I’ve had the Mohawk Hudson Marathon on my list for New York for many years. It always gets great reviews, has been on many lists of top Boston qualifiers, but more significantly it has a personal connection - I was born in Albany, NY where the race finishes. I planned the race for this year with the intent of using it as a Boston Qualifier for 2020, but my training this summer wasn’t good enough to support that effort which was just as well as Boston dropped the qualifying time by 5 minutes the week before the race.
A few friends decided to join me for the race: Doughboy (Chris) and John H from Connecticut and Spingoddess (Aubrey) from New Jersey were able to drive up while I caught an early flight out of Charlotte and got into Albany around noon. I still have some cousins that live there and was glad that they were able to meet me for lunch and we had a great time catching up as it had probably been 20 years since I had seen them.
I checked into my hotel and walked over to the expo and picked up my race stuff. The expo was a nice size with enough vendors and other races, etc. I was lucky that I was walking through and saw the race merchandise on display. I had completely forgotten that when registering for the race I had purchased a finisher’s jacket so I picked that up.
It is a very heavy jacket and I sort of laughed as even in Albany, it was 60 degrees and back in South Carolina it will be many months before I will have an opportunity to wear the jacket.
Our gang met up for dinner at Druthers Brewing and had a nice meal and some good beer. I had only spent a little time with John at Reach the Beach so it was good getting to know him and his wife a bit better over dinner. Chris had a nice bag full of blondies & brownie for us so that was a nice treat. We agreed to meet in our hotel lobby at 6:30 to walk to the busses.
The hotel staff was really accommodating as they had some breakfast items out at 6 AM even though they don’t start serving until 7 AM. I grabbed a bagel and banana and was ready to meet everyone in the lobby. The busses were only a block from our hotel and we hopped into the first one in line for the marathon start while Chris got on one for the half marathon. Aubrey had wanted to swap from the marathon to the half but they wouldn’t let her and we thought that she might get on the bus to the half but got on the marathon bus. I sat with a guy wearing a 50 State Marathon Club hat so we had a nice conversation on the short ride out to the park in Schenectady where the race starts. We got right in line to use the restrooms and hung out until just a few minutes before the race was to start and we walked over to the start area.
The weather was warm – 65 degrees but the bigger issue was the 100% humidity.
I know that I don’t do well in those conditions and that combined with my less than ideal training had me set a very conservative race plan. I lined up behind the 4:15 pacer and was planning to stick with him for as long as I could. The race started and we did a loop around the park and then headed off through the town of Schenectady. We ran through town for about 5 miles before we hit the Mohawk Hudson Bike trail that runs along the river. I was really expecting to see some fall colors, but almost all of the trees were still bright green. I met up with a couple of local women who were talking about the course and decided to run with them for a while to take advantage of their local knowledge. One woman was running her first marathon while the other had done the race several times. Around mile 6, I heard someone call my name and there was Aubrey! I was a bit surprised to see her but invited her to join in with our little group. We hung together for a little while but I could tell we were going faster than Aubrey wanted so I let the other two ladies go and I decided to stick with Aubrey and get her through the race. The course is an overall 400 ft downhill and we had already hit the first big chunk of that. The next big chunk of downhill was from 13-18 so I knew if I could get Aubrey to 13, we could roll down the hill and with only 8 miles after that we’d get her to the finish.
I pulled the pace back a bit and extended the walking breaks at the aid stations to conserve some energy. There was a small hill around mile 13 but then we started on the gentle downhill to mile 18. Aubrey was doing fine and we were making good progress. One of the advantages of running slowly is that I had plenty of time to check out the mileage markers. Each one had some witty or inspirational quote on them. Some that I can recall: Pain is temporary but internet results last forever, Black toenails are in this year, etc. I saw a younger woman taking pictures of them with her phone and joked with her about them.
This stretch from 18 to 22 was the only part of the course that I didn’t like. They only had a small section of the road coned off for us to run on and that part of the road was broken up and had lots of potholes. Aubrey was struggling through here and my running pace was pulling me ahead, so I would stop and walk at every mile marker to let her catch up and we’d walk a little together and get back to running. Right before mile 22 there were some very enthusiastic volunteers steering us back down to the path along the river. I started feeling the pull of the finish line and knew that Aubrey would be ok to finish up and went on ahead.
This section of the course was really beautiful as there were leaves falling from the trees and while the weather didn’t feel like fall, it finally started to look like fall. I met up with one of the ladies I had been running with when Aubrey joined us and ran with her for about a mile until she sent me on. The day had taken a toll on many of the runners and I was passing a lot of walkers and trying to latch onto groups here and there as we got closer to the finish. I had the finisher’s chute all to myself and got a great shout out from the announcer as I finished up.
I saw my new friend finish about 5 minutes after me and Aubrey came in a while later. We walked across a pedestrian bridge to downtown and back to the hotel. Aubrey had gone to the Pump House after a previous Mohawk Hudson marathon so we enjoyed a nice burger there and I had a flight of their beers.
Mohawk Hudson was the perfect marathon for my New York race – there were about 700 runners in the full which is a perfect size given the path used for the race. The course was mostly scenic aside from the miles from 18-22 and the overall downhill profile makes for easy running. The race is put on by the local running club so they do a good job in getting the major things right – logistics were easy and there were plenty of volunteers along the course and manning the aid stations. I was pleasantly surprised at how many spectators we saw on course. If you are into bling, the race medal was on the small size and the ribbon they provided was a bit skimpy so that is my only “complaint.” State # 42 is done and now I have about 2 years left to do the other 8.