Gerardo Mora

Step By Step
By Gerardo Mora

It was another good day for racing in the 38th annual Houston Marathon. I wouldn't say perfect, but hard to ask for much better conditions at 44 degrees with very little wind and sunny skies. I make sure to arrive early at the GRB so I don't have to fight for a good parking spot, 5:25 AM arrival, making me one of the first invites to arrive in the staging area. It is hard to describe my emotions being amongst so many good runners knowing that I've prepared well and hope to do so. While being escorted to the start, I strike up a conversation with Erin Moeller from Mt. Vernon, IA. She tells me her PR is a 2:36:50 and we make plans to look for each other out on the course.

At the start of the race, I'm standing right behind Sean Wade. I know that winning the masters race is out of the question with him in the race, but am truly only focused on running a PR as I know that my fitness level is up for it. The start is uneventful and always intriguing to watch as some people, I'm certain to beat, are ahead of me for a short time. Erin is one of them, but I make sure to key on her as I'm thinking we'll be able to help each other for most of the race. She goes through the first mile a bit fast as I'm about four seconds behind her in 6:00 even. I'm thinking that this is a great start and am proud of my effort. I pull even with Erin at this point and jokingly told her, "you left me," and she apologizes. We keep a steady pace and hit mile 2 in 6:00 also. I'm excited about these first two miles because I timed them well and because I feel reasonably well. I'm feeling a little heavy, possibly ate a bit too much the night before. However, I remember feeling the same way at the 30K and reminded myself this is normal.

Then, what I call the "half effect" set in. It seems in every year that I've run this course, I've noticed that I pick up the pace in mile three and four. I attribute this to us merging with the half runners and being sucked into their mind set. This takes me through mile three in 5:47 and mile 4 in 5:45. I notice that I've managed to drop two ladies who were running the half and also Erin. This causes me to re-evaluate and I make an effort to slow myself down some. It works for a while as I come through mile 5 in 6:01.

Part of the "problem" is that the hoopla is starting to really pick up. I especially liked this rock band that was between mile 5 and 6. Hence, I begin to drop my times again. Mile 6 goes back down to 5:52 and mile 7 is a solid 5:56. At this point, I'm no longer feeling heavy, but I'm not exactly relaxed either. I'm gambling a bit here despite what many veterans have repeatedly told me. I'm going out a little harder than goal pace and going to try and hang on. I figure I have to take advantage of the crowds and half runners sucking me through at a solid pace. This allows me to go through mile 8 in 5:51, mile 9 in 5:50 and mile 10 in 5:50. I'm not feeling great, but I'm not feeling bad either. Almost as if I'm pushing myself to the point my body can take without causing the "shut down" that all of us are aware of that can happen.

How much did the crowds help? Well, when we pass the turnaround for the half, the crowds become very sparse for a while and so mile eleven I slow to 5:54 and mile twelve in 5:56, then mile thirteen is 5:59. At this point, I realize I'm slowing because I'm starting to fatigue which is way too early. But the hoopla was great at this stage of the race, including the first sighting of about a half dozen of my family members. This gives me a bit of a boost and I manage to hit mile fourteen in 5:52.

The problem at this point is that the balls of my feet are starting to hurt. I'm expecting this as this has always been a problem for me which I attribute it to my unique running style. The pain alters my running form and probably causes me to slow down some. Both mile fifteen (Westpark overpass) and sixteen come in at 5:57 and mile seventeen in 5:59, despite the second sighting and hoopla of my family. I also stop for the first time to drink about two ounces of Gatorade. Maybe I could/should have taken it easier on the overpass as I'm slowing and laboring more intensely now. The key now is to stay mentally focused and forge on. I come through mile eighteen in 6:06 and nineteen in 6:00 which shows my attempt to "fight" off the deterioration of my pace.

This mental fight continues for the next two miles as I come through mile 20 in 6:02 and mile 21 in 5:55. At this point I've been running alone since about mile twelve and basically allow negative thoughts to enter my mind. I'm doing the math in my head and say to myself that "I can run the last 5 miles at seven minute per mile pace and STILL set a PR." This attitude may or may not cause me to lose some time. Maybe my body just couldn't do it anymore? Maybe if my feet didn't hurt so much the rest of my body would be willing to forge on under six minute per mile pace? I stop one last time to drink two or three ounces of Gatorade and try to figure a gate to run that doesn't cause my feet to hurt so much. I go through mile 22 in 6:01 and mile 23 in 6:05 which I think is the toughest part of the race.

With less than a 5K to go, you can start to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe that was not such a good thing? I ran mile 24 in 6:14 and mile 25 in 6:17. I guess you can easily blame those two slow times on the underpasses that must be dealt with. Why can't they close ONLY two more intersections and allow us to run the level part of that road? With only about a mile to go and hitting the last straight away to the finish, I notice that there is finally someone in front of me that I'm gaining on. That, along with the elation of knowing tha I'll be done soon, motivates me to pick up the pace a bit. The poor guy in front of me has slowed to a crawl and is looking over his shoulder. I close in fast and pass him with less than a half mile to go. There is no way he can respond as I'm determined to finish strong. With no mile 26 marker (or I missed it), my last 1.2 miles was done in 7:26. My time of 2:36:35 was a PR by nearly five whole minutes and I'm extremely elated, despite the throbbing pain in both of my feet. Thirteen must be my lucky number since it had been thirteen years since my last PR in 1997 when I ran a 2:41:20 in the "ice bowl."

I later realize that the guy I passed at the end of the race was a master and if I hadn't caught him, I would have been shut out of the prize money. Lessons learned? I believe I ran a near perfect race. I might want to eat a lighter dinner the night before. I hope someone can solve the problem with the pain on the balls of my feet. I am certain that the foot pain cost me, as I was "hanging on" instead of attacking the last five miles. Should I have started out slower as advised by many veterans? If I had, I would have probably come through mile twenty in two hours flat or slower. This means I would have had to run the last 10K in under 36:35 to beat the time I ran. Possible, I suppose, but not likely. Nobody (who finished the race) passed me in the last 17 miles of the race. There were two people that I know who were going to key off of me, but my early pace caused them not to give chase. They decided to run more conservatively and "save it for later." They were not able to finish strong in spite of the slower start. In fact, I ran the second half only 2.57% slower than the first half. Compared to other runners who finished within ten minutes of me, that rate of decline was amongst the least severe. That said, I prove nothing with my analysis other than I wouldn't have changed my pacing strategies at all if I had to do it all over again. It seemed to have worked well for me.





6:01 29:33





5:50 58:52





5:57 1:28:31





6:02 1:58:36







Copyright © 2024 Houston Masters. All rights reserved.

Powered by The Driven Ticketing, Event & Club Solutions.