So, yesterday I ran the Huntsville Half Marathon. For some odd reason, it is one of my most favorite races. Many of my fellow runners complain about the boring out-and-back section on the greenway, but I love that part. I love seeing the front runners heading back out, and I love seeing all my friends ahead or behind me and cheering for them. And even with that bit of craziness two years ago when I got temporarily disqualified, I still look forward to running it every year (although I always want to yell NO HEADPHONES and point to my head when I see Pres).
I will admit, however, to being a little nervous about this one. I had not run any sort of endurance race since the 50 mile. The only race I'd run was the Spooktacular 5k and let's face it, how serious about a race can you feel when dressed as a Jedi? With the half, however, I wanted to do well. Possibly even get a PR, but I had no idea what I'd have or if my legs would give out or do something crazy...or if they'd be just fine.
Race morning, I got up early, drank some coffee and ate a granola bar. I picked up my mom at my sister's around 7:00 a.m. and we drove to the race. I had to hurry and get my packet, pin on my race number, visit the bathroom one last time (coffee) and it was soon time for the race to start. I stood at the start line talking with Leah and Amy, and that took away any pre-race jitters I was feeling.
The race began and we were in a tight pack on the road, so it was impossible for me to start out too fast. That was fine. I wanted to give my legs about 3 miles to warm up before I picked up my pace. Once the pack thinned out, however, it was hard to hold back and for a while, my watch said I was running a 7:35 pace.
Around mile 4 or 5, I caught up to my friend Kristi. It was very nice to have a buddy for a while and we talked just like we do on our weekly runs until we reached a water stop. She was being extra careful due to an ankle sprain and so I lost her around the aid station. By this point I was good and warmed up and ready to push it. My next miles were just under eight minutes as I entered my favorite part - the greenway.
It wasn't long before the front runners appeared, and I cheered for all the ones I knew. Seeing the first few women is always inspiring too, and spurs me on to push a little more. The best aid station is down there, as well, and I saw several friends handing out water and gatorade there. I love the loud music they play. It is like a little party and all the runners got to go through it twice.
Once I turned around, I got to see my mom and many of my other friends and it is always fun to cheer for them (and to be cheered for, of course). One man running with me said, "You've got a great support system out here." I agreed. Maybe that is one reason I love this race the most.
I was keeping my pace between 7:55 and 8:00. I was feeling pretty good but still a little apprehensive. Would I give out in the last 2 miles if I kept this up? No way to find out unless I tried it, so I kept going. I caught several people as I ran, and met another lady who stayed with me a bit. We talked a little while about the race and the day. It was a warm day (just like last year) and she was surprised by this, being from San Diego. We talked about what it was like there and the best races in her area. I think it was a nice break for my mind and body because I quit thinking about pace and let up a little as well. Around mile 10, however, I was ready to push again. I was trying for a 1:46, which would be a personal record.
Around mile 11, I did begin to feel a little tired and my pace dropped. I began to take smaller quicker steps, and that helped. I had a sip of water at the last aid station and began to dig deep. I passed several people who had seemed far ahead of me on the greenway. I caught up to a young guy wearing those rubber shoes with the toes in them, and I asked him how he liked them. He looked (and sounded) like he was struggling a bit and I don't think he wanted to be passed by a girl. I can kind of tell when it bothers a guy because they glance at me, pick it up, and try to hang on. He kept groaning every once in a while, so at one point I told him we had less than half a mile to go. He let out a loud grunt...and I left him.
I was running around a 7:30 pace at that point, and it would turn out to be my fastest mile in the race. I knew a 1:46 was a little out of reach, but I meant to push hard anyway. I told myself I'd run 50 miles and therefore had the ability to dig deep and push even when tired. It worked.
There was a girl running a good distance ahead of me and I stared her down, willing the distance between the two of us to grow smaller. It was, but so was the distance between us and the finish line. I poured it on, and once we entered the parking lot at mile 13, I took the opportunity to pass her. She wasn't having it. She picked up her pace, and I picked up mine. She and I, along with two other guys all hit the finish line together, and Jim Oaks, one of the race officials, called out the order we finished by shirt color. I didn't know what anyone else was wearing so I fell in line behind them.
Jim Oaks said, "No, you are just ahead of her by a little bit," as he took my arm and moved me in front. It was a little awkward as we walked through the narrow shoot together to hand off our tags to the volunteers...but I smiled to myself anyway. If you don't want to get passed at the end, you better be running to that finish line like nobody's business. Like it isn't even worth their effort to try because it can't be done. Still, even more than racing her, I was watching the clock. I did not want it to say 1:48, so I ran like mad to get there. But still...she was a female after all and she might have been in my age group (she wasn't, but I did not know).
I finished the race in 1:47:51 which is only a few seconds slower than my PR for a half marathon. I was thrilled with that. I would have liked a 1:45 or 1:46, but I knew I had not been training for that. Only a month after the 50 mile that beat me black and blue, I was running a good half marathon and that was enough for the day.
I walked back to cheer with my friend Holley who had come out to support me and Kristi, and soon Kristi joined us. I cheered in Mom and all of her Fayetteville peeps, along with several other friends. Mom and I ran 3 more miles after the race. She wanted seven, but at that point my body was done. We went to check out the results, and good thing too, because she won first place in her age group. I was 5th. And if I had been 2 minutes faster, I would have been 3rd and won a COFFEE MUG! But still, 5th out of 79 isn't half bad. I'll gladly take it.
Overall, it was a great day and a great race. As always, I had a wonderful time and I was pleased with my performance. No matter what anyone else says about that race, it will always be one of my favorites.
|I'm in the green shorts on the far right.|