What an amazing experience! Never did I thought that I would ever run a long distance race, let alone a half marathon. Being more of a sprinter (my nickname with my high school softball team was "Speedy Gonzales"), I never ran cross-country nor more than a mile at any one time before the age of 21.
But as I've learned through Brian, and by being quite unaware of just how far I was running when I did, running is quite a mental thing. For simplicity sake, running = jogging.
So after starting a health kick this past June 1st, I started running almost every other day about two miles on a treadmill or two and a half outside, or so I thought. Turns out that I was running about 3.5 miles outside. I couldn't believe it when Brian told me after calculating the distance on Google. He was keen on finding out his running distance since he decided to run the Philly half marathon. Knowing this, I gave it some thought and looked at running some 5k's in the area. There was going to be one in Providence on September 11th that I was thinking about. This whole running-a-race bug kicked in around the third week in August.
I had been running consistently outside instead of in the gym since the weather was pleasant in the morning, and then September 1st rolls around and it being such a huge moving day, sidewalks were covered with garbage and abandoned furniture for a couple days, including during one of my usual running days. Therefore, I decided to try running along the Charles River for a change, thinking I would run about 4.5 or 5 miles, since actually getting to the river would add to the distance. Again, I underestimated the distance and ran 6.1 miles to my amazement. I did this another two times in the next 5 days even though I hated going up and down stairs at the BU Bridge.
Trying to get a good group together, Brian had sent several reminder emails about signing up for the Philly Half Marathon to our friends. It was his last one that made me seriously consider running it as well. Just one of those, "Hmm, I think I can do it." Good thing there was an deadline extension, so I could up my distance and see how I felt. So just one week after upping my distance to 6.1, I went to Marathon Sports to get "real" running shoes since my knees started to ache a little and one of my toe nails was getting squooshed.
I don't know what my deal is with calculating distances BEFORE running, but once again, I understimated my distance. Thinking I was running 11 or so miles, I ended up running 12.5 miles that same day. Knowing that, I would have run the extra .6 miles. And what a way to break in my new shoes! It was definitely a "fun" run since I hadn't been to certain parts of the river. It was a beautiful evening, and as I was running on the south side of the Charles River, the sun was setting behind me. I made it a goal to be running on the Harvard Bridge (more like the MIT Bridge) to cross the river in time to see the sun set behind Cambridge. Gorgeous. It made running that much more enjoyable with the beautiful landscape, much more so than running around the area where we live.
So there. I more than doubled my distance in a week, at a pace of 11 minutes a mile. It's definitely not a fast pace, but I didn't feel like keeling over afterwards which was good, since I hadn't done anything like that before (well...not counting the bike-a-thon in NYC that was 47 miles), and running under a certain time wasn't my goal. Just to see how I felt and whether I could handle the distance. I registered on Sunday, September 11th, a week before the run, coincidentally the day Providence had the 5K I was thinking about running.
<full weekend write-up to follow soon>
Sunday, September 18, 2005
Wake-up call: 6:00am
Run begins: 7:45am
Runners: Eric Hoke, Brian, Ruby
Non-Runners (who casually make their way back to the hotel after 5am): Eric Diebold and Rico
PDF of course map
race photos by Action Sports
The weather was just a tad chilly before the run started, but when the sun started getting higher in the sky, it warmed up steadily. Eric was in the 1st non-elite corral, Brian in the 6th, and I was in the 8th corral, up from the 11th. I could hear the cheers when the race began, but it was more than five minutes before I actually crossed the starting line. It was kinda funny how at one point as we were nearing the starting line, everyone started to run, but then quickly stopped due to "congestion" up ahead. The course passes our hotel twice, and each time, I looked to see if anyone sat in the chair we put out on the balcony, but no one did.
The course is really quite nice and easy, being flat most of the way. Each mile marker had a timer underneath it, and when it reached an hour into it, I tried looking across the Schuylkill River to see if I could spot any runners already heading towards the finish line.
With a goal of 1:30:00, Eric finishes in an astonishing 1:27:32 (net chip time), placing him at 294 out of 8,600 runners! That's running at a pace of 6:41 per mile!!
Brian CRUSHES his goal of 2 hours, finishing at 1:43:08 (net chip time), a pace of 7:59 per mile, placing him at 1,512 out of 8,600 runners
I, too, beat my goal of 2:30:00 (I signed up with a 2:45:00 finish), finishing at 2:11:31 (net chip time), a pace of 10:02 per mile, placing me at 5,987 out of 8,600 runners.
The real kicker here is that I was running at a pace of 9:40/mile before succumbing to a most desperately needed bathroom break just after the 8.2 mile (marked by a water station), which added at least 2 minutes to my run. I had the urge to use the bathroom for several miles already before deciding that it'll only get worse if I hold it in any longer.
About two tenths of mile from the finish line, I saw Brian and Eric and ran towards them to say hello. I asked them how much further, and they said I was very close to the finish line, and so I, with a lack of better words, hauled ass. It was an amazing feeling to have the energy to pass a lot of runners on my way. The crowds were larger near the finish, and you could hear them screaming "You can do it!" and "Almost there!". They were a blur to me as I used everything I had left to push myself to the finish. If I saw a video of it, I probably looked ridiculously fast in comparison to the others, zigzagging between them. Probably made up some time from the bathroom break.
(that's me behind the woman in white)
I met up with Brian's mom, who amidst all the excitement, took that finish-line photo above of "partial" me. Thinking that Brian would finish around the 2-hour mark, she got there just a few minutes before the 2-hour mark, not knowing that Brian had finished almost 15 minutes earlier.
Having just a small sip of water at the 10.1 mile mark, I guzzled the one bottle of water we received at the finished line and was aching for more, quite literally. On top of the dehydration, my leg muscles screaming at me to do a proper after-run stretch, and I could barely stand still on the long line for food and snacks, which included orange slices, apples, bananas, peanuts, power bars and fig newtons. So luckily, there were tons of bottles back at the finish line I was able to grab for all of us.
Out of the 54 runners from Massachusetts, Eric was #5, Brian #7, and myself at #38
More than an hour after crossing the finish line (close to two for Eric and Brian), I decided to run the museum steps (a la Rocky style), and Eric joined me, or actually sprinted past me. We showed Eric Sly's footprints, a pair of All-Stars in size 9. The museum was free until noon, so Eric decided to go in while we headed back to the hotel, where our cohorts were still snoozing away.
Thanks, Mom for all the post-race photos!
After barely getting out of the hotel by the late check-out time of 1pm, we headed to Brian's parents' place for the Eagles-49er's game and for rest and relaxation before having the long drive up back to Boston. Philly cheesesteaks from Steve's Prince of Steaks hit the spot along with some M&M's and chocolate cake. Exhausted, I crashed on the couch during the 42-3 slaughter.
On our way back, we stopped off in Brian's old haunt of Hartford, CT, originally planning to have dinner at the John Harvard's there, but it being late, was probably just closing, so we went to the Hooter's nearby. Rico popped "The Dreamers" DVD in and Brian and I joined in the viewing, with the occassional peeks from Hoke, who sat in the front passenger seat.
It was around 12:30am when we finally relaxed in our comfy apartment.