Run for the Red Pocono Marathon: Race Guide and Report

Run for the Red Pocono Marathon: Race Guide and Report

If I’m honest, I’d say most of us runners have a good bit of excuses for races and workouts that are slower than we’d like. It was too hot/cold/windy. Our nutrition was off. The course was too hilly. There were too many potholes (I read that one on an actual review for this marathon. He was apparently running out of valid excuses and potholes seemed like a reasonable excuse to him. Hmm mm…).

And can I say, our excuse-landed race explanations are a bit sad and definitely a poor reflection of who we are as runners?

Now I get it, it’s important to examine our races to figure out what went right and wrong — and to fix it for the next time. But let’s leave those conversations for our coaches and those seriously invested in our running. For everyone else, just own your race. Because you just ran a stinkin’ race. That’s impressive, and you should be proud!

Now most of the above doesn’t actually apply to this report, because I had a fantastic race. But it was something I was thinking about for much of the race because someone around me was discussing this very topic during the marathon. She had some wise points that I pondered for the hours I was running.

So, how was the Pocono Marathon, you ask? How nice of you to ask. Side note: always ask runners how their races went. Just make sure you have some time, because us runners love talking about running almost as much as we love the actual running.

The Pocono Marathon Expo

The expo was in the high school where you’ll finish the marathon the next day. For such a small race, it had a well stocked expo. Two stores had booths set up selling anything you could need for the race, so no need to freak out if you forgot something vital. Like my husband, who forgot socks.

I will say, the booths had no cheap running apparel for sale. Normally race expos have a good bit of discounted clearance gear. Here, things were marked as clearance, but definitely didn’t have an actual clearance price. So get things if you need them, but don’t go hoping to score a deal.

Packet pick up was easy, breezy, lemon squeezey. There was no line, and the volunteers were super friendly.

The Pocono Marathon Start

The start is at the Pocono Summit High School with free, easy parking. They opened the high school up to us, so we had access to warmth and real toilets. This is why I love small races. An actual toilet?! With toilet paper? And no lines? And no stench? Yes, please! We got to the start at about 6:1o and had plenty of time to relax in the warmth before heading to the start at 6:50. And by relax, I mean sit with my stomach in knots, anxious to get this show on the road! More so than any other marathon I’ve ran before, I was super excited (as opposed to terrified or nervous) to run the race. I was ready to go!

 

Pocono Marathon Start

The Pocono Marathon Course

The Run for the Red Pocono Marathon is a point to point marathon in northeast Pennsylvania. The course is almost entirely in the country, which means the scenery is gorgeous. You pass my streams, lakes, beautiful forests, and rolling hills. It also means crowd support is relatively weak, especially compared to a city marathon. Many of the roads we ran on for the first half were closed to traffic, but the second half left us with many roads open to traffic. The cars were always considerate, and it was never an issue to me.

According to my Garmin, the course starts at 1844 ft elevation and ends at 453 ft. Woohoo! That is some sweet net negative. However, it’s not actually as nice as it may sound at first. There were some steep descents and rolling hills (up and down) throughout. All that downhill means your legs get some major pounding, and the uphills are enough to slow you down for a few miles. So, while it is a faster course, it’s probably not quite as fast as you’d think at first.

The elevation changes of the course naturally splits the marathon up into a few distinct sections.

Miles 1 – 5: These miles are relatively flat as you run around Pocono Summit. There are some minor rolling hills, but nothing to write home about. (<–should that be “text home about” now? Because I certainly don’t write home any more. Deep thoughts are happening here, folks.) In general, I used these miles to get my legs warmed up. It seems like it always takes me about 6 miles to get my legs aware of the fact that we’re running a marathon. Luckily this time around they seemed to catch on around mile 3.

My splits: 10:01, 9:38, 9:59, 9:39, 9:42

Miles 6 – 13: This is where the party starts. Now that your legs are warmed up, it’s time to fly as you have some major downhills. My goal was to not go too hard, as I didn’t want my legs to get too beat up. By the end of this section, I was excited for each uphill part, because it was a break from the pounding my legs were taking.  

My splits: 9:33, 9:21, 9:23, 9:52, 9:52, 9:37, 9:44, 9:28

Miles 14 – 17: Up until this point, the half marathoners were with us. The marathoners split off from them at mile 13.1 (you run to the side of their finish line), which meant that the second half of the course was a bit more sparse. In my case, this was also the time when it started an absolute downpour. The elevation of these miles is flatter than the section before, with some minor rolling hills throughout. It felt kind of like a normal marathon course at this point.

My splits: 9:28, 9:34, 9:24, 9:33

Miles 18 – 23: Now that your legs are fully beat up from all the downhill and your mind is getting tired of running, the Pocono Marathon gifts you with the biggest uphills of the course. How nice of them. I’d read a lot about these hills, which had me pretty worried about them. In actuality, I didn’t think the hills were all that bad. I mean, they were definitely hills, and I could feel them. But I was feeling good enough to pick up the effort at this point, which meant my speed remained relatively constant.

My splits: 9:27, 9:48, 9:37, 9:38, 9:47, 10:06

Miles 24 – 26.2: Volunteers and spectators kept telling me that I was done with the hills at this point. Lies, all lies! Perhaps I was feeling dramatic because I was getting pretty close to hitting the wall at this point, so any small incline started to feel like a major hill. These miles are much flatter than the last 22, but they’re by no means a pancake. Word to the wise: never tell a racer that this is the last hill unless you are ready to stake your life on it. I’ve encountered lies of this sort at almost every race I’ve done. It’s mean. Don’t be that person!

I was definitely hitting a wall the last couple miles, but I kept chugging along. Stopping wasn’t an option, I just had to get to the dang finish line. It’s amazing how quickly miles can fly by early on in a marathon, and how long they can feel at the end. The race finishes with a partial lap around a high school track, which is fun and nice for spectators.

My splits:  9:41, 9:49, 10:10, 2:10

Overall Finish Time: 4:14:11 with an average pace of 9:42/mile.

I was super happy with this!  This past November I had to take a month off of work/running/everything to recover from a surgery to remove a tumor that decided to be BFF with my innards. My innards and my surgeon weren’t feeling so friendly towards Mr. Tumor, so out he went. So, this race was really a celebration of the fact that I am back to my healthy, running self. Completing a marathon felt fantastic and finishing just 3 minutes shy of my PR was pretty great too.

The Pocono Marathon Finish

Another lovely perk of a small race is that there’s no eternally long walk through the finishers coral to get to the exit, like there is at Chicago. Within 2 seconds of finishing Kyle was next to me, and I only had to walk about 10 feet to find a place to sit. Small marathons, you have my heart.

Finish of the Pocono Marathon

Sitting after finishing the Pocono Marathon
So happy to be sitting!

The finish had free massages, an easy bag pick-up, and a poor smattering of food. They had homemade sandwiches in plastic baggies, some bananas, and plain bagels. They used to have chocolate milk, but they ran out. The food at the finish would be my one and only complaint about this race. I’m usually a bit queasy at the end of a marathon, so a bigger/better selection of food is nice.

At the finish of the Pocono Marathon

Overall, this is a very well put on marathon with some of the best volunteers I’ve ever come across. Kyle and I both had great races and loved the experience. Now, it’s time to find our next adventure!

 

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