I had two running goals coming into 2016. The first was to run over 1,200 miles for the year, which is a mark I will pass during tomorrow’s race. The other goal was to take on a new challenge. My choices were between an obstacle race or a marathon. I decided on the 26.2 mostly because that’s what runners are supposed to do, right? My plan was that while knowing a marathon was coming up, I would take more time to cross/strength train throughout the year. Ya, well that didn’t happen.
The Prairie Fire Marathon takes place in Wichita, KS. It’s a fairly popular race for people wanting to qualify for Boston, as it’s a pretty flat course. Taking place in the beginning of October, the weather can be perfect for running. One of my favorite features of the Prairie Fire races is the Back 2 Back options they provide. I ran the half marathon in the spring, and got a discount for then running the full marathon in the fall.
The Prairie Fire expo was fairly small, with only a dozen or so booths (half of which weren’t running related). We were still able to find a few items to spend our money on, but it didn’t very much of time to do so.
Race morning seemed well-organized, as parking in the nearby garage was easy. We walked around the area for a while waiting for the race to start, as I kept trying to tell Meghan she could leave and do something more fun than waiting on me for several hours.
The marathon started on time, and I got going at my goal pace. We started out running East through downtown Wichita, and then through some nicer neighborhoods until we split from the half marathon group. The route continued on towards Rock Road, and I was feeling great. My wonderful wife met me along the course several miles in, so I could change out my Gatorade bottle. After getting over to Rock Road, we started to head back West as I continued to feel pretty good.
Around the 11 mile mark I started to feel some soreness in my foot, but no big deal I just slowed down a little bit. By the time we made it into downtown that soreness changed into a little pain, and by mile 16 I was ready to start walking. I spent the next 10 miles alternating between walking and running, though it was mostly walking. Maybe I
should have stuck to my idea of strength and cross training to prepare for this? No matter, I was going to finish this race.
I continued at a snail’s pace until the 23 mile mark. At that time I was passed by a few people who I refused to let finish in front of me. I pushed through the pain to get more running in, and stay ahead of this group and finish stronger. It took me over 5.5 hours to complete the race, but 26.2 is 26.2 not matter how long it takes you. Once I finished I immediately told Meghan I was never running another marathon again!
As for the race itself, I wasn’t very impressed with how everything turned out. There were plenty of hydration stops, but the water and Gatorade was lukewarm at best. The water itself, though supposedly Culligan, didn’t taste very good to me. By the time I finished the race most of the vendors had already started packing up, so there wasn’t much for me to grab for post-race fuel. Specially, as a part of the Back 2 Back group, I was supposed to be able to use the VIP tent, yet not a single person was in there. I had the same issue with the spring race, so unless you’re really fast don’t expect to be treated well after the race.
After the race I was starving, mostly because there wasn’t anything for me at the finish line. We left quickly to stop and eat some pizza before we headed home. I spent the next few weeks not running, as that pain in my foot was a stress fracture, and hurt with every step for weeks. I was VERY convinced at the time I would never run another marathon, and I made sure everyone knew how I felt. Over the last month I’ve softened that stance a bit, but it still won’t be any time soon before I try again.
Overall the Prairie Fire series is a good course. It’s well attended, and does give some good swag. However, their lack of care for slower runners after the race was very disappointing. I’m sure the faster folks had no issue, but I wouldn’t have been one of those folks even without foot issues.