The Louisiana Marathon: 26.2 miles at age 26.2

Here’s my race bib before the race, along with my “26.2 miles / 26.2 years” bracelet and a Mardi Gras-style necklace I got at the expo. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

On Sunday at The Louisiana Marathon, I ran 26.2 miles in the city where I was born 26.2 years ago.

I was originally hoping to earn a new personal record at the Jan. 15 race in Baton Rouge, but my finish time turned out to be more perfect: 4:53. I was born at 4:53 a.m.

In addition to wearing my “26.2 miles / 26.2 years” Momentum Jewelry wrap during the race, I made up a quick sign with a Sharpie and a piece of computer paper before I left to pin on my back that read “I’m age 26.2 today!” A couple people wished me a happy birthday as I ran. My birthday was actually at the end of October — I calculated the 0.2 of a year to see when I’d be 26.2. I explained this to the first person, but the second time, I just said thank you.

Unfortunately, I ended up losing the sign at some point, probably around Mile 10. I didn’t think of the fact that sweat would cause the paper to rip away from the pins — that’s probably why race bibs are made out of a different material. I felt it flopping around and then at some point it was gone.

With my registration, I received this T-shirt and bag. They are shown with the finisher medal. (Vanessa Junkin photo) 

I have lived in Maryland since I was a baby, so although I was born in Louisiana, I grew up in Maryland. For the race, I wore a Maryland flag headband I’d purchased at the Across the Bay 10K expo from Charm City Run, along with my Rehoboth Beach Running Company socks. (Rehoboth Beach is in Delaware, but I love that race and that city and wanted to represent!) A couple people commented on my headband, with one noting she was also from Maryland. Another said something to me like, “Go, Maryland!”

The race expo was the day before, on Saturday, at the Baton Rouge River Center. I picked up my bib, shirt and bag and bought a few other items — some Louisiana State University tiger socks and a Varsity Sports singlet/tank top. I made sure to get a picture with the huge inflatable Community Coffee cup, since my mom used to work there. I also got a Mardi Gras-style necklace from the Visit Baton Rouge booth.

Here’s the start of The Louisiana Marathon before we got going. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

My boyfriend, Mike, drove me to the start in downtown Baton Rouge the next morning. The race began at 7 a.m., and I got there probably a little after 6 a.m. I had time to use one of the portable toilets — there were plenty — and chill a bit before the race.

I ran with my phone in a Spibelt, but didn’t use it or take any pictures during the race. I did take a photo in the corrals right before the race began.

I posted a picture of my spot in the corrals on social media that I’d see how long I could stick with the 4:15 pacer — staying on track with the pacer would get me to a PR.

I didn’t take photos during the race, but the following day I went back and got a few along the course. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

It was very foggy at the start and the music almost reminded me of something out of The Hunger Games. It wasn’t bad, but I don’t think I’ve ever been at a race where the start was quite so foggy. People were very friendly and I introduced myself to the 4:15 pacer and talked to a guy near me at the start.

I had a fast start for me, but it would turn out that I couldn’t stick with the pacer long enough for it to matter.

My first five miles were all under 10 minutes, and somehow I ended up passing the 4:15 pacer without realizing it. Later, though, the 4:15 pacer would pass me, along with the 4:30 and 4:40 pacers. I never saw a 5-hour pacer, though.

We soon left the downtown area and ran through the Louisiana State University campus, which was cool. My dad went to graduate school there. The first part of the course had lots of lake views, and there was one scene in particular where I would have taken a picture if I were taking photos — the colors of all the runners’ clothes were reflecting on the lake.

I felt strong at the beginning, but around Mile 9, I felt the need to walk. I already felt kind of tired and I had more than half of the race left. The bottoms of my feet were hurting.

Here’s another photo from along the course, taken the following day. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

I crossed the first 10K in 1:01:02, and by the time I was at the halfway point, I was at 2:15:17, according to the race results. I think I crossed that halfway timing mat right before the 4:30 pacer, but I would soon lose the group.

There was a period of time in the middle where I didn’t feel as bad, but once I got to the area of Mile 19, my quads started killing me. From what I can recall, it was the most my quads have ever hurt in a race (or a run), and the pain continued through the end of the race — and for the next few days. I would give myself times when I could walk again, and I stopped at all the official water stops. There were plenty of water stops, which was much appreciated.

While not as hot as some races I have done in the summer, it certainly felt hot and humid for January for someone who lives in Maryland. A day or so before the race, I had seen that 95 percent humidity was predicted at the start, and I think the weather was in the 60-to-70-degree range. The heat and humidity seemed to bother me more on my walk breaks, because when I was running, the pain was more prevalent.

The volunteers were awesome. As I wrote in a comment on the race’s Facebook page, I looked forward to seeing those groups of light blue T-shirts. Volunteers had Honey Stinger (I brought my own Clif Shot Bloks that I trained with), water, Powerade and ice. I took plenty of water from the stops, often taking more than one cup, and put some ice down the front and back of my shirt at stops, sometimes putting one in my hair or even rubbing it on my face.

The volunteers were friendly and people cheered for me by name — although I didn’t know the volunteers, not being from the area, my first name was on my bib. They were clear about what item they had and were very upbeat.

