I ran the Cox Providence Rhode Races Marathon on May 1, 2011. Marathon #2. The race starts in downtown Providence, crosses over to East Providence, heads south into Barrington, and then heads back into Providence again. Most of the course follows the area on/around a bike path. The weather was perfect. Sunny, not too hot, slightly breezy.
I missed a PR by 2 minutes and met pretty much none of my goals, but I finished in under 4 hours so I'll call it a success. Given that I had a nagging foot/ankle injury since mid-March, missed several weeks of running due to the injury, was 10 weeks out from marathon #1, and ran semi-injured, that's not too bad. I ran pretty much at my planned pace til mile 12. And then I dropped my iPod, Nike+ stopped my workout, and I had to reset my time. I never got my groove back. Plus my quads were really sore starting at about mile 12-13. The exact same thing happened at the exact same point in my first marathon. I have to figure out why because it is not fun when your quads give out halfway through.
Mile 1-2: Providence. Crossed the start line in less than a minute. It was crowded at the beginning. Didn't see the mile 1 marker. First "hill" is just before mile 2. And then we split off from the half marathon course.
Mile 3: over the bridge to East Providence and through an industrial area
Mile 4-8: hit the hills, one before mile 4 and one at mile 6. Hit mile 5 at 42:15 on the clock. Waaaaay too fast, although it didn't feel too fast.
Mile 9-10: Crescent Park Carousel area. Saw Narragansett Bay. I think I hit mile 10 at 1:23:?? on the clock. A good few minutes under my goal. I knew this was still too fast but still didn't feel too fast. My foot was feeling mostly OK but my quads weren't. Took 2 Tylenol.
Mile 11-12: First section on the bike path. An area I have ran on many many times.
Mile 12: Dropped my iPod. Nike+ ended my workout. I had to reset my time and start again. Thought it was a good time to take a walk break to fix my iPod and eat some pretzels. Plus my quads were hurting. I was planning on taking a break at about 12 miles anyway.
Mile 13-14: Barrington. Passed mile 13.1 at 1:49:?? on the clock. Really rough road surfaces. I was not expecting this. Barrington is one of the wealthiest towns in Rhode Island. I thought they'd have better roads. But got some nice views of Narragansett Bay again.
Mile 15: Back on the bike path, still heading south. I think I was still pretty much on pace til about this point. Passed mile 15 at low 2 hour mark. But I had stopped keeping track of my time and pace. I was losing it. Mentally felt OK but was physically hurting. I could have pushed myself had I not had previous quad pain experience. At least I didn't let negative thoughts get to me.
Mile 16-19: On roads. Still in Barrington but starting to head north towards Providence. I don't remember much about this part. Mostly run-walking.
Mile 20-23: Back on the bike path in East Providence. Hit the 20 mile mark at 2:53:?? on the clock. The best area of crowd support was in Riverside, near where my running buddies and I meet to start our long runs. Downtown Providence was in sight at about mile 22. Short but steep hill just before mile 23. My running buddies were waiting for me at mile 23/24. I so needed to see them.
Mile 24: Narrow pedestrian bridge over a river to get back into Providence, then India Point Park with posters made by Team in Training.
Mile 25: No man's land in Providence. Very little crowd support.
Mile 26: Downtown Providence. Saw the 26 mile marker lying on the ground, so I wasn't completely sure it was the mile marker.
Mile 26.2: Finished on a slight uphill.
Pros - generally well organized, great volunteers, good course support (except traffic enforcement in 1 area ... but that is more of an issue with rude RI drivers), split off from the half marathon at mile 2, nice views of Narragansett Bay and Providence, aid stations were stocked, gear check was fast and easy, fairly flat, local race for me (can't beat leaving for the race an hour before the start and still having plenty of time to spare)
Cons - some really rough road surfaces around miles 13-14 (worse than NOLA), difficulty passing people on the pedestrian bridge (not a problem for me but can be difficult if runners don't understand how to pass or yield to other runners), course was semi-closed, bikers were on the bike path (although the bikers were less problematic than I expected), many turns on the course, crowd support was OK but was nonexistent in many areas
Overall, I'd say Cox is an OK marathon. I've ran the Rhode Races half marathon every year since it started in 2008. They had some major issues in the past but have improved a lot. I run on most of the course for my long runs, so I am familiar with the area. I knew the marathon was small (~1200 finishers). I knew the pedestrian bridge could be a problem and I knew crowd support wouldn't be that good. And I entered the race anyway. I probably won't run it again, and I'm not sure I'd recommend it. It is definitely not a good first marathon or one I would travel to, but it is an OK choice for a local marathon.