2024 Delaware Running Festival Marathon Race Report

2024 Delaware Running Festival Marathon Race Report

By PM Coach Aubrey Hayes



The journey to this race started with a long-term goal set in March of 2023. That goal was to qualify for the National Guard Marathon team for May of 2025. I got my first taste of the National Guard time trials in May 2023 at the Lincoln Marathon in Lincoln, Nebraska, and have been working towards improving my marathon time ever since. As a triathlon-specific athlete, the load of marathon training was not as extensive as I originally thought. The real challenge was finding the patience in knowing my pace would not increase in one, two, or three months, but over a year or two of consistent run-training. So, join me as I provide a race recap of years 1 of 2.


Over the past couple of years, I have learned to set goals with a different approach than the traditional all-or-nothing mentality. For me, setting realistic goals in sets of three helps me digest the race and my current level of fitness. In my younger years, it was always, “I’m going to win this race,” or “I’m going to run 5:30 miles,” even if I had never seen that pace. That was mentally unhealthy and created unrealistic goals.

The three-step goal process works if you use it as gold, silver, bronze—or simple 1, 2, 3 in succession. My goals for the Delaware marathon were as follows:

Gold: Sub 3:30

Silver: PR (Sub 3:45)

Bronze: Execute Nutrition Plan

This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s hard to visualize or process until we write it down and put it into practice. I wrote these goals down 16 weeks out from the marathon, and from there I was focused on the end result.


Running has been part of my life since I can remember; I have coached endurance sports and high school wrestling for 10+ years, but this goal called for outside coaching. Luckily, PM run coach Caleb Bendewald had an athlete position open and helped me prepare for the race. 

With 16 weeks to race day, I started with some slow base endurance work with short strides added in for speed. After a few weeks of base work (to add to my already strong base), the focus turned to time at marathon pace. Taking the approach of being consistently good, I was running 5-6 times a week with a load of 40-50 miles. Each week, my time at marathon pace was anywhere from 1.5 hours to 2.5 hours by adding in shorter intervals during the week and longer efforts at Goal Marathon Pace (GMP).

 During my long GMP training runs, I focused on race day nutrition, what running shoes fit me best, and the running gear I would sport on race day. Honestly, my biggest fear was not getting my nutrition correct because I have issues with hamstring cramping due to heavy, salty sweating. Deep down, I feel like my cramping came from an old heat injury I had during my early military days. Since then, things haven’t been the same, so my nutrition and race approach has to be dialed in or I inevitably cramp.

As an injury-prone runner, strength training was added to my schedule 3 days a week with a focus on the posterior chain and lateral strength. Of course, one day was devoted to the upper body pump because who doesn’t like to stay strong during endurance training? In hind sight, strength training has thwarted lower leg injuries that I am used to, and I will continue to implement it in my training regimen.

Around 3 days out from race day, my carb loading started by increasing my volume of food intake—mainly with simple carbs to top off my glycogen storage and then topping off on electrolytes 2 days prior. The night before the race, I went to a restaurant and bar called Iron Hill Brewery that was located on the race route. I put down a delicious loaf of beer bread and shrimp bucatini as my final full meal. I’m pretty sure someone is judging me now, but that meal was filling and gave me all the energy I needed.

Race Day

The morning began with a 0445 wake-up followed by a cup of coffee to keep things regular—happy to report it did its job—a bagel with peanut butter, and Cliff Bar. Enough calories and carbs to keep my glycogen storage topped off and my stomach happy.

The weather was perfect for a marathon: at the start of the race, it was at 41F and at the finish line was 52F. I seriously could not have asked for better weather to enjoy a 26.2 mile stroll through Wilmington, Delaware.

As the start gun went off, we all ran to a three-person-wide path that made it very hard to settle into any kind of pace. The entire first mile consisted of elbowing people and slowly making my way through the crowd. Leading into the second mile, things cleared up and I was able to find my pace and focus on the task at hand. Miles 2-6.5 were a consistent climb, but I followed my coach’s advice by not pushing too hard up the hills to save my legs. Around mile 12, I hit another climb that was about 1k long, then cruised downhill to the split for the half marathon and marathon.

Like any running Festival, it gets very lonely at the split as the majority of the athletes in attendance pull off for the half marathon. The entire back half of the marathon was essentially flat and on a closed trail—well, partially closed. There were plenty of people out on the trail walking with family or out for a stroll, but for the most part, they were all very supportive. I really appreciated the support from the city.

Around mile 16, I turned my focus to staying consistent and focusing on my nutrition plan. I carried a 16oz water bottle, precision fuel and hydration gels, and salt-stick chews. I took in 2 chews every 20 minutes, 1 gel every 30 minutes, and diluted with water. Total intake per hour was 600mg of sodium, 60g of carbs, and 8oz of water.

At the 19.5 mile turnaround, my overall pace was at 7:45 per mile and I was starting to feel the fatigue in my legs. This is the point were you start talking to yourself, trusting your training, and mentally preparing for the pain train. At mile 21, my legs ached with every step and I started to feel a twitch in my left hamstring. I had to slow my pace by 15 seconds per mile to fend off cramping in the hamstring. From this point on, I pushed myself to maintain pace and was able to group up with two other runners. All three of us kept each other in check and gave each other the obligatory “good pace” and “almost home” buoying. As we neared the finish, I felt a surge of excitement because I knew my family and friends would be there to cheer me on. No matter what I was feeling, I pushed through because I didn’t want to let them down. Of course, at the finish line, my family was there cheering for me and it made the entire day worth it.

I crossed the finish line at 3:31, falling short of my gold goal (Sub 3:30). However, after reviewing the data files on Strava, I ended up finishing the marathon distance in a time of 3:27:48 meeting all three of my goals! A sense of relief came over me because I finished what I set out to do. Nothing more rewarding than setting your mind on something, going all in, and crushing your goals.  The course ended up being almost ½ mile longer than a strict marathon distance. I understand the course time is what matters, but to me it was completing the marathon distance.  

In Conclusion

The marathon is no easy task, but I recommend everyone take a chance on themselves and go for it.  There is no better feeling than completing something that challenges you mentally and physically, scares you, and most of all, teaches you something new about yourself. Remember, a race of this distance takes commitment, consistency, and belief in yourself. I highly recommend the Delaware Running Festival marathon for athletes of all levels. If you are looking for a great coach for your next marathon, make sure to reach out to Precise Multisport and ask to speak to Caleb (Contact).