Here I am after finishing The Louisiana Marathon. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

The spectators along the course were also appreciated. There were plenty of fun signs, which I enjoyed reading. There were plenty of additional aid stations, from mimosas to beer to donuts and pigs in a blanket. Living in Maryland, I’m not as used to hearing “y’all,” and I liked that people were shouting things like, “Good job, y’all!”

Although I didn’t indulge in any of these foods/drinks, as I didn’t want to make the run harder on myself and wasn’t sure how it would affect me, I did happily take some Vaseline from a family that had some. I ended up with some awful chafing on both underarms. Chafing in that area had never happened to me before. The only time I have had chafing in the underarm area was during the Tacky Prom 5K, and for that, I was wearing a sequined dress.

Other runners were motivating, as well. I think it was another runner — although it could have been a spectator — who called me “determined.” Someone also referred to me as a “gazelle,” although I told him that this gazelle was going to walk soon at the water stop.

Gumbo was just one of the foods available after the race. (Vanessa Junkin photo) 

During the last several miles, I saw many of the same runners. The marathon has a cap of 2,000 runners, so once the half marathoners turned off, it got a lot more empty. Closer to the end, I would see several people that, depending on our walk breaks/water stops, I would pass and they’d pass me. We kept passing each other.

I was happy to reach Mile 20, and remarked this to another runner, who said we still basically had half of the race left — at least mentally. While it was certainly the hardest part of the race on my legs, I always like getting to that point because it seems like the end is near.

I looked forward to walk breaks, but it was also tough to start again from a walk. I felt like it was a bit of a waddle each time I went from a walk back to a slow run.

I saw Mike around Mile 24. It was nice to see him, although my legs were really hurting at that point and I was ready for the race to be over.

Much of the course went through neighborhoods, and at times, I thought of local races I have done through neighborhoods, like the Tim Kennard River Run and Mike Sterling/Crab Derby 10K.

Here I am enjoying a beer after finishing The Louisiana Marathon on Sunday, Jan. 15. (Michael Piorunski photo)

The race was relatively flat, but living on the flat Eastern Shore of Maryland, it almost seemed like there were small rolling hills. Near the end of the race, there was an overpass that presented what seemed like the biggest hill of the course. The Mile 25 marker was at the top of it. I walked up the hill and then gave the race everything I had left before reaching the finish line.

My original goal had been to get a personal record. My PR is 4:17:45 — still my first marathon of now. But once that became out of reach, I thought maybe I could at least beat my time at Baltimore — 4:52 — and end up with my third-fastest marathon. A third-fastest marathon would put this race in my top half of marathon times.

As I neared the finish, I saw 4:53 on the finish clock and I realized that I could finish the race in 4:53, the time I was born. I didn’t make that connection until I saw the numbers illuminated at the finish line. I tried to keep running hard, and although those illuminated numbers read 4:54-something by the time I got there, my chip time — the time it took me to cross the start line to the finish line — was 4:53:11.

Although this was not my fastest marathon, I was still faster than my times at the Shamrock Marathon last year and the Big Sur International Marathon.

The post-race party included plenty of Louisiana cuisine and Abita beer. After sitting down for a little bit (I know you aren’t really supposed to sit, but I needed to) and waiting a little for Mike to arrive, I walked around some and tried some of the food and got a beer. I especially liked one of the gumbos that I had, and other foods included red beans and rice, jambalaya and mac and cheese, along with some beer.

With plenty of vendors and a stage, it looked like a festival at the post-race party. My name and hometown of Salisbury, Maryland, were also announced as I crossed the finish line, which was cool.

I ended up seeing and talking briefly with some of the people I’d been near at the end at the post-race party, which was also nice.

Living in Maryland, this won’t be a race I’ll be able to return to year after year, but it was the perfect place to commemorate my 26.2 years on Earth.

Splits, according to watch: 

Mile 1: 9:38

Mile 2: 9:48

Mile 3: 9:27

Mile 4: 9:30

Mile 5: 9:31

Mile 6: 10:22

Mile 7: 11:24

Mile 8: 9:32

Mile 9: 9:56

Mile 10: 11:06

Mile 11: 11:46

Mile 12: 10:42

Mile 13: 10:30

Mile 14: 11:31

Mile 15: 11:44

Mile 16: 12:29

Mile 17: 10:09

Mile 18: 11:15

Mile 19: 12:02

Mile 20: 12:18

Mile 21: 14:06

Mile 22: 12:33

Mile 23: 11:52

Mile 24: 12:33

Mile 25: 11:36

Mile 26: 11:45

.2 (watch logged .43): 4:06

Total: 4:53:11 – watch average pace: 11:05/mile; race results average pace: 11:12/mile

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9 thoughts on “The Louisiana Marathon: 26.2 miles at age 26.2

  1. Congrats on your Marathon! I am from MD too (we have a place in Ocean City so you are close!) and I LOVE Louisiana and always dreamed of doing a big race down there… maybe one day! We usually go to New Orleans to eat and relax, lol, but I love running down there, especially this time of year! My only 2 marathons so far are Baltimore and Gettysburg so a flat race would present a whole new set of challenges. Cheers to a great start for 2017!

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