Thursday, June 14, 2018

Race Recap: 2018 Vermont City Marathon

Today we pass the mic to Tanya Senanayake, a Kiprunner who just set a new PR at the 2018 Vermont City Marathon.  Congratulations to her and to all of the other event participants.

I ran in the 30th anniversary of the Vermont City Marathon in Burlington, VT this past Memorial Day weekend, and it was a phenomenal experience. The course is USATF-certified and runs along Lake Champlain, with views of the Adirondack Mountains. And the race itself displays a strong sense of local pride and community.

Pre-Race Activities 

I stayed at Hotel Vermont, a few blocks from both the start and finish lines. The hotel was filled with runners for the weekend, with many of the hotel staff either running or volunteering at the race. And the free tea / coffee / water stations on each floor made it easy to hydrate throughout the weekend.
Hotel Vermont coffee bar
My hydrating station at Hotel Vermont
After checking in on Friday, I left for a slow three-mile jog down the bike path nearby. On my way out the door, I ran into Meb Keflezighi in the lobby! Meb was gracious and kind, and it was a fitting start to what turned out to be an amazing weekend.
Lake Champlain with rocks in the foreground
View of Lake Champlain from bike path
The Vermont City Marathon Expo was in the conference room of a hotel about 1.5 miles away. The Expo was easy to navigate and featured many local Vermont products, and the volunteers were eager to welcome all of us. On an impulse, I bought a collapsible Nathan hand-held bottle from one of the vendors to use in the marathon. This turned out to be a great decision, allowing me to take my proven Tailwind Endurance Fuel on the course, without being weighed down by my fuel belt for the whole race.

Saturday had a few race activities. Meb took photos with runners by the lake in the morning. That evening, the pasta dinner provided us the opportunity to meet other runners and hear the inspiring Colleen Kelly Alexander speak. After the dinner, I went to Church Street Marketplace to find spaghetti and meatballs, because we all have fixed and necessary pre-run traditions and meatballs are mine. The area was filled with runners, families, and friends—and that distinctive night-before-a-marathon energy.

Meb Keflezighi and Tanya Senanayake at Vermont City Marathon
Standing with Meb Keflezighi at the Waterfront

The Race 

The weather was cool and overcast on Sunday morning. The start line had thousands of runners, some running the marathon and some running as part of a marathon relay team. The race started exactly at 7:03 am, as promised. As we wound through the streets in the early miles, people came out of their houses to wave and shout “Welcome to Vermont!” A light mist settled on us as we ran through Church Street Marketplace and downtown Burlington. At the relay exchange points, volunteers ushered relay runners to a separate lane for their exchanges, while the marathoners continued without interruption. This was my first marathon with relay runners on course, and I found the whole process to be smooth—and it was good to see fresh runners pushing our pace after each exchange.
Tanya Senanayake smiling mid-race
Really enjoying the course! (Photo provided by Untapped)
We continued onto a highway for four miles; drummers and volunteers with Untapped maple syrup shots and energy waffles dotted the area. The road sloped a bit, Meb ran by on the other side for the first leg of his relay team and high-fived runners, and then we were heading back toward the city for Miles 6 through 8.

The course had several rolling hills, but spectators lined all of the difficult uphill sections. We made our way through Burlington, eventually running through neighborhoods filled with block parties, people cheering in lawn chairs and on curbs and in parking lots, energizing music, tall trees, and throngs of kids offering cold lemonade and popsicles to runners. With all of this, the miles passed quickly. At around Mile 15, we hit the six-block hill nicknamed the Assault on Battery but were pushed on by people lining both sides of Battery Street screaming their support.
Tanya Senanayake running hills at Vermont City Marathon
Convincing myself that the worst of the hills was over (Photo provided by Untapped)
We ran on a dirt trail surrounded by tall, magnificent trees, and finally around Mile 22 onto the bike path leading to the waterfront for the last four miles. These miles felt tough, despite the shade, flat or downhill terrain, smiling spectators, and the most delicious pineapple popsicle that someone put into my hand at Mile 23. The finish line was almost a blur, with cheering spectators lining both sides of the finishing chute. I realized that I had PRed by 16 minutes but, most importantly, for the first time I felt strong at the marathon’s end.

The finish area welcomed runners with pizza, ice cream, recovery snacks, and heavy, colorful medals. And the waterfront area where the marathon finished is beautiful.
Tanya Senanayake Vermont City Marathon finish photo
At the finish

After the Race 

Lots of recovery for the last two weeks! Slow, short jogs, rolling, and hydrating. This was the first marathon that I’ve run where I felt strong, without the dreaded IT band injury / leg locking that I’ve encountered in previous marathons. Under Coach Wilson’s guidance, I made several changes in this training cycle that facilitated my feeling so good during and after the marathon: (1) steadfastly focusing on strength training; (2) overhauling my hydration with Tailwind Endurance Fuel (we all need to find what works for us, and this fuel has consistently prevented the muscle cramps that had previously characterized my long runs); and (3) Coach Wilson’s higher-mileage training plan that gradually moved me into sustaining longer distances.

I was floored by how genuinely and enthusiastically the residents of Burlington welcomed us into their community that weekend, and how many locals ran, volunteered, or cheered for runners in this race. If you’re looking for a late spring marathon or a marathon relay with friends, I highly recommend the Vermont City Marathon. It promises a weekend of fun events, the friendliest locals, and race scenery (and non-race sightseeing!) that spans charming city streets to very cleansing wooded trails.

Lake Champlain at sunset
Post-marathon sunset view of Lake Champlain

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