So I survived my first half marathon. Not only did I survive – but I crossed the finish line with a smile on my face even though two of the last three miles were uphill. I was hoping to finish with under eleven minute miles - having already decided that my original idea of nine minute miles was ludicrous after beginning my training program in earnest – but I blew that goal away.
I don’t know if it was the inspirational quotes on the backs of other runners t-shirts “Pain is weakness leaving the body” the beastie boys blaring in my ear buds or just the pure adrenalin rush of running in such a large pack of humanity (five THOUSAND runners in the half marathon) but I came in at about a 9:50 clip finishing in the top third of my division – shaving seconds off each successive mile. A little over four months of training boiled down to a two hour finale.
This event was a family affair in every connotation of the term. Sara walked the 10K my 17 year old son Franklin and my daughter in law Kelly raced the 10k, Frank cruised in with a eight and a half minute pace and my oldest boy Max, up from Ohio State, glided through the half at a 7:30 clip. Max and I used the same training regimen that we downloaded from Marathonrookie.com so we were able to commiserate after each Saturday’s long run.
It all comes down to pacing – throughout the race I passed other runners, my pace for each mile never varying more than a minute or so, and then only because I was shaving off five seconds here and ten seconds there as I progressed through the race, I’d be willing to bet my last mile was my fastest. When I hit those hills at the end I was able to push through while a lot of the folks around me decelerated into a trot and then a walk. Don’t get me wrong, when I encountered the hills with three miles to go there were plenty of racers in front of me who had already finished and were snacking on bananas and lounging in the sun but I am proud to know I ran what was probably the best race I could.
As I entered downtown a half mile or so from the finish I saw Max appear next me – he had finished forty or so minutes ahead of me and I had earlier in the day told him that a real son would track back and find his dad and finish the race with him. Well the kid did it. We crossed the line together, he for the second time (which completely screwed up his ranking since his timing chip was recorded going over the magnetic strip twice.) He pushed me to finish strong which is why I think my last mile was my fastest.
I didn’t forget who I was racing for and I thought about Stephie a lot while I ran and I cried a couple times too – this fact hidden by my wrap-arounds and sweat. I think this race is a good analogy to dealing with the loss of a loved one. You put one foot in front of the other, at your own pace and you move forward the best you can hopefully you pick up a little speed as you go along. Don’t expect it to be easy though – it’s supposed to hurt, if you’re not in pain you’re not trying hard enough - don't worry there are folks at the finish line who are going to cheer you in no matter when you come in. Sometimes T-shirts make good sense.