Last weekend on October 28th I ran the 2007 Niagara Falls Half Marathon. In the days leading up to the event there was some question as to whether or not I would be running. Earlier in the week I came down with a virus that left me with incredibly sore muscles and evenings with chills and mild fevers. I felt OK to run but Mark would be running his first marathon and I really didn’t want to get him sick. Mark put John, myself, and Katie up in his apartment. For the day prior to the race we’d be spending a lot of time together at the expo and eating a pasta dinner. After consulting with doctors and with Mark it was finally decided (about two hours before I planned to leave) that I would be running!
I tried not to let it on but I would have been very bummed if I didn’t go. Sure, I didn’t feel too great but I knew I could run (though I doubted if I could run on a few nights). Most of all I didn’t want to miss Mark’s first marathon. John and I have been bugging him for a while to get out there and run one and he finally did! Hopefully I didn’t get Mark or anyone else sick (I’m really hoping I didn’t get Mark’s mom or brother sick since they were so nice as to drive us around on race day).
Saturday evening I stood around watching Mark cook. He made a feast. There was bread, pasta, meatballs, salad, and more. I consciously didn’t eat too much which was not easy because the food was so tasty. Finally we all retired for a rather lengthy night of sleep.
The race didn’t start until 10 AM and we weren’t very far from the start line. This gave us the opportunity to sleep until almost 7 AM. I set my alarm for 7 AM because that’s when everyone said they were going to get up. In the morning John’s alarm and Katie’s alarm went off well before 7 AM.
After a bagel and a quick shower we were off! Mark’s mom drove us to the starting line. It was rather brisk at about 40 degrees. We did our best to stay warm. We huddled, we wore ponchos, we delayed turning in our bags until the last minute so that we could keep our clothes on.
While waiting in line I glanced over and caught someones eye. I looked back and it was Julie! I really didn’t expect to run into her in a crowd of about 1500 people but we lined up about 10 feet from each other. Since the marathon is an international marathon (though the half is not) both the Canadian and US national anthems were sung. The singer made a mistake and apologized mid song. I found it quite humorous.
Finally the race began! It was time to get warm. After 1 or 2 miles I shed my sportshell. After 3 or 4 miles I shed my mittens. Shortly after that I shed my shirt and carried it for the remainder of the race. I really enjoyed watching people on the sidelines wrapped up in winter coats and hats while I went by wearing sneakers, socks, and a pair of shorts. There was one group, a high school I believe, that dared to man their water stop shirtless. I commented during the run that I like half naked people. That got a few chuckles and started one conversation of several with other runners. Everyone we spoke with was from Canada but most were from very far away (6 hours, 4 hours, etc). Everyone was very nice.
My plan for the run was to run with John. I never planned to try for a PR, I really just wanted to run a fun race and hag out with John for another long run. After 5 or 6 miles I started to feel VERY good. I could tell that I was picking up the pace. John sensed this too and told me I should run ahead if I wanted to. At first I relented but finally decided that it would be more fun for the two of us if I did. I didn’t want either of us to worry about keeping up with each other. With our traditional salute we departed at mile 7.
The final 6 miles were fantastic (as were the first 7). I was running fast and I knew it. I was passing people constantly. In fact I was passed only 1 time during those 7 miles near the finish chute. I wasn’t trying to pass said passer but I did end up passing him during my final sprint.
I finished in 1:48:40, a new PR for me. I know that I ran just under an 8 minute per mile average pace for the final 6 miles. I wasn’t trying for a PR but I was happy to get one. When I run Philly in a few weeks I think that I’ll beat this PR by a few minutes. I’m planning to push myself a bit there.
The course itself was excellent. We ran along the Niagara River for the entire 13.1 miles. There was once place where you could see the casino in the distance. It’s always cool to visualize how far you are running. The course was nice and flat and was entirely on pavement. Towards the end it got a little bumpy in places but it wasn’t a problem. What was more of a problem was the markers at the end being in kilometers! All of the miles were marked because a marathon is defined in miles not kilometers. Still most of the runners were Canadian and so they helped them by placing km markers. They served only to confuse me. I’m not complaining.
John, Katie, and I made our way back to the finishing chute after walking Julie most of the way back to her car (which was a few miles from the finish). We made it back at about 1:40. We sat on the curb and planned it out. We were going to take a picture and then sprint to the finish to take a pic of him coming through the finish. Time ticked by. It was about 3:52 minutes into the marathon when I told John that I was now relieved that my marathon time was safe (little did I know!). Then John’s phone rang and we found that Mark was standing behind us. He had finished just minutes (seconds possibly) before we got to the finish.
Mark ran an incredible 3:38 for his first marathon. I never expected Mark to do this well. Mark tends to put in good training times but in the past hasn’t done as well on race day (2006 Rochester Half Marathon). In addition on his 20 mile run training for the marathon he put in a time that was on par with a 4:30 marathon. On race day he ended up closer to 3:30! I don’t know when I’ll stop being impressed. When I found out I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed that he beat me (and by so much!). I came to grips with that fairly quickly though. I really don’t want to fall into the trap of becoming competitive with myself or with anyone else and I fear that I’m heading down that road. I may run a time better than 3:38 but I don’t expect to do so for years.
The entire weekend was great. I can’t wait to do it all over again in a few weeks in Philly.