I struggled through the hot Providence Marathon, but enjoyed exploring a new state

View of a bike path with a body of water to the left, a fence to the left, and trees on both sides.
I took a few photos during the race once I realized I would not hit my time goal. This is the East Bay Bike Path near the Mile 18 marker. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

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

For several years, the only East Coast state I hadn’t visited was Rhode Island. So, I found a reason to go — the Providence Marathon. After my trip this month, I’ve now been to every East Coast state, and I ran my 16th marathon in my 12th state. The Providence Marathon is held in Rhode Island’s capital of Providence, with the course taking runners into East Providence and Barrington before heading back.

Two runners pose for a selfie with other runners in the background.
Here I am with Bill before the start of the shakeout run. (Bill Brent photo)

I decided to drive up from Maryland. Google Maps had estimated the drive at six-and-a-half or seven hours, but it took much longer with the traffic. However, I drove up on Friday before the Sunday race, so I still had the full day to get my race packet on Saturday.

I kicked off Saturday morning with a race-sponsored shakeout run from India Point Park. I saw BibRave Ambassador Bill heading over to the run as I made my way down some steps, and we headed over together to meet the group. For the shakeout run, the small group ran out and back on the East Bay Bike Path, which would be featured as part of the race the next day. Most of the runners that came out for the run were way faster than me, but I ended up running with another runner, Ned, at the back of the pack. We still averaged a 12:13 pace for nearly 3.5 miles, which was faster than my average marathon pace the next day.

After that, I stopped by nearby PVDonuts before heading back to my Airbnb in the Hope Street area to take a shower. Driving and parking in unfamiliar-to-me Downtown Providence was a bit of a hassle, so I decided to take one of the plentiful scooters down to the expo, where I met another BibRave ambassador, Khadidja. We easily picked up our packets and also ran into another BibRave ambassador, Linnea, there. Linnea was heading back home, but Khadidja and I had a delicious lunch at Dune Brothers Seafood and also did a little bit of sightseeing.

Selfie of three women at a race expo.
Here I am with Linnea (center) and Khadidja (right). (Khadidja Boucenna photo.)

I’d had success using the Bird scooters, so I left the scooter I’d used right outside my Airbnb and decided to ride it to the race start the morning of Sunday, May 7. This worked great, as it was only a 1.7-mile ride and then I didn’t have to find or pay for parking.

Soon after arriving, I made my way to a portable toilet, and then, while walking around, I saw another BibRave ambassador, Riley, and we got a photo.

I decided to go to the bathroom again to hopefully avoid having to stop during the race (I still haven’t been able to avoid that, but at least my stop during this race was quick). The lines had gotten much longer, and I was getting really close to the start of the race. Some waves had begun, but I didn’t want to ask to go ahead in the line until someone else asked for me. The half marathon started 30 minutes later, so thankfully, half marathoners were able to let me ahead of them, and I made it to the starting corral right in time for the start of the last wave, where I expected to be anyway.

Although the race is self-described as flat, not many areas are truly flat compared to where I live. I live in pancake-flat Salisbury, Maryland, and the only races I’ve done that I would describe as flat are in Salisbury, surrounding towns, and in beach towns. Although I knew I’d have to deal with some hills, I still thought I could aim for a sub-5:29 marathon. If I could run under 5:29:15, my time at hilly Atlanta in 2020, I would run my fastest marathon since Salisbury in 2019 (4:50:41 — I knew I wouldn’t be coming close to that).

I started out near the 5:20 pacer and ran with her for about two miles. Although I didn’t know if I would be able to keep up a 5:20 pace, I figured if I could run with her or at least keep her in sight, I would beat the 5:29 goal. I’ve paced 14 half marathons, and it was fun being part of a pace group and hearing the cheers without having to do the thinking. However, after the first water stop, I lost the group, and I soon started realizing it would be too warm of a day for me to try to run 5:20. She was the last marathon pacer; there was no slower group option.

Selfie of two female runners in orange shirts.
Here I am with Riley before the start of the race. (Riley Fickett photo)

When I’d talked to Bill the day before, he mentioned there was a big hill during Mile 3 and an uphill at the end. The one at the end I really wasn’t too concerned about — while I don’t love having a hill at the end, I can push through if I know I’m about to be done. However, Mile 3 is pretty early on, and I didn’t want to wear myself out.

After running the first two miles in 11:24 and 11:52, I ran my third mile, featuring the hills, in 12:53. The first six miles are almost the same as the last six miles, so I was taking note of what to remember for my way back. From about mile marker 3 through 5 and mile marker 21 through 23 was a ramp and construction-type area that wasn’t very scenic. Otherwise, I found the course to be pretty scenic and a little more rural than I’d been expecting.

