I ran in the first ever McDonalds Half Marathon over the weekend in Richmond. I must say that when I went to my first fun run outside of Pacers Running Stores in December 2006 that if you told me I would even run 13 miles at once, I never would have believed you. So to complete a half marathon, 13.1 miles, in under two hours, I still almost can't believe it. I tend to be self-deprecating, but I have always have a very bad habit of not believing what I am capable of doing, and not just athletically. Not believing in myself is something I may always struggle with. But, from a confidence standpoint, finishing this half marathon made me feel like, hey, I can actually do this stuff! And acheive great results if I stick with something through thick and thin! I'll never break any speed records, but get lots of internal pride when I think about how far I've come as a runner in just two years. And I'm close to 35 pounds lost this year.
Now that I've told you about the increased confidence, I'll tell you about the weekend. Drive down to Richmond Friday afternoon, uneventful. Like 950,000,950 drivers before me, I got stuck in traffic when the lanes switch between one side or the other depending on the day and time, around Dumfries, a town that I have no need to go back to. I get to Richmond, pick up my race packet, buy a couple lights that will make me more visible as a runner at the Expo, a souvenir running shirt, then go eat at Piccolo's in the Fan, a great Richmond neighboorhood. The Falfella Salmon gave me a great night before meal.
I went to bed around 9:30 to get a great night's sleep before the race. Well, the loudest boom of thunder I've heard in years, and perhaps ever, woke me up at 2:15 am. For a second I wasn't sure it was thunder to be honest. It was enough of a boom to set off my car alarm, I kid you not. Why couldn't it happen at 5:15 so I'd just stay up and get ready for my race.
I woke up, ate breakfast, found my parking spot, then walked up the steep hill near the State Capitol to get the race start at 7th Avenue and Broad Street. That served as my "warm up" since it didn't want to run a mile or more, as I like to before a race, since this a new distance for me. I wanted to save every bit of energy that I had. And I needed just about all of it, as it was in the 60s when the race started, and very humid. I joked that I thought it was July again, and removed my outer layer after one half of a mile. Yeah it was gonna be tougher than I thought. First mile, 9:23. That's good considering the crowd that everyone had to run through.
I settled into a nice, steady pace, with good form. Went down to the Boulevard from Broad Street, the opposite of my driving route to go eat the night before. I'm running at a good clip, taking advantage of all the water stops, checking my watch at each mile post. My pace soon went below 9:00 / mile and pushed 8:30 by mile 8. The mile between 8 and 9 was my best mile, I counted 7 something. I did stop looking at my watch between miles 4 and 7 and just enjoyed running through the residential neighboorhood.
I ran into my buddy Brian at Mile 10. I was running at 1:23 or 1:24 when I hit this milestone. Right then and there I knew I would be running this race in under two hours unless I suffered an injury. This fired me up beyond belief. My goal was under two hours and I was going to reach my goal! I started thinking about how many goals I have reached this year in my races, and how these races have made a positive collective contribution to my overall outlook on life, and it all made me smile inside.
The last few miles featured a run through the outside parts of the Virginia Union University Campus (Charles Oakley!), then the run back into the Center City. I thought about really pushing for a time of under 1:50:00, which would have been ciing on the cake, but blustery winds around mile 11.5 and again at 12.5 killed the chances of that happening. I wanted to finish strong and with good running form. I did that all the way down towards the final downhill on Cary Street. The cheering crowd picked me up quite a bit as I finished the race. Final Time - 1 hour 50 minutes 39 seconds. It placed me in the top 25 percent of male runners in my age group, which thrilled me. Half marathon: conquered!
My first half marathon went better than I ever could have expected. After re-hydrating and getting something to eat, I was able to see the marathon winner break the tape as he run down the hill to a wildly cheering crowd. I ended up congratulating him 20 minutes afterwards when people were randomly milling around. It's just something runners do. It was all in all a fantastic experience that I probably will not repeat.
You ask why wouldn't I want to repeat that great experience?
You get an answer.....
Because next November I plan to run the ENITRE MARATHON!!!! 26.2 or bust! I start training for it tomorrow night at Fun Run. I'm all jacked up for the newest challenge. My goal, one year out, at that distance, is to finish. I can't wait to take the journey to find out if I can do it.
Final note, on the way home Sunday afternoon I went to the National Museum Of The Marine Corps. This was another fantastic experience that topped off the weekend in grand fashion. I recommend that anyone and everyone pay a visit, it's worth it. I learned a ton about what the Marine Corps have contributed to our country that I may not have known before. I respect them more than ever now. The Korean War exhibit was particularly impressive to me, I learned a lot about history, not just the USMC.