Saturday, May 18, 2019

2019 Delaware Marathon

I had planned on running the Delaware Half Marathon in 2018, but I had to defer due to an injury.  Once I heard that in 2019 they were changing the Full Marathon course from two half marathon loops (which we all know is kind of boring)  to a new route that included a newly constructed paved trail area through a wildlife rescue I switched to the full marathon.

The new trail is called the Jack A. Markell Trail and is a combination of board walk style areas as well as paved trail.  This part of the race doesn't start until past the half way point, so while the runners had already spread out, the trail itself is very spacious and getting around runners was not an issue at all.

We stayed at the Double Tree hotel in Wilmington since that was also the official race hotel and included packet pickup and the race expo.  I booked the hotel really early to make sure I had a room and in fact didn't even use (or think to go back and use) the group rate sponsored by the event.  So I know I paid more than most runners, but I don't know exactly how much more.  In general the room rates were reasonable around $130/night and runners were allowed a late checkout of 2pm which was awesome.  Plenty of time to get back shower, pack up and head out.

The area right around the hotel was nice enough, but to be honest it felt slightly unsafe with a few homeless around asking for money as you walked by.  We had reservations at a local restaurant, but after viewing their menu one final time we decided to eat in the hotel.  The food in the hotel was actually really good and they had several dishes that worked well for me the night before a race.  In this case salmon, asparagus and roasted potatoes.

The main dining area was doing a pasta buffet clearly targeted to all the runners staying at the hotel, but I have never been one to carb load with pasta before a race.  So we had to eat in the bar area which only had a few tables (about 8 or so).  They would not allow ordering off the menu in the main dining area, that was buffet only.

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We learned the next morning that this actually did cause a backup in the bar area as many guests didn't want the buffet and those that did found it to be sub par.  Not sure why they wouldn't serve the menu in that room given you could get it in the bar area.  Hopefully they will change this for 2020.

Christina River near starting line; you pass by here at mile 2.3

The race start/end was located at the Tubman Garret Riverfront Park which was about a half mile walk from the hotel.  A perfect location which allowed me to really arrive just before the start of the race.  Given that proximity I was able to sleep in a little longer before getting up and getting ready for the event.

SIS, Huma and Nuun

After I showered to help wake up and loosen up the muscles I made some "in room" coffee and started to get my clothes Nuun and SIS gels together.  It was at this point that I realized I FORGOT TO BRING RUNNING SHORTS!  I had my shirt, a sweatshirt to discard since it was going to be chilly and old pajama pants to discard as well.  I was at a total loss of what to do and yet didn't want to just pack up and do the 3 hour drive home without actually running.

I made the decision to have my wife go downstairs with the pajama pants, ask for a pair of scissors and cut them off into shorts.  I knew I was going to look totally ridiculous but at least I would run.  I gathered my gels (thankfully the pajamas had pockets), got my bib in place and headed to the starting area.

The starting area was organized really well.  The full marathon and the half marathon started at the same time (7am) and the 5k was going to start 30 minutes later.  Overall the race is fairly small with only 5,000 runners total across all three events.  In fact, only 324 runners completed the marathon out of the 327 that started.

Delaware Marathon Starting Line

I didn't have any real set expectation for this event since I had never run it and I also knew the overall course was new so I really couldn't get a lot of details from fellow runners except for the first half.  I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised by how beautiful the course really was.  When you start in a city like Wilmington you tend to expect to stay within a very urban area.  This is certainly true with the Baltimore events.  While there is nice scenery around a few parks and the inner harbor area, for the most part you are in the city.

As you can see from the overall Strava map, this course meanders outside the city to the North in the first half along nice water ways and park like trails.  You start to work your way back to the starting area going through some amazing houses that clearly shows that Wilmington was founded by residents that definitely had money.

Strava Map of Delaware Marathon
Overall elevation gain for a race of this distance wasn't bad at all.  According to Strava the overall gain was 715ft.

Strava Elevation Map of Delaware Marathon

As you can see from the Strava elevation map, most of the gain is in the first half of the race as you travel North and then around the Brandywine Zoo and Brandywine Creek.  This part of the race was beautiful with lots of water views, ornate bridges and given the timing the trees and grass were a really bright and lush green.

