More than a month ago I ran the Rochester Half Marathon. The sieves of time have filtered most of the memories of the day. What remains, the important things, at least one would hope, I will share here.
I went into this race with moderate expectations. I knew that a PR wasn’t in the cards but my training paces had improved and the weather looked favorable. Via the powers of the subconscious I deduced my capability to be a 1:27 that day. Mind you, that would be very close to 1:27 — not 1:28.
Unfortunately that is not how the day played out.
I have grown very comfortable with this race as it is in my hometown and I’ve run it every year since 2006. It is automatic. I know the time to arrive. I know not to bother with the fickle toilets of Frontier Field as they will malfunction rapidly. Unless you are the first to deflower the stall you will undoubtedly end up with wet feet. But these things did not trouble me as I had learned these lessons in years past.
Amber and I warmed up together but I did my pickups alone. I lined up at the front as it was warranted by my placement in prior years. I chatted with friends to pass the time and to gauge their mindset for the day. My friend, John, had really improved in his running in recent times and I was lucky enough to chat with him. He was optimistic and nervous. I was happy for him and excited to see his performance. There’s no reason to hide the truth — I simultaneously wanted to beat him and wanted him to beat me. Yes, it is contradictory but that is what I felt. The most likely outcome, I thought, was that I might pass him late in the race as I have far more experience in longer races. This, I thought, might be the last race that I could achieve this goal against him.
The gun fired and we passed, as we do each year, under the giant American flag. I looked at spectators but couldn’t hear them over the din of the obnoxious music blaring in my ears. I passed John and then he passed me. At that point I knew he would finish ahead of me and I worked to come to terms with that.
I felt good! I ran smoothly, for the most part at least. During the long and boring stretch on the historic Erie Canal and alongside a highway I felt great. I was gliding. I looked at my watch fully expecting to see something in the 6:00 to 6:10 range. Instead I saw a 6:45! Oh how I had overestimated myself! The pace was what it was and it was disappointing.
Somewhere in the long and lonely last couple of miles I saw John. I felt guilty for making him a target but I did so none the less. “Let me beat him this last time!” In the final mile I was able to surpass him. I worked hard. I’m sure I spoke to him but I do not remember the words.
Even prior to the culmination, the point where you round the corner by the stadium, I knew I hadn’t achieved my somewhat arbitrary goal. I saw 1:27 pass by far too soon. I rounded the corner and expended my remaining energy. I didn’t know where John was other than that he was behind me. The local paper snapped the shot you see above. I look triumphant! There is no one else in sight! Ah, but there were many people that had finished in front of me!
I finished in 1:28:12. This was enough for a good placement among my peers but, let’s be honest, this is a small race. I did not place. I did not achieve what I believed I was capable of. Still, I wasn’t disappointed. I’m not sure why. Maybe I should have been. It was yet another half marathon with more to come.