I've been deceived! The map and elevation chart made this marathon look tough, but they did not do this course justice! This thing was by far the hardest marathon I have ever completed. I'm just happy I was able to complete it.
I started out running with a buddy of mine who had similar training times as me. We were sticking to our plan of a 7:45 average pace. That was supposed to be completely manageable considering the training I've put in. But by about mile 10, I could tell the elevation (7000 ft.) was really affecting me, and had to slow it up a bit, and my buddy took off. He was cruising. I managed the next 10 miles running around 8-8:30 minutes per mile, and then slipping to 9-ish. At mile 20 there was supposed to be a pretty big hill lasting a little over 2 miles. That was a lie! That hill seemed to never ended until mile 25. I was forced to walk for several minutes during each of those miles, and was putting in 11-12 minute miles. It was awful. I've never had to do that before. Luckily the last mile was mostly down hill, and I finished with a 10:40 mile. My official time was exactly 3:59, and I finished 10th overall.
This was my first time ever to the Grand Canyon, and it was amazing. Even though this race was incredibly tough, the views were even more incredible--almost making the killer course worth it. I definitely have plans to go back to the Grand Canyon, but I don't think I'll be running this marathon again. Maybe just the half. :-)