I admit it, I was nervous about running the National Half Marathon this year. After having such high expectations for Florence last year and then missing them, I was afraid that my gut-instinct finishing time was far off and that not only would I miss it (1:58 was the number I’d come up with) but that I’d no doubt end up doing worse than last year.
The morning was off to a slightly rough start; it was raining when I got to the stadium, and I was supposed to run the race with my friend Del but was never able to find him. Thankfully the rain stopped and was merely gray and misty for the rest of the day, which was fine by me. I ended up deciding to pace off of the (badly-marked) 4:00 marathon pace group. The half-marathon and full marathon share the same course for the first 10 miles so I figured they could at least give me someone to focus on for the majority of the course. After a slightly slow first mile (and someone else following the pacers talking about people with bad body odor and wanting to throw upâ€”gee, thanks, that’s just what I want to hear right now) we began to pick up the pace… and then some.
Finally someone else asked, “Aren’t we going a little fast?” A 4:00 marathon is a 9:10min/mile, and we were well above that. The two women explained that we were indeed; what they were trying to do is “make up” the several minutes we were off the clock; that way anyone who followed them into the finish line, regardless of when they began, would get a sub-4:00 marathon. This actually worked well for me because I knew hills would be in the later part of the course and if I could “bank” some extra seconds that I could use later, that was fine by me.
Ironically, while I never saw Del, I seemed to run into lots of other people. I ran about four miles of the race with Rick Weber, and passed and said hello early on to Rick Carter, Julie Ann, Chris, Carla, and Randy. It was around mile 8.5 that we hit a water station and I ended up ahead of the pacers. A couple of times they were close behind me, but never actually passed me. I must admit I was a little surprised (especially since mile 9 was 5 seconds too slow), but if it meant I didn’t have to run with Ms. Body Odor then that was all right with me. Besides, the split was up ahead and I knew I’d be on my own at that point anyway. (Ironically I lost them at one and only time I ever walked; a 15-second moment to gulp down a cup of Gatorade that someone handed me without spilling it all over my shirt.) When I hit mile 11 amidst all of the hills I was delighted to see I was still on pace, and it was at that point I began to believe that I would actually get my goal time of a sub-2:00 half marathon.
I was definitely losing a bit of steam in the last 2.1 miles, but even then I only picked up an extra minute and thirty five seconds. I can more than deal with that. And then it was over, and I’d finally done it. 1:58:18. Wow. What a wonderful, glorious day. Races like this remind me why I run; it was hard in places, but the entire experience was nothing short of fantastic. I ran one of the best races of my “career” this morning, and I am so completely happy with it. (And this is the longest “no walk breaks” race I’ve ever run.) Yes, yes, yes.
Oh, and in addition to bagels and bananas? Beer. Apparently it was “foods that begin with ‘B’ day” and yes, I drank one. Despite being crappy Budweiser beer I must admit it tasted awfully good at that exact moment. So there.