This is the second preview run for the new Columbia Marathon, which is on March 10. I signed up for the full marathon over a year ago. It was originally to be a point-to-point course from Ballentine, over the dam past Irmo, and into Columbia via 378. Unfortunately a police issue required a major redo of the course, and now it is a double loop in similar areas as the Gov Cup half. I’m not a big fan of double loop courses, but I’m just glad my hometown is finally getting a marathon again. Dan Hartley, who directs the Harbison 50k, took on this huge project.
Let’s just say this course is…challenging. I ran the first preview run the day after a race and I was toast afterwards. Some serious hill climbing here. Trophy complained the whole way last time, especially when he got dropped on Gervais, but what else is new. To be fair I did my share of bitching and moaning and we were both trying not to get shamed by Hartley’s 10 year old daughter, who was pushing the pace in our group. We were doing sub 8 pace the whole way that time, so definitely no kids fun run. She still outkicked me to the 9 mile mark and said she was having an off day.
I was still in shock last time, so I tried to pay more attention this go around. I ran in a pack whose stated pace was going to be 8 minutes/mile. You can see from the garmin connect what happens when a bunch of competitive age-groupers do when asked to stick to a conservative pace. Captain marathon, myself and Trophy ran most of it together. Code and Greg were with us through 10, then decided to 5k it until the end. Greg was still following Bodourov method, and tacked on another 4 at the end. The jedi master himself was conspicuously absent. Teo , Nathan, JB and two of his friends were also in the pack. There was a nice crowd at that start, I want to say at least 50, though it was dark out. Ms. Diesel, Laura, Dawn , Flicker, Ty, Yerger, Team Schmitz, Rick, Burgess, Frank, Larry, Drew and Amy all made appearances.
MILE 1 – Start at the Flying Saucer, the epicenter of my universe. Deceptively flat and downhill, until about 6 tenths in. That’s when you get to reacquaint yourself with the evil mountain of the Red Nose Run (see last week) and the Jingle All the Way 5k. Straight up Blossom to Sumter. Quad killer right off the bat. Mile 1 is at the “summit”.
MILE 2-3 – Screaming downhill as you get to experience the Gov Cup horrific last half mile in reverse. Seems great, heading into the relatively flat 5 Points area, passing by the start of the Get to the Green 5k. Just when you see a nice stretch of road ahead, sudden detour up Mt. Saluda. Not the steepest hill, but lasts freaking forever. Has that nice more-steep-as-you- go quality that bathes your entire lower body in lactic acid. Mile 2 mark halfway up. Once you reach the summit, another blast downhill and then short rise again as you cross Harden into Shandon on Heyward St.
MILES 3-4 – This part is flat and fast. Not Selwyn flat and fast, but actually flat and fast. Straight up Heyward, some small rises and declines but nothing to get upset about. Nice shaded tree-lined residential streets.
MILES 4-5 – Columbia runners know Shandon as being flat and a generally nice place to run. What most dont know is that crossing over Kilbourne St crosses you over to the dark side. A harsh, inhospitable place called Sherwood Forest. Gov Cup steers you clear of this area, Cola marathon does not. The course goes straight downhill into this scary place, turns right, then brings you right back up a long spirit crushing hill on the second half of mile 5.
MILES 6-8 – Similar to Gov Cup – flat to decline on Kilbourne, slight detour into Heathwood then long general descent into the Lake Katherine neighborhood all the way to Shady Lane. I wouldnt recommend pushing the pace anywhere on this course, but if you were to do it, this is where you should.
MILE 8-9 – Turn onto Quail and you’re actually headed back toward home again. Yay! Slight incline with a nasty little bump on Forest Ridge right before you turn left on Trenholm. Trenholm to the mile 9 marker is fairly flat. This is where I got outkicked by a 10 year old girl 2 weeks ago. Nice ego booster.
MILE 9-10 – Trenholm, only one hell of a lot nastier. Basically continual incline with a few semi-flat areas thrown in. Right before Gervais, one more spirit crushing steep hill for good measure.
MILE 10-12 – Gervais St. For the uninitiated, the first part of Gervais is very nice – a long flat then descent to Millwood. For those familiar with Columbia, the relative relief of this stretch is tempered by overwhelming dread of what lies ahead. Just past the 11 mile mark, in the only ‘hood section of the course (by comparison, the Charleston Half is like 80 percent drive-by territory) , you can see Mt Gervais on the horizon. Crossing Millwood provides stage 1 – not so bad. You then fly down a long decline past Harden and the sun is blocked out by the asphalt ahead – stage 2. This is the parallel to the Blossom st hill/hell of the Gov Cup. A quad shredder, basically sucks any remaining will to live. Mile 12 marker is at the top, about the point where crawling into a fetal position to die sounds pretty good.
MILE 13+ – Turn onto Pickens for a quick loop around USC. One last little incline on Greene, then flat past the Russell House, Horsehoe on Sumter, and a turn back down the original monster hill on Pendleton. 13.1 by my Garmin is actually up near the South Main intersection, but running all the way back to the start is about 13.5 miles. The second loop for the full starts a bit away from the start, so I guess it all evens out in the end. The official certification on the half course is still pending. Correction – per Dan Hartley the half is now certified and cuts off some of the distance of the marathon loop in to make the official 13.1.
I think I’ve decided to gut out the full marathon. I originally debated dropping down to the half, but since a PR is not happening anyway, I figured to go ahead and get another marathon under my belt. No shades of Jacksonville here – I’ll probably be shooting for just under 4 hours.