“You’re an animal!” These are the words that a runner congratulated me with following Sunday’s Flower City Half Marathon. I’ve found it to be very common for runners to congratulate and shake hands just outside of the finish chute. You develop a short bond with those that you compete with especially during the final stages of a race. His comment was my favorite of the day — save for one that I wasn’t supposed to hear!
I didn’t know what to expect going into this race. I had hoped to break 1:30 but thought that was perhaps a bit optimistic considering my somewhat disappointing performance at Boston. For the first time I had competition at a race! I’m never going to win races — I don’t have the drive to train like those guys do. What I mean is that someone ran the race who’s only stated goal was to beat me. Looking at his training I figured he would beat me but I went along with it and did my share of trash talking.
My rival and I ran together for 2 miles. At that point he jumped a little ahead of me but was in sight. Sadly, just before mile marker 3 my abs cramped up. I (stupidly) started the race shirtless and didn’t pay enough attention to my breathing. After walking for 0.1 miles I assumed my goals were lost and feared I’d be battling my abs the entire race (like at Disney). I lost sight of my rival and assumed he was going to have the race of his life. I let the pain in my abs pass and focused on my breathing. I had no problems after that.
My race turned around quickly. I decided to pick up my pace at about mile 5. Normally I wouldn’t start pushing until later in a half marathon but, due to the placement of hills late in the course, I wanted to push early. I knew I’d lose time in the hills and there isn’t enough course left after the hills to get a good time. It worked…it worked exceedingly well!
My mile splits went from about 7 minutes per mile down to about 6:25. I even had a couple of miles in the 6:15 range. I didn’t slow down through the hills, I only got faster (and I am a terrible hill runner)! Perhaps it was the aspect of competition? I spotted my rival at about mile 7. I caught up to, pinched his butt (yes, really, it’s a tradition a friend of mine started), and passed him at mile 8. My race only got better from there.
I passed an incredible number of runners — as would be expected! My pace dropped tremendously and most people slow down towards the end of a long race.
I finished in 1:27:54. That was good enough for 6th place in my age group and 40th overall. The best feeling was beating my expectations. I know now that I do still have some speed and if I put forth the effort I can continue to get PRs. I loved life that day!