The BCS (Bryant-College Station) Marathon – December 13th, 2015 – College Station Texas
Running is Supposed to Be Fun
My review and recap of the BCS Marathon will have a slightly different flavor than usual. This race wasn’t about setting a PR or a BQ, it wasn’t about snagging an award and pushing myself to the limit. Nope, for a change this race was about having a lot of fun. While 2015 was a breaktrhough year for me athletically, it was also a year where I was able to step back and think about why I truly run. Heck, it comes down to a basic fact…this is my hobby of choice…I do it because I enjoy it. Running is supposed to be fun, and fun can be many different things. Winning is fun, racing your heart out is fun, and just backing off and taking it all in is fun. BCS was about the latter version – cutting loose and enjoying the ride. With the Pace Team Friends in town (“The Band” – credit to Greg), this being my 1st double (bamarathons on back to back days) and some gnarly weather the recipe was set for good times. So – here is the story of BCS.
I’ll give you the race details 1st, and if you are not interested in the rest of the story, you don’t need to read the rest of the blog. I know I can be wordy. The BCS marathon is a 5th year event that takes place in College Station, Texas (home of Texas A&M University). It is always the 2nd weekend of December. The races has received a lot of well deserved praise in its 1st four years, and I would agree with all of it. The race is wonderfully organized. It had a high quality (decent sized) race expo at College Station ISD High School. The course is a large loop that spends a lot of time in the A&M campus. The course is mostly flat with a few small rollers, so it can make for some fast times in the right weather (which it wasn’t this year). As College Station is mostly about A&M, most of the scenery is just that, collegiate. You also run through some residential areas, parks, and golf courses. In SE Texas, you don’t get a ton of natural beauty, so the course is the course. The loop course is nice because you never see the same thing twice. Good tour of the A&M campus and “downtown” College Station.
The start/finish are conveniently located near the Post-Oak mall, so there is plenty of parking. I recommend you stay at the Holiday Inn on the Earl Rudder Freeway, as if the weather is decent you are within walking distance from both the start and finish lines (0.6 miles and 0.4 miles respectively). Driving to the start isn’t a big deal though. The race offered the best pacers in the business – the Maniac Fanatic Pace Team! Yours truly co-paced 4:15 on a whim, and all of our skilled pacers NAILED their times. Pace times ranged from 3:20 – 5:15 in nicely spaced intervals. Course support was excellent, with ample volunteers at all aid stations. All aid stations offered water and Gatorade. A number of them (at least 3 or 4 at well spaced intervals) also had Gu available.
The day dawned with some ugly weather (pouring rain, strong winds, potential for some lightning), but the race team did an excellent job providing updates via e-mail and social media. While it was still pouring at the start, the winds had died down a bit. The race started on time with no issues. Despite the bad weather, all aid stations were functional and full of volunteers. The post race was incredible! Had the weather been better I would have stuck around. They had about a million food options from pizza, burgers, baked goods, breakfast tacos and your standard post-race items.
Only issue I noted was there were a number of timing issues with times not being recorded/making it to the results. My guess was this was weather related, and they had the data corrected by the next day.
If you like swag – this race does a good job. You get both a long and short sleeve tech shirt (short sleeve you get at expo, long sleeve is a “finisher” shirt). The medal is decent.
All things considered, this is a solid event and a great option if you want to check off Texas on your 50 states quest. The only downside for out of town runners is that the closest major airport (Houston IAH) is about 90 minutes a way, so you have to drive a bit/rent a car.
The Rest of the Story
As I said, I did not want to miss out on running this race. I originally was supposed to pace 3:10, but after joining Team TROT in October I decided to run the Brazos Bend 100 (26.2) which was the day before BCS and had to drop the pacer gig. I had originally signed up for the 50 miler at Brazos, but as race day drew near I felt pangs to run BCS. Some of this was fear of missing out on the good times that I always have with the Maniac Fanatic Pace Team, part of it was I really never did the right training to attempt a “quality” 50 mile race. So, on the Tuesday before the race I made the decision to drop to the marathon at BB100, and sign-up for BCS and run it as my first double. Two marathons in 2 days, having friends in town, and driving all over SE Texas – the weekend just got crazy!
