I fought the wind to earn a strong finish at the Atlantic City Marathon

Disclaimer: I received an entry to the Atlantic City Marathon to as part of being a BibRave Ambassador. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Ambassador, and check out BibRave.com to find and write race reviews!

Vanessa Junkin crossing under inflatable Atlantic City Marathon Race Series arch on the boardwalk.
Here I am crossing the finish line of the Atlantic City Marathon. (Race photo.)

Once again, I was nearing the finish line of a marathon in about five hours and 34 minutes. First, it happened at the Marine Corps Marathon in 2019, during which I really struggled. My next 5:34 marathon was 25 seconds faster, at last fall’s Philadelphia Marathon.

This time, I was running on the Atlantic City Boardwalk and had been fighting a headwind for miles.

As I neared the inflatable finish arch for the AmeriHealth New Jersey Atlantic City Marathon on Sunday, Oct. 23, I gave it what I had to see if I could beat my time from Philly. I was able to do it — by just six seconds.

Race weekend started for me the day before. It had been a busy month and a busy week, as I’d just returned from a Tuesday through Thursday work trip to State College, Pennsylvania. It’s not very common that I travel for work, but it just worked out that way this time. I left Salisbury on Saturday morning with my friends Lauren, Diana B. and Diana S. After getting lunch on the way at the Milford Diner, we continued on to our Airbnb and the expo, which was at Bally’s in Atlantic City. There, we met up with our friends Richard and Christine.

It was fun to have such a nice group of friends from Salisbury doing this race. I am on an eventual journey to run a marathon in each of the 50 states, and this was my 15th marathon and 11th state. The last one I did, Grandma’s Marathon in Minnesota, I traveled to alone. I still had fun there, but it was fun to spend this weekend with friends.

Group of six friends holding and wearing props at a photo booth.
My friends and I got this fun photo at the expo. From left are me, Richard, Christine, Lauren, Diana and Diana. (Photo by Boothbusters.)

The race expo was pretty small, and I received my bib and a quarter-zip. There were a few vendors, and there was also a fun photo booth-type setup and other photo ops.

Three friends, wearing orange and running clothes, smiling.
I met up with BibRave Ambassadors Meridith (center) and Riley (right) before we started our races.

We had dinner at Angelo’s Fairmount Tavern and then headed back to get a good night of sleep before the race. It was easy for me to get up around 6 a.m., before the 8 a.m. start. I had some oatmeal and was able to go to the bathroom (always important!).

Although I have paced many half marathons, I always find it difficult to keep my pace at the exact same pace as a pacer when I am racing. However, I figured I would start near the 5:15 pacer (12:01 pace) and see how long I could stay with her. Lauren, Diana S. and I went to the left side of the corral, away from the pacer, because our friend Diana B. would be on that side to take our photos. I didn’t really end up running with the pacer at all; at one point, I caught up with her, but then I walked up a hill, so I just did my own thing.

Diana S. and I were together for a little at the beginning, but I didn’t want to dictate her pace. I had to stop to tighten my shoelaces early on, and then I caught back up to her, but then I walked at a hill and we ended up separating.

There was light rain throughout the run, which seemed to intensify in the last hour or so with the wind, but the rain was not a huge deal for me.

The first eight miles of the course seemed somewhat industrial, including a tunnel and some ramps, along with some off-boardwalk casinos. Figuring the race was flat, I was surprised there were a few hills in the first few miles. Coming from super-flat Salisbury, courses described as “flat” are not always so flat, but other than those few ramps at the beginning, this one really was.

Before the race began, I was able to meet up with fellow BibRave Ambassadors Meridith and Riley. Meridith, who was running the half, saw me in the tunnel and caught me on video. I saw Riley, who ran the marathon and was in front of me, during turnarounds, and she also captured me on video.

Vanessa Junkin running with the ocean in the background.
There was a race photographer who had us run to his left so we could get the surf in the background. (Race photo.)

Early on in the race, my body was feeling a little tired, maybe because of the hills. I’d trained a lot with run-walk intervals, and that really helps me mentally (and probably physically, too), so I decided to switch from mostly running to doing run-walk intervals at Mile 5. Although there were a few times later on when I needed to extend the walk, I did a pretty good job of keeping up my 4:00-run/45-second-walk intervals. I’m really glad I did this, as I was able to keep my splits pretty consistent.

I haven’t been able to run a marathon yet without making a bathroom stop, but I was thankful to be able to find a porta-potty with no wait right before I hit the Mile 7 marker, and including the stop, that wasn’t even my slowest mile of the day.

When I went onto the Boardwalk just before the Mile 8 marker, we went left and then quickly turned around to head south on the Boardwalk through Atlantic City and then Ventnor City. When I started going that direction, I definitely felt the push of wind behind me. I saw Diana B., who took my photo, soon after that.

Later on, I got to see Lauren and Richard on the way back to the half marathon finish line as I continued my race. I also saw the marathon winner on his way to the finish, well ahead of the next marathoner.

About five miles after we’d gotten onto the Boardwalk, it ended, and runners turned onto the road to continue on Atlantic Avenue in the same direction through Margate and Longport. I saw where Lucy the Elephant was — I visited there with my family as a kid — but the elephant building was being restored, so I couldn’t see it. I also remembered visiting my friend Vicky in this area during college.

Vanessa Junkin running on Atlantic City boardwalk with ferris wheel in the background.
I ran past the ferris wheel during my miles on the Atlantic City Boardwalk. (Diana B. photo.)

