Sometimes, when we least expect it, we even surprise ourselves!
I’ve been exhausted after being back to work for a full week now, following a summer of under-training, because of
laziness over-training issues. I’m just recently recovered from a disastrous Half Marathon at the Rock n Roll Chicago race, where I ran my slowest Half of all time by over 17 full minutes. Taking these factors into consideration, I set my “optimistic” goal for this race around 2:05-2:10, and I wouldn’t have been terribly disappointed by breaking 2:15.
The race this week was in Mahomet, IL. Mahomet is about 15 minutes west of Champaign, IL. I spent a lot of time as a kid in Mahomet, we have family there. In fact, they even sponsored the race.
Schoonover Sewer Service. They’re good people, if you don’t mind them telling you that your mama doesn’t love you no mo’.
This was a small-ish race benefitting a local youth club. I really do enjoy running in races that actually benefit a charity or organization that helps locally more so than I enjoy the big city mega races. The race was well run, easy in and easy out for packet pick-up on the morning of. Since I’m one of those who fears nothing more in life that being late, I was, of course, on site at 6:15 for a 7:00 a.m. race. Therefore, parking, picking up my packet, using the facilities, and getting to the start line was no problem at all. I did notice that within moments of the gun, the line at the 4 port-a-potties stretched back towards Peoria. Must have sucked to be them.
The weather was perfect. As far as an August day in Central Illinois goes, it could not have been better. As we rushed down that first hill, the temp was around 58 degrees. At the finish, it was around 66 with low humidity the entire way. The sun even seemed to hang out behind the same set of clouds through the entire race. Things were looking good.
The starter fired the gun at exactly 7. As he did, the crowd of Half Marathon runners burst down the first (and seemingly only) downhill of the course. Through Mile 1, it seemed to be either downhill or flat. All I could think was “crap, there’s gonna be a lot of ‘up’ to get back here…”. Then I got to the first mile marker. I said earlier how well ran this race was. It was great. At every mile they had water and/or gatorade. They also had a person at each marker with a stopwatch counting off the time to us. It was at Mile one when the gentleman reading the watch said “8:17, 8:18, 8:19”. “CRAP!” I said it audibly. Everyone around me knew what had happened. I started out waaayyy too fast. For the first time since spring, the temps, my body, and the course all worked in my favor to give me my fasted single mile in over 3 months. It would also be my fastest mile of the race. I knew my goals were doomed.
I tried to slow it down. I “held my horses”, or tried to. Mile 2 was 8:58, and mainly uphill. It was a tough one, too. Maybe the 3rd hardest hill I’ve had to run in any of these races. “Good”, I thought. Now, if I could just keep this pace for the next 11 miles, I’d be in good shape. I knew that was a lot to ask. Runners don’t just go from averaging 10 minute miles for 3 months back to running 9’s for an entire half marathon. “WHAT SHOULD I DO!!??” Should I push myself, bank time, see what’s left in the tank and hope I don’t fall apart at mile 8? Should I hold back, hoping I can at least run 9:30’s the whole time and finish around 2:05? “Screw it, live in the now!”. So, there I went. Mile 3; 8:59, Mile 4; 8:38?? (must have been downhill), Mile 5; 8:48, Mile 6; 9:11 (must have been uphill), Mile 7: 8:48…. “HOW AM I STILL DOING THIS!!??”, Mile 8; 8:58.
Now, for those who don’t know. To run a 2 hour Half Marathon, a person would need to run 9:09 per mile for 13.1 miles. That would land the runner right on the 2:00:00 mark. Around mile 5 I started doing math. “Ok, I’ve averaged 8:51 per mile, over the next 8 I can average 9:21, and still be safe.” After 7 miles: “Alright, I’m still on pace, now I can average 9:23 per mile the rest of the way.” I was driving myself crazy.
That’s when it happened. I started to become fatigued. My running slowed, my heart rate raced, my legs weren’t springing forward when I pushed down on my feet, and I started having to breathe more deeply and deliberately. At the water stop for mile 9, I walked a little. A man who I had been back and forth with passed me. So, I got going again. Miles 9 and 10 were 9:20 and 9:17. They were in the range that I needed, but I felt my 2 hour time slipping away. I had said before the race all I cared about was 2:05, or even 2:10. But, that 2 hour race was within reach!! I had to get going!! I dug deep.
Mile 11; 9:29. I started to walk. As I did, a young ladies voice came from behind me: “If you walk, and I lose you, I’m gonna lose the music I’ve been listening to! C’mon!” (I had my music playing from my phone, I had forgotten my earbuds) So, I stepped it up and jogged with her. We got to talking. Holy cow, this chick saved me! I never got to tell her thanks. So, if anyone goes into Fleet Feet Sports in Bloomington, she’s the owner. Tell her I said thanks! Also, she’s ran this race 6 times, now. She’s ran the Chicago Marathon 16 times!! (It’s her favorite) Sometimes, when I meet these people, I feel like what I’m doing here is so insignificant. I try to remind myself that just 4 years ago I wasn’t running at all. That helps a little…
We didn’t go fast. We didn’t need to. At this point, I only needed to average 10 minutes per mile to break 2 hours. At around mile 12.6 we hit the last of the uphills to an overpass. She went on. I walked a bit. Mile 12 was 9:41, thanks to my new friend, whose name I didn’t even ask. Mile 13 was mainly uphill, including that overpass, and I ran it in 9:50. The course approaches Mahomet Seymore High School at the Football stadium, and takes one lap around the track. I could see the clock as I entered. I had over 2 minutes to make it around. I gave it all I could for the last .1. As I crossed the line, I looked up to see 1:59:42. YES!!!
It wasn’t my fastest race of the year. I walked a few times. But, other than my first Half and my first Full Marathon… It’s the proudest I’ve ever been of myself. I could have easily allowed myself to fall back on the 2:05 goal, or even slip all the way to 2:15. But, I dug deep and pushed on with the help of some great running comrades. That’s the best part of the whole running thing. Yeah, it’s a race, but everyone is there to support each other and cheer each other along on the way. The crowds in this small town were amazing! The volunteers were great. They could see the struggle in your eyes, and still they cheered and yelled to get ya going. There was a drumline on the route, there were cheerleaders, and there was a band set up in a driveway playing while their families sat in the yard cheering. All along the route (except in the cornfield portions) there were families and individuals rooting on the runners.
Here are the pics:
The shirt: Yes! Another one that fits!
The bib: It says Runner’s World! Awesome!
The Medal: A little on the cheap side, but the race wasn’t expensive, so I’ll take it!!
Overall, I was happy with this race experience. The course was tough, but not the hardest I have ran on. The date probably lends itself to stupid hot weather from time to time. But, you’re not going to find a better organized or supported small town race. If it weren’t 3 hours from my home, I’d love to make this race an annual tradition! You should, too!