South Bend and the Sunburst Marathon

Dear fellow travelers,

Well, it has been 24 hours and I am still not sure what to make of this marathon, so let me start by saying this. THANK YOU to DH for driving both ways (10 hours round trip) and for using your points to get us a free nights stay. He knows I have a dream of a marathon in every state and he was gracious enough to help me get out there!

The whole week I was monitoring the race day temps. I had been struggling a bit in Ohio with the warming temperatures and higher humidity levels. Race day would start with lower temps, but high humidity and graduate to upper 70’s. so not the greatest temps, but not the worst.

This race was huge for me, I did a 50k just two weeks ago and this would snag me a spot in the Marathon Maniacs club which I was REALLY stoked about. After chatting with a friend about the race, I decided it was all about survival and finishing.

This race was held on Saturday May 31, and I was thankful for the early race morning packet pick-up. When I arrived they were just putting up the start line flag!


After I got my bib I went ahead and decided to break one of the main marathoner rules…..I wore the t-shirt the day of the race.

WHAT! I know, I know, dear friends, DH dropped me off at the race and I had no other place to stash the shirt, so over my tank it went….

At 6am, we lined up at the start and what do you know, saw one of my pace coaches from MIT (Marathoner in Training). She prefers online anonymity so I won’t give her away 😉 Other way we had been seeing quite a bit of one another around the race scene lately! It was great to steal a quick hug, but before we knew it, it was time to get going.

The course offers quite a few out and backs. I had studied the course map a bit before hand, but as someone who is not from the area I really wasn’t to sure what I was even looking at. The first half of the course took us through an old historic district with these really pretty houses. Then out near a water treatment plant, which is awesome for a whole host of reasons, but stank something awful when I went by!

At this point in the race (around mile 8) I was almost entirely by myself. With only 700-800 marathon runners, the runners got pretty spread out. Around mile 10 though, I got really grouchy. The half, the 5k, and the 10k all started about and hour- 1.5 hours after the marathon. That meant that at mile 11, I was trying to not to get trampled by folks trying to race a 5k or 10k. It wasn’t their fault (nor mine for being slow), but it was INCREDIBLY annoying and my first major beef with this race during the day.

Finally, I made a turn that took me away from the crowds and put me back on my own again. We went out along a bike path that was actually kind of pretty. But I started to get really hot while I was out there and I knew that didn’t bode well for the day.

At mile 16 I was just plain in a nasty foul mood.


I took this pic and sent a facebook message to one of my running pals telling her that I felt like poop.

I really did too. At this point in the race I was frustrated. I felt overheated and the lack of course marking and no one around me was just exhausting mentally. Normally I don’t need crowds and appreciate small races, but this felt like running 26.2 by myself. I didn’t need to pay $90 bucks for that.

Sigh. But I was not going to give up. After my ultra I knew I was capable of doing whatever I set my mind to and if that meant a slow marathon finish, so be it.

Around mile 17 I started the second out and back section. This is where I got to see all the faster finishers passing me, and people were very supportive of one another. Lots of cheering and ‘looking goods’ were shouted out at me.

Once again though, I found myself mostly alone. I did pass by many of my fellow back of the packers, including Jen who I had befriended early in the race, but I could tell that the heat was starting to wear on us.

At mile 19 I caught up to a maniac named Tim and a gal named Emily (if I recall correctly). This was her first race and she was doing so well!!! I ran with them for a few miles and then I was off again. I had a shuffle that I found worked for me.

Around mile 22 I did something that pretty much swore I would never do. I made a cell phone call. To my mother. Maybe it was silly, but I was alone, I was hot, I was discouraged and there were still 4 miles left. 4 miles that I knew it would take me awhile to complete.

She was cheerful, said I was fine and not to let anything stop me from finishing. Right in the middle of her pep talk DH called so we hung up. DH said he was on his way to the stadium and the finish line so I better get there.

With that, I hung up and kept chipping away at the miles.

Mile 23, mile 24, mile 25…

I really don’t remember anything except heat and sun and asphalt.

Finally, the stadium was in sight, so I started running again (I had been mostly walking). They announced my name and there he was! DH was standing there clapping for me, despite coming across the finish line in 5:56 (almost a PW).

I have never been so thankful to be done with something in my life!!!

After a cold shower, as I promised DH, we went back out into South Bend to do a little sight seeing. I had never been on the Notre Dame campus before.

But first, I needed some grub!!! We stopped at this place called Eddy Street Commons. There are a bunch of restaurants and a couple of shops. We basically just picked the first place we came to. A restaurant called The Mark Dine and Tap. I was so glad to drink something cold, that I was sucking down water and diet coke like it was my job. I was also exceptionally hungry and breakfast sounded amazing at 1 in the afternoon. This place was eclectic enough that they offered a brunch along with lunchtime foods.


After some noms, we walked across the street to campus. It really is quite a beautiful place. So much grass and trees, and the building were gorgeous. I had wanted to walk to the bookstore so I could bring a souvenir home with me. I was thinking of a pennant or a sweatshirt, but I came home with a scarf. I know, sounds strange, but it is wool, soft and beautiful.


Definitely Irish looking, so it’ll remind me of our adventure and the walk (albeit brief) around campus.

After the bookstore I confessed I was too sore and too tired to do much more walking around, so we headed back to our car and home to Ohio.

Would I come back to this race? Would I recommend it to others?
I hate to write this, but doubtful. There were a ton of pros to the race, the bike support was great, the community that had their sprinklers on and offered water, awesome. The course markings were TERRIBLE. It would have been so easy to get lost on the course, I almost did multiple times, I had to ask police officers which way to go. I know I am not the only one, because there were 3 guys that passed me at mile 13 that I am sure (after the fact) had gone completely the wrong way.

The race was scheduled to close at 6.5 hours, and course support was beginning to slow down when I was finishing and I was well enough under that final time. At one point I got to an interesetion that had no one directing traffic and I waited for a cross walk sign.

I get it that the community can’t wait all day for a race, but don’t advertise that the race closes at 6.5 hours but start thinning out support well before that. If it doesn’t work for the community then create a final stop at 6 hours.

All in all, I am pretty laid back with races and I think most of my frustration was with my own personal race. Yet, I am still not certain that this one is worth the price to go back.

Now would I maybe go back and check out a game and campus again- you betcha!

Safe travels!



2 thoughts on “South Bend and the Sunburst Marathon

  1. Your observations are spot on. The course markings were terrible, especially in the last 10k, and course support left way too early. If it hadn’t been for the bicycle folks, i would likely still be wandering the streets of South Bend. I do this race every year because it is close to home, but I got off course 3 times in the last 5 miles, if that tells you anything about how badly it was marked… Some of the aid stations were completely GONE by the time I go t to them, and, despite getting lost and having to backtrack, I finished well under their 6:30 time limit. I hope your next race experience is much better.

  2. Sorry, the race went poorly for you! Some days are like that. Thanks so much, though, for introducing yourself to me early in the race, that was a treat! And congrats on joining us in Marathon Maniacs…I’m MM # 1,228. Enjoy the time in Sanibel!!! And keep on running!!

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