We made our way to the end of Atlantic Avenue right around Mile 16, and then turned around — now running against the wind. With about 10 miles left to go, I made the mental calculation that if I kept each remaining mile under 13:00, I would be able to finish in under 5:30. That wouldn’t be near a personal record, but if I were able to beat 5:29:15, my time from the 2020 Publix Atlanta Marathon, I would run my fastest marathon since April 2019 at Salisbury (I knew my Salisbury time was out-of-reach). I tried to stay consistent, but the wind certainly had an impact.

Vanessa Junkin smiling while running on the boardwalk as she nears the finish line of the race.
Here I am nearing the finish line of the Atlantic City Marathon. (Race photo.)

I fought the wind for a couple miles before we turned and did an out-and-back with a rectangle in Margate City. Although it was still windy, part of this run went the other direction, so that was a nice reprieve. There was not a ton of crowd support during this race (and the weather could have had an impact on that), but during one part on the out-and-back in Margate City, there was a group of people who saw me during a walk break said it was OK to keep walking. Then, I decided to get back to running and they gave me some excited cheers. There was another person I saw who cheered for me from a car. There were several people cheering from their cars as they drove down the streets.

After the Margate City out-and-back section, we had about five miles left. My watch had gotten off from the mile markers, which always happens, so I was hitting each marked mile about 0.3-mile after I hit it on my watch. I knew this would make a difference in my finish time, but I tried to keep pushing.

We got back on the Boardwalk around Mile 23. Unfortunately, the wind, which was also blowing rain in my face, was really getting to me. The day after the race, I looked up the weather for the previous day in Atlantic City, and on timeanddate.com, winds were listed between 15-17 mph between 10:54 a.m. and 1:17 p.m. I finished the race a little after 1:30 p.m.

On the out-and-backs during the marathon, I got to see Diana S. and Riley, who were both ahead of me.

As I got closer to the end, I knew I would finish well ahead of my time at Grandma’s Marathon, but I hoped to beat some of my other race times as well. I slowed down from Miles 23-25, but once I knew I had one mile left and would likely come close to some of my previous race times, I tried to give whatever I had left for the last mile, still taking some walk breaks but skipping a walk break in the last bit.

As I neared the finish line, I heard Diana B., Diana S. and Lauren cheering for me, and it was so fun to hear those personalized cheers at the end. I was wearing my orange BibRave shirt and hat, and a fellow runner called me the “orange lady” near the end of the race, too.

Vanessa Junkin smiling and holding her medal as she poses for a photo with the Atlantic City Marathon Race Series arch and buildings in the background.
Here I am showing off my medal after crossing the finish line. (Diana B. photo)

I crossed the finish line in 5:34:14 — 22 minutes faster than my most recent (and slowest) marathon, Grandma’s Marathon. Although it was a great event, I really struggled during Grandma’s. I started the race with chafing, I had serious issues with coughing while running, and I also had plantar fasciitis pain.

The Atlantic City Marathon was not perfect for me, but it felt great to not have the struggles I did during Grandma’s. Since Grandma’s, I have found a diagnosis for the coughing — irritable larynx syndrome. I coughed some at Atlantic City, but I was able to control it and it did not derail my race. I didn’t struggle with chafing until about two miles from the end, and I was able to get Vaseline at an aid station. I did feel some pain in my foot, but nowhere near as bad as it was during Grandma’s. I was also thankful that I only had to stop at a porta-potty once, as I had to stop three times during Grandma’s.

There were so many aid stations at Atlantic City, and I stopped at almost all, if not all, of them to get water and some Gatorade. I also used UCAN gels.

After crossing the finish line, I met up with my friends and I went to get my post-race beer. Unfortunately, the beer had run out, so I had a Truly. I also had a banana. We headed back to our place, showered and got dressed, and headed back to The Yard, where the post-race party was, for some burgers. I also got a beer since I’d missed out before. After that, the two Dianas and I enjoyed desserts at the Gordon Ramsay Pub.

Race swag included the quarter-zip, a nice medal and free race photos.

I’m excited that my running is moving in a positive direction, and I look forward to taking on the Algonquin 50K and road marathons next year. Algonquin will be my next marathon-plus race, and that’s in February, so I am glad to have a few months off from super-long-distance races, even though I’ll be doing some long runs during training.

Two friends smiling and posing for a photo on the Atlantic City boardwalk after completing a race.
Diana S. and I pose for a photo after finishing our race. (Diana B. photo.)

Splits

Mile 1: 11:19
Mile 2: 12:01
Mile 3: 12:04
Mile 4: 11:43
Mile 5: 11:45
Mile 6: 11:59
Mile 7: 13:43 (bathroom stop)
Mile 8: 11:38
Mile 9: 12:14
Mile 10: 11:37
Mile 11: 12:22
Mile 12: 12:43
Mile 13: 12:20
Mile 14: 12:56
Mile 15: 12:14
Mile 16: 12:12
Mile 17: 13:08
Mile 18: 12:46
Mile 19: 13:03
Mile 20: 13:33
Mile 21: 12:32
Mile 22: 12:43
Mile 23: 14:27
Mile 24: 13:36
Mile 25: 14:25
Mile 26: 12:37
Last part (watch had .61): 6:25 (10:27 pace)

Total on watch: 5:34:17; 26.61 miles; 12:34 pace
Total on results: 5:34:14; 12:45 pace

Splits according to results: 5K in 39:12; 10K in 1:16:03; 19 miles in 4:00:26

Read my BibRave review — and write your own — here.

Close-up of Atlantic City Marathon medal with blurred trees in the background.
I really like the finisher medal!

3 thoughts on “I fought the wind to earn a strong finish at the Atlantic City Marathon

  1. You are a rock star, Vanessa! So glad we found each other at the start and while running too – definitely kept me pushing throughout! Let’s plan another get together soon.

    Liked by 1 person

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