal before the race. I started my watch about 4-5 min before the race to find a signal but none could be found. The race started, and no signal. I wasn’t that worried because I was not at the front of the line, but I was starting to worry a little. Then we started walking to the line, still no signal (more worried). Then we were running towards the line, no signal (full on freak out was about to happen). Finally we crossed over the first of two timing mats at the start, no signal (what the heck). At the last second, in between the two timing mats I got a signal.
The weather was looking kind of iffy the night before with some wind and a call for the possibility of more wind and rain as the day went on. However, as the miles rolled on the weather remained nice with little to no wind. As I settled into the race things were going well. Some of the mile markers were not that easy to see. I missed 2 or 3 of them in the first 5 or 6 miles. There were plenty of people to run with, it almost felt too crowded.
Our pacer was hitting his times fairly accurately, although I did not feel they were very evenly paced. I was running with the 3:45 pace group which had quite the crowd. Among the people in the crowd were Sarah from New York City, James from Chicago, and Igor from Toronto. The four of us soon became great race buddies. We talked about about where we were from, why we were running this race and of course what we were planning on eating and drinking after the race. The big debate came down to beer or pancakes, luckily both were being offered at the end of the race.
At times the race crowds were sparse even though we were running through a lot of neighborhoods. I really liked he first half of the race. We ran through a lot of neighborhoods and even on a nice paved bike path. I really liked the course because I like racing through areas that remind me of where I train. It makes it feel like a training run and not a race and takes off some pressure. The worst part of the first half of the course was that we had to run under the half marathon finish shoot on our way out to the second half of the course. The second half was a lot like the first with a lot more of the bike trail. When you picked up your bib at the expo you got a pacing band with the time you registered for. So I was calling out what our time should be and Sarah would let us know where we actually were and how far ahead of pace we were. We were such a well-oiled machine people started asking us how we all knew each other, and thought it was great we were such good running friends.
They were even more surprised when they found out we met at mile 2. Our group of four stayed together until late in the race which was a big help. Having someone to share the misery of some of the late miles of the marathon is nice.
The lack of aid on the course started to catch up to me late in the race as I was needing something salty. I was able to get some salt packets at some aid tents and throw them into my water and powerade. Like almost all marathons the last few miles seemed further and further apart. Then the final ¾ of a mile was literally up a hill and into the wind. The bike path had done a great job of blocking the wind but the last part of the race was out in the open.
The final hardship of the race was the last half mile. They had a sprint to the finish challenge, whoever had the biggest pace difference in the last half mile than the rest of the race would win $100. Well with a half mile to go, running up hill and into the wind I knew I was not winning that $100. As I was approaching the finish I was looking for Amber who was waiting right at the finish line with a big smile and a hug. Well I am not sure if it was a hug so much as a catch the person who is falling into me. After the race there was not much of a post-race party. The winds had kicked up to over 40 mph gust and some of the post-race activities were shutting down. I did find my race buddies and a pancake, but no beer.
Overall it was a pretty good race. I had a hard time overlooking the lack of aid on the course but if that is not a big deal to you or if you are just doing the half marathon it would probably not be as big of a deal. The course was well laid out, packet pickup was the night before, with a pretty-nice-but-nothing-exciting expo. Carmel itself seemed to be a very new town with lots of construction…. and roundabouts (I hate roundabouts).
For the price I paid I thought I got a great deal. At that price I would probably do it again. Not sure though if I had to pay what all the regular folks had to pay.
This story originally appeared in the May/June 2018 issue of In Passing.