After finishing the Brazos Bend Marathon, I hung around to root on other Team TROT runners for a few hours, and then headed home. After grabbing a quick shower and packing, I headed up to College Station. The rest of “The Band” (Brian, Sabrina, Andrew and Greg) were already up there working the expo at the pacer booth. While I wasn’t an official pacer, I decided to go meet them and hang for a bit until the expo closed. I had no idea what pace I was going to run the next day, but knew that I’d try to stay with one of the pacers to have some fun. After grabbing my packet and serving as a distraction to the real pacers, Greg, Brian, Andrew and I headed out for dinner and had our usual discussion about races we’ve run, races we want to run, and all things us weirdo Maniacs talk about.
After dinner and tired from marathon #1 of the weekend, I quickly fell asleep once I got back to the hotel.
The weather was off the hook at 5AM when I woke up. Driving wind and pouring rain. After running in oppressive humidity the day before I was glad to see the temperature had dropped into the 50’s. I actually like running in the rain, so I just saw this as an opportunity to make the race even more fun. My legs felt pretty good so I had no worries about completing the distance on back to back days, it was more a question of what pace.
Greg and Andrew not keeping dry at the start:
The Band picked me up and we headed to the start area and took shelter under a tent to stay dry. As the race started, I intended to test out my legs and see what pace felt comfortable. The 3:50 pacer was running a bit late, and he arrived right as the race was ready to go off. His sign was stashed somewhere near the start line and I ran to grab it and bring it back to him. As I did this, the starting gun fired. I grabbed the sign and lined-up as the temporary 3:50 pacer. I took those cats out for the 1st half mile before he finally caught me and took over his duties – pacers help other pacers out…that’s how we roll. The 8:45 pace I ran for the 1st half mile felt good, but too ambitious. I stopped to nab a few early photos and then joined up with Sabrina who was pacing 4:15. I knew I wanted to hang between 4:00 and 4:30 at this point, so I decided to test 4:15 and decide whether to move-up or back based on how I felt. 4:15 felt good, so I decided to hang there and help entertain the troops.
I’m not going to get into the blow by blow of the race like I normally do. I had no strategy, I had no real goals, but I did have fun. We ran in the pouring rain, splashing through puddles, and doing what pacers do – encouraging and helping people to meet their goals, and keeping their minds off the race. The whole group shared their stories – how many marathons they had run, where they lived and worked, and what this race meant to them. With the reasonable pace I was able to stop a bunch of times and catch some random photos or run ahead and get phots of the group. I knew that water-proof iPhone case would come in handy someday.
As the miles went on, the pace group thinned as it always did. By Mile 22 we only had a few left, and they were starting to space out. There was one kid (Zack – running his 2nd marathon) who managed to hang with us from start to finish, and he was looking good. I decided at mile 23 that it was time to push him and help him get a big PR and come in well under 4:15 and Sabrina stayed with the rest that were on pace. Zack and I took off and dropped our pace from 9:30 to about 8:45. At Mile 26 he let loose and went into an all-out sprint to finish (I couldn’t keep up). He ended up at 4:12 and change, over 2 minutes below his goal. Not only did I get to have fun, but I got the awesome feeling of pacing someone to meet a goal (this is the 1st guy that has ever hung with me from start to finish).
After finishing and mowing down a breakfast taco or two, I went and hung with The Band for a little while longer as everyone was getting ready to depart. No surprise that we all had fun out there despite the weather.
And that is the story of the BCS marathon – the last race of the year, the slowest race of the year, but one of the most fun races of the year. The last racing weekend of the year was a nice way to cap it all off. At Brazos Bend I got to hang with all the wonderful new friends I’ve made in the trail running world, and ran a strong race to finish 3rd. And at BCS, I got to celebrate the last race of the year (and my 1st double) with some of the awesome pacer friends I’ve made this year. Whew…how my running world has grown!
Career Marathon/Ultra #40 (Marathon #35)
Marathon/Ultra #20 in 2015 (Marathon #15)
16th “unique” marathon/ultra run in Texas
Time – 4:13:09 – 35th best of career