Steamed Out at Steamtown Marathon

Steamtown Marathon 028When Boston Marathon decided to tighten up their qualification standards, Ben thought this might provide the incentive to run a sub-3 hr marathon. He hadn’t ran in a marathon in a while (he hates them) and was getting a little bored with triathlons. We examined all of the different marathons in the US and decided that Steamtown would offer Ben the best chance to qualify for Boston (BQ). Steamtown is known for being a fast downhill course (along with amusing emails with race info — see end of post for more details). In the first half of the course, there’s a net decline of almost 700 feet.

Ben registered last year and trained for Steamtown throughout the summer and fall until his foot injury at Newport Liberty Half Marathon. He had to lay off training to give his foot a chance to heal. When we arrived at Steamtown, his foot was feeling much better. We were hopeful that all the training he had put in was enough and the extra long taper wouldn’t hinder his BQ efforts.

Steamtown Marathon 002Saturday morning we drove to Scranton and arrived at the expo. Much to my excitement, an AlterG demo was set up in a large van outside the expo. An AlterG treadmill is a treadmill that is designed to vary how much of your own bodyweight you support like walking and running. In a regular treadmill, you support your entire weight. In an AlterG, it’s possible to have you support only a small proportion of your body weight. It’s supposed to be useful for physical therapy because you can exercise without straining yourself. I heard about AlterG and always wanted to try it out.

They give you pant-like thing for you to put your legs in. Then you hop into the machine and they zip you in. You want to create as tight a seal as possible because you don’t want any air from the inside to leak out. That air is what supports your body weight.

Steamtown Marathon 005I had fun playing around with the AlterG. As I ran, they varied how much of my weight I was supporting. I got to feel the difference between running with my full weight, 80% of my body weight, and 20% of my body weight. I felt so light at 20%. I was running on my tippy-toes. Not because I wanted to run on my tippy-toes, but I was so light that it was an effort to try to put my heels down on the treadmill. The other thing I noticed is that running feels different in an AlterG. Some of it I’m sure it’s because it’s a different equipment and some of it because I’m supporting less of my own weight, so I have different running mechanics. I quite enjoyed myself during the brief demo and I think I would like to spend a bit of time to play around with the AlterG properly.

We picked up Ben’s bib, went to lunch, checked into our hotel, went to the pasta dinner, made race signs and decided on our plans for RACE day. Early in the morning I would drop Ben off at the finish line so he could take the shuttle to the start line. I would meet him at the second Viewing Station that’s at Mile 16.6. Then I would meet him again just before Mile 24 and run with him as long as possible. I was also to bring with me, bags of ice, his hat, and some orange slices.

At the hotel I was really excited about making my race signs. Ben and I spent a bit of time coming up with something clever and timely. I decided to tie in the NSA to running and with Ben’s help came out with these four signs:

Steamtown Marathon 018Steamtown Marathon 016Steamtown Marathon 017Steamtown Marathon 019

Steamtown Marathon 021While waiting for Ben to show up at our first arranged location, I held up the signs and cheered for the runners. Because it was early on in the race, I was cheering for the front runners and the near front runners. Let me tell you, the front runners are a serious bunch. Most of them were running (very quickly) in a business-like manner. A few of them read my signs as they were running past and acknowledged my signs by cracking the tiniest little smiles. That was enough for me.

A few minutes after the first pack of runners went by, Ben arrived. I was ready for him. I had his hat, a big bag of ice, and some orange slices. Surprisingly Ben took a break and sat down. He shoved most of ice down his shirt and placed some of the ice in his hat and wore it. He was overly heated from the running. He shook his head and said that he didn’t think he could BQ. The time he took off for his injury took its toll and he lost some of his fitness. After drinking some water, he said he wasn’t sure what he felt like he was capable of doing. He was willing to finish the marathon if he could continue running fast and end up with what he considered to be a good time, but otherwise he was done. I told him to do whatever he felt like doing. If he decided to stop, he could call me and I would pick him up wherever he was.

About 10 minutes later, I got a call from Ben to pick him up at the Mile 18 marker. And then that was it. Ben’s chance to qualify for Boston was over. When I picked Ben up, he was in a remarkably cheerful mood. He was happy to no longer be running. Being forced into an extra long taper because of his injury meant that whatever momentum he was getting in terms of becoming fitter and faster was halted and even decayed. Ben admitted that the marathon distance is not his forte and he was perfectly fine with the idea of not BQing.