During Mile 7, I made a bathroom stop — there was no one in there and no line, and I was able to be pretty quick. After this stop, there was a long uphill section that was kind of demoralizing because it seemed to never end. There was a Strava segment for this section that I saw afterward (titled “Interlocken-Pawtucket Parkway Hills”) that logged this 0.7-mile segment as 110 feet of gain with a 2.9 percent grade.

It was sunny, and I started to feel warm pretty early on, but around the Mile 10 marker, I actually talked about it briefly with another runner, which at least made me feel like it wasn’t just me. After losing the group, I’d started doing run-walk intervals, which always helps me mentally and physically. While the hills had an impact, I set the intervals at a four-minute run and one-minute walk. I also got water at each of the water stops, and got electrolytes (Nuun) at some of the stops as well. I brought my own UCAN fuel that I also took during the race.

The course had been on roads until about Mile 10.5, where we got on the East Bay Bike Path. There were points when we could see the runners coming back on the other side, as well as the people cheering for them. There were some enthusiastic volunteers and spectators, but it seemed like there were more spectators for the earlier runners. I did see one volunteer, who mentioned she follows me on social media, three times, which was fun (and we got to connect online afterward!). I also saw another person cheering twice and mentioned that I’d seen her before, and there was even someone cheering from an upper-floor window.

Female runner moving forward with other runners behind her.
Here’s a race photo from pretty early on (you can see the gels in my pockets).

We left the bike path before getting to the Mile 12 marker, and went onto the road. There was a timing mat at about Mile 12.5 (on the results, it is marked as 13.1 miles with a time of 2:44:29). I did look at my watch at the half-marathon mark and my time was 2:50-something. While I didn’t have much hope for running a negative split, at least I had a decent cushion to come in under the 6:00 mark.

My slowest marathon to-date is Grandma’s Marathon last summer, with a time of 5:56:17, and I had a lot of issues during that race. I’d been working on my speed ahead of the Providence Marathon, and I had some hope for beating some of my recent times (three of my past five marathons before Providence had a time of 5:34-something).

I had looked at the course map, and while I didn’t have any familiarity with the area, I did see that we would turn around and start to head back around Mile 13 or 14. This part of the course took runners around the Rhode Island Country Club and near the water. I was struggling in the heat, but it mentally felt nice once I made the turn to start heading the other direction.

After a stretch on the road, we got back onto the East Bay Bike Path, now heading the other direction. I remembered a few spots where we’d seen runners going the other way, and at one point, one of the spectators said something like “You’ll be there soon,” referring to the other side. The course was set up so that while one direction of runners was on the bike path, the other direction of runners was on a road, so there were not two directions of runners on the bike path at the same time. However, particularly as the day got later, there were more and more cyclists on the path. It would have been nice if the path were closed off for the race.

I had been stopping at every aid station. Unfortunately, when I came to the Mile 16 aid station, they had run out of cups. The cups were smaller than usual race cups and I had been getting a few at each station; however, at least I was kind of near the end. I was actually surprised during the race that there weren’t too many runners around me. Runners expecting to do a 14:00 or higher pace could start early, at 6:30 a.m. I ended up finishing 1,523rd of 1,644 in the marathon, so I only finished ahead of 121 runners. However, I did see some of the same runners more than once throughout the course as we went back and forth.

Female runner on a path, holding a phone in one hand and a water bottle in the other.
In this race photo, I am struggling in the heat toward the end of the race, with a water bottle in-hand.

I was thinking I should have saved a cup and I started to worry about the future stations not having water. Thankfully, they did have cups at the other aid stations. I kept thinking I should save a cup just in case and I kept forgetting. The heat was pretty miserable.

I got some water and electrolyte cups from volunteers, but some of the aid stations were also set up with runners grabbing their own cups instead of getting them from volunteers. It seemed like some aid stations were understaffed, but I did appreciate the amount of water stops.

Although I definitely wanted to finish under 6:00 and hopefully under 5:56, it was pretty hard to focus too much on time goals because of the heat. I just tried to keep moving forward and try to keep miles under 15:00. I only had one mile that was over 15:00 — Mile 18. Even if I was well under, using 15:00 as a goal made for easy calculations because four miles in 15:00 each is one hour.

After another stretch on the road, we were back on the bike path from about Mile 16.5 until past the mile 21 marker. I was finding myself walking more, so I switched to three-minute-run/one-minute-walk intervals to keep myself motivated. I did find myself passing more people in the last several miles, though some of those were likely the early starters.