Running uphill along South Park Drive
After climbing the South Park Drive hill you work your way around Wawaset Park which was full of amazing homes and large trees.  The race photographers captured me a few times in this area sporting my PJ running shorts with pockets full of gels.

Somewhere near Wawaset Park
After running around the Wawaset Park area, you get back down to Brandywine Creek, run along the water and turn right on North King Street heading back to the starting area.  You run right past the Double Tree hotel at this point taking the path you did to walk to the starting line,

As you pass under the railroad tracks, the half marathon runners make a left to finish and the marathon runners make a right and head towards the Wilmington Riverwalk area along the Christina River.

Overall I think signage and directional arrows were pretty good, but there were a few places that had no signs and frankly unless you could see other runners, you weren't really sure if you were still on course.  As I ran along the riverwalk area, which we had run the other direction after first starting, I wasn't sure that I hadn't messed up.  After working my way around one of the shopping center areas I finally saw a water stop and knew I was still okay.

The runners handbook that was mailed out before the start of the race (which was very informative) had indicated that at this point in the race we would be entering an area approximately 3.5 miles long without support.  Instead of a standard water stop they were handing out bottles of water so you could either take one with you or fill up your own hydration system.

As I made my way into the Russell Peterson Wildlife Refuge, I was astonished by the new trail system.  It was absolutely stunning.  The bridges, the lookout areas, the birds you could see and the marsh areas were spectacular.  There was a nice little breeze here and it started to rain a little.  Just enough to cool you down but not get in your face.  I managed to fish my camera out of my running belt again and take a few photos as I ran along the boardwalk style trail.

Russell Peterson Wildlife Refuge

Russell Peterson Wildlife Refuge
As you can see the runners are fairly spread out at this point, but the boardwalk is about 10 or so feet wide, so plenty of room to maneuver if necessary.

Right before you get back to full race support you run past the Baylor Women's Correctional Institute facility.  I didn't know that is what it was when I went by, but it was clear it was a prison of some sort.  I wasn't surprised that no one was outside on break given the amount of traffic that was about to go by.  Seemed like a prudent decision.

As we approached the turn around point at the New Castle Elementary School it was starting to rain pretty hard.  I wasn't wearing a hat so the rain was starting to get annoying, but since the humidity and temperature were steadily rising, I knew the rain was helping more than it was hurting.  Was starting to get concerned about the boardwalk section being slick, but by the time I got back to that part of the trail the rain had stopped and the boards were mostly dry.

Of course the race photography got me again as I was still a little wet in my stylish custom pajama running shorts.

Coming out of the wildlife refuge; about 2 miles left
I was starting to feel the strain of the marathon with about 2 to 3 miles remaining.  My quads were screaming to stop and I was really hungry.  My hydration was really good as I had water at each of the water stops and was carrying Nuun with me.

Getting tired; a mile to go

I think the photo above shows how tired I was.  My form is all over the place.  Thankfully the fabric my pajamas were made out of didn't bother me. I was a little concerned that it would rub or chaff my legs.  Especially when it started to get wet, but it tried fairly quickly and ended up being more comfortable than I thought.

Crossing the finish line
Seeing the finish line is always a welcome sight.  There was a lot of great support on the course from volunteers and actually a lot of spectators cheering us on through the course.  The 6 miles out on the trail to New Castle Elementary School was quiet for sure except for race support, but otherwise lots of folks were out on the street and in front of their homes cheering us on.

I grabbed a water at the finish line after getting my medal and quickly dropped in a Nuun Rest tablet I had been carrying around with me.  I grabbed a bag of Utz chips, found my wife, and back up to the hotel we went; stopping at Starbucks along the way of course.

Delaware Marathon Finishers Medal
The finishers medal is actually really nice and can double as a bottle opener. It even has a magnetic strip on the back so you can place it on your refrigerator for easy access.

Overall I would highly recommend this event.  It is smaller in size which makes it really nice.  The course was really pretty and had a lot of great scenery to keep you energized.  The Expo was pretty weak, only about 5 tables, but based on the post race emails, they took feedback and will work on attracting more sponsors for next year.

If you aren't local, staying at the host hotel worked really well.  The staff was reasonably nice, but the employee that checked me in was fairly rude.  A quick look online shows that this seems to be a theme at this particular hotel, but the rooms were nice and the beds were comfortable.  As I mentioned the dinner in the bar was really good and worked great as a pre-race meal.  Just don't forget your running shorts.

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