We went back to our hotel to shower and to recover. It’s a bit strange to think that our journey to Boston came to an end at Steamtown because we had been thinking and talking about this for so long. But marathons aren’t what define runners. Ben has decided to go back to focusing on half marathons.

One year we’ll talk about Boston again when I’m ready to make my own attempt at BQing. But for now, our trips to  Boston will be to see my sister and my little nephew.

Steamtown Marathon 032

Steamtown Marathon 035Steamtown Marathon 036

Steamtown Marathon 038

Steamtown Marathon is a great marathon if you’re looking for a fast course to help you BQ. There’s a huge net decline. It’s a small local race that weaves through several towns. I love races with character and this race has it in spades because of its hysterical race info emails by Jim Cummings, the Assistant Race Director, that you receive starting several weeks before race day. Ben shared a couple of these emails with me.

Sent on Sept 21


This is a true story.  It is about ipods.

Several Steamtowns ago, long afer the last runner had crossed the finish line on N. Washington Avenue, employees from our tent vendor arrived on the scene.  They lined about one dozen orange traffic cones at the end of the block – closing it to traffic.  They then drove to the middle of the block and parked their stake body truck adjacent to the food tent.  Truck in one lane, tent in the other.  Got it?

An elderly woman driver (we’ll call her Stella Grumpheimer) approached the scene (yes, she was driving a Cadillac).  When she got to the orange cones, did she….

A) Say, “goodness, the road must be closed” and turn onto a side street?

B) Sit there dumfounded causing traffic to back up?

C) Or, drive over the orange traffic cones?

So, after she drove over the traffic cones, she made her way to the middle of the block and arrived at the food tent and stake body truck. Tent in the left lane.  Truck in the right.  Did she…

A) Say, “Oops,” make a U-turn and reverse her tracks?

B) Sit there patiently until the tent company employees moved the truck for her?

C) Or, drive through the food tent?

So, when she drove through the food tent, she hit a support pole causing the whole thing to collapse on top of her, resulting in significant damage to her Cadillac.  She later sued the tent company for damages.  Her lawyer argued the tent company was liable because they failed to block entry to the food tent.  I believe they settled out of court.

ipods – OK, so here’s the part about ipods. Our volunteers and local police and fire departments do a great job controlling traffic on race day. We close as many roads as we can.

Unfortunately, some roads must remain open because they are along hospital routes or near churches.  It is important that you remain alert to your surroundings at all times. We respectfully request therefore, that you please not wear ipods, MP3 players, pillows, Lady Gaga, or any other such devices over your ears (but we will not DQ you if you do).  We just think you would want to hear a volunteer yell, “Warning runners, here comes Stella!” before it’s too late.

Sent Oct 14th (post race)

Post Race Party – Just got home from a very nice post race party at which we were all entertained by arm dancing runners.  I had two interesting discussions with volunteers.  Here is how they went:

Volunteer 1:  “You heard about the drunk lady right?”

Me: “Drunk lady?”

Volunteer 1: “Oh yeah, a lady tried to drive right through the course and the cops stopped her and arrested her for DUI.”

So here is what ran through my head:

1) Good job police.

2) A lady was driving drunk at 9 a.m. on a Sunday?

3) Was it Stella Grumpheimer and did she get tased?

Second conversation:

Volunteer 2: “You heard about the road rage guy at the bridge right?”

Me: “Road rage guy?”

“Volunteer 2: “Oh yeah, the flaggers stopped him from going over the bridge in Simpson just as the runners got there and he started yelling and screaming and revivng his engine saying he was going to drive over the bridge. But they stood in front of his car and wouldn’t let him move.”

So here is what ran through my head:

1) Good job flaggers.

2) The movie Christine with that really scary car.

3) The guy had to sit there for probably 45 minutes.  Ain’t karma grand?

Anyway, like you I am very tired so I am going to have some milk and cookies and go to bed.

With that, like Jim, I’m also going off to bed now.

4 thoughts on “Steamed Out at Steamtown Marathon

  1. 1) Those e-mails are hilarious.
    2) Super cool that you got to try the Alter G
    3) Sounds like Ben had a tough go of it. I’m glad he’s not beating himself up. Injuries are tough, and he gave it a good shake.

    Great pics, too!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s