Probably because of the heat and my hydration level, I was also finding myself having issues with coughing during a decent amount of the race. I got a diagnosis of irritable larynx syndrome last year, so it certainly helps to know what it is, but I was having trouble getting my strategies to work well.

I could definitely tell the difference when we were in shaded areas versus right in the sun. I also enjoyed the water views, and there was a part of the bike path that had us surrounded by water on both sides, which was scenic.

After leaving the bike path, it was time for the ramps and construction area. There was a long, somewhat gradual hill that seemed to take forever that led us toward the ramps. I walked a lot of this area.

Female runner on the road with other runners behind her.
I was excited to be near the end of the race (Khadidja Boucenna photo).

Toward the end of the race, I ended up getting some ice in my hat— a strategy I learned from volunteering at the Eagleman and IRONMAN Maryland events — which really did feel great, and it took a while to melt. I also had a volunteer pour water on the back of my neck at one point.

I knew there had been uphills during Mile 3, so I tried to take advantage of downhills during Mile 24. In the Fox Point neighborhood area, with about two miles to go, a spectator was offering cold water bottles. I thought about it, deciding whether I wanted to run with a water bottle or accept a bottle from a random person, but I took it, and I’m so glad I did. I’d been getting water at each aid station, but I think I just needed more.

I carried it with me to the end of the race and skipped getting anything at the next aid station. At some point near this, another runner asked if he thought we’d make it under six hours, and I said I was really going to try. I had calculated that we were on pace for that, but I didn’t want to be wrong.

Runners then went through India Point Park and back into Downtown Providence. I was preparing for the hill at the end, and luckily, leading up to that, the course was pretty flat. I tried to pick up some speed, because I really didn’t want to run my slowest marathon. Near the end of the race, I actually saw someone painting a mural, which was cool.

Right before making the left turn up onto the hill, I saw Khadidja, who cheered for me and took photos and a video. Seeing her gave me a burst of energy, and because I knew I’d be cutting it close to my time from Grandma’s, I powered up the hill and headed to the finish.

Exhausted, I crossed the finish line with a time of 5:53:58. I got a banana, a bottle of water and a sports drink that I didn’t really like, and I also had my post-race beer. I chose a beer from Fiddlehead since I planned to visit Narragansett later in the day (which I did). There were nearby food trucks, but I didn’t see free food samples that I thought would be at the finish (I didn’t go over to the food trucks).

I checked my weather app shortly after finishing the race, and the temperature had reached 76 degrees. That might not seem too bad, but believe me, it felt terrible, particularly this early in the season.

I didn’t have too long in Providence — Friday through Monday, including driving — so after the race, I took a shower, changed and headed to the Rhode Island School of Design Museum, which was really interesting. Then, I stopped at Narragansett Beer and also got a bubble waffle ice cream sandwich at Kow Kow before heading back. I was a little sore, of course, but I was actually disappointed that I didn’t get to the level of soreness that I usually do post-marathon.

The weather is always a factor, but if it hadn’t been so hot and sunny, I do think I could have run faster. However, I survived and did not need medical attention, so that’s a win.

Selfie of Vanessa Junkin holding medal from The Providence Marathon.
I had to show off my medal in a selfie after finishing the race.

I don’t currently have my next marathon on the schedule, so I’m not sure when it will be. I’ll wait and see to determine my fall goals.


Mile 1: 11:24
Mile 2: 11:52
Mile 3: 12:53
Mile 4: 12:37
Mile 5: 12:02
Mile 6: 13:24
Mile 7: 14:52
Mile 8: 13:20
Mile 9: 12:44
Mile 10: 13:30
Mile 11: 12:55
Mile 12: 14:01
Mile 13: 13:36
Mile 14: 12:12
Mile 15: 13:52
Mile 16: 13:55
Mile 17: 13:11
Mile 18: 15:17
Mile 19: 14:32
Mile 20: 13:23
Mile 21: 14:26
Mile 22: 14:28
Mile 23: 14:31
Mile 24: 13:50
Mile 25: 13:21
Mile 26: 12:25
Last part (watch had .49): 5:17 (10:54 pace)

Time on watch: 5:54:01 / 13:22 pace for 26.49 miles; time on results: 5:53:58 / 13:31 pace

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

Close-up of The Providence Marathon medal with a blurred background of water and trees.
I took a photo of my race medal against the backdrop of India Point Park.

One thought on “I struggled through the hot Providence Marathon, but enjoyed exploring a new state

  1. congratz! Now I really want to run this marathon. Last weekend was hot! I was running in the shade at a lake and I could hardly stand the heat. Can’t imagine being out in the open. Putting ice under the hat trick is nice. I learned that recently too

    Liked by 1 person

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