I ran my first half marathon this weekend. It was a great experience and I think I finally get some things. I accept that I am a middle of the pack runner. I have never been real fast. I know I can cut time off my runs in the future but really am I going to go pro? I doubt it. However, I can and always will race myself. I will continue to challenge myself and push myself. I know I cannot sit around and wait to be inspired. I must be the one who inspires. I need to inspire and motivate myself to keep going.
If you don’t know yet you do know now that I am always early for everything and this day was no excuse to be late. I went to bed the night before at 9:30pm and I fell asleep fast and my alarm woke me up at 4:30. I popped out of bed and woke up everyone to tell them we were leaving in 30 minutes. I had packed everything the night before so all I had to do was shower and go over my checklist one last time. Before you knew it was 5 am I had eaten my banana and it was time to go. We left on time and my daughter Jordan and my Girlfriend Cindy and I showed up at the race around 5:45 am it was still dark and pretty cool out. I picked up my packet used the bathroom and as I was walking out of the store it was still dark and I fell down the stairs and twisted my ankle. It hurt but it wasn’t an injury. At the same time I thought if this takes me 3 hours I have an excuse. They bussed us out to the start 1.5 miles away where there was only one port a potty and a huge line. As I waited to go I saw bunch of people I knew and then waiting for the start I saw a bunch more people I knew. It was nice feeling like part of the community. I didn’t realize just how many local runners I knew.
Anyway, let me stop my editorial here and give my splits and then back to the story. Mile 1) 10:17 mile 2) 9:46 mile 3) 9:50 mile 4) 10.21) mile 5) 9:43 mile 6) 10:29 mile 7) 8:11 mile 8:11 mile 9) 11:16 mile 10) 11:17 mile 11) 11:26 mile 12) 10:48 mile 13) 14:03. Total time 2:19:52. My goal was to finish under 2:30 but I really wanted to finish under 2:20. I reached my goal so over all I am pleased with my performance.
Okay back to my tale. The sun began to rise and although it was still cool I knew it would be warm soon. The race director called for us to approach the line. I kissed ad hugged Jordan and Cindy goodbye and said expect me anywhere between 2:10-2:40. I found myself in the middle of the pack. I don’t know how I picked my spot I guess it was just open and happened to be next to a friend. We had a few minutes for idle chitchat while we waited for everyone to line up and then the race began. Next thing you know the race director started the race and we were off. The race began on a slight incline and the pace was a slow shuffle as runners began to find their place in the pack and spread out. I tried to maintain my pace and not get caught up in the excitement and start out to fast. I got passed by a few people and I passed a couple of people. But at mile one I looked at my watch and I was right where I wanted to be. The road had was pitched with the peak in the middle. I tried to run near the center of the road as to not strain my hips and knees too much. When we hit the 1.5 mile point it was right by the beginning and they were handing out water. I wasn’t ready for any. I wondered if I should take a sip but I decided I still needed to find my pace and loosen up. So I ran right on past. That was the first incline of the race and I thought well if all the hills are like that I’ll be okay. However, I was going to learn that Florida does have hills after all. There was still a lot of idle chit chat going on between runners. I am not a big talker when I run (I don’t know why) so I was just listening and every now and again adding my two cents. Around the 2 mile point some runners came out of the blue and passed us like we were standing still. We decided they must be 10k runners and we let them go. One of the women who was running with us said whenever she sees someone running faster than her she assumes they aren’t going as far. I like to think that way too. We made a rather sharp turn and the road was rough. So rough that it hurt my feet. Luckily we weren’t on this road long and it was pretty level with a steep decline at the end. And we had a long down hill run. I let gravity take over and help guide me down the hill. At around mile 3 or 4 two girls were at an aide station giving away water and Gatorade. It was pretty funny no one wanted to Gatorade but everyone wanted water. The Gatorade girl looked so dejected I almost took a cup out of pity. But, I did not and I got a water thinking Ill want Gatorade on the way back. We reached the base of the hill and started out into a little village and out toward the beach. I saw one port a potty set up but I was good and kept on going plus I know at this point it was a portion of the course that went out and back. I also felt pretty strong since I had not yet seen the leaders coming back yet. Eventually I saw the leaders and they looked strong. I love to see the grace in their stride and how easy it looks for them. I often wonder if they see me and think what a disaster that guy is. I doubt they do I am sure they are in the zone. I was approaching another aide station and it was the guys and girls from my local running store. I needed to see them there and hear them say my name. I hope they know how much they helped me out and kept me focused and on task. I passed them and I made a left running passed a group that had been passing me and I had been passing them back and forth for a couple miles. We ran through the neighbor hood and back out the path passed the porta potty (which I still didn’t need) and out to the turn around point. It seemed like forever to get there and I knew it couldn’t be that far away but I seemed like it should be just around the corner and it wasn’t. Then I saw the leaders again they were on the way back to the finish. Then more runners were coming back I knew I had almost reached the turn around point.
At mile 6 or 7 I could tell my form was falling apart and I was leaning forward. So I heard myself say exactly what I tell my kids at CC practice (listen to your body and relax). I took a moment and listened. I stood up straight, got control of my breathing, leaned from my ankles, dropped and relaxed my shoulders and I did great the next 2 miles on a flat part of the course. By mile 9 my shoulders began to hurt from being so tense before and I spent the next mile trying to relax them. At mile 10 a friend of mine road by on his buke and he gave me some tips on how to relax my shoulders. He helped me out a bit and said guess what? I said what he said “less than 3 miles to go.” At mile 10.25 I started the climb back up to the finish. I was still doing well on time but I knew I was slowing down climbing back up the hill. It seemed to go on forever. I had been out on the course for a long time at this point. I thought about how the winners were already done. I thought if we would have started an hour earlier I would be done and I don’t know what else I thought about. But at the end I wanted to finish strong and I thought about my daughter. I thought about how she has recovered from a knee injury and is running again. It made me think about all the kids I coach and how I won’t let them quit and how I tell them it is on their heads. That they are strong enough to do it. On mile 13 things began to fall apart. My quads were exhausted from that last big climb. I saw a friend who had gotten ahead of me on the course. I had been trying to catch him for a couple miles. It seemed as though the hill had taken a toll on him too. I passed a spectator holding her baby and she was saying I think I can, I think I can, I smiled at her and said thank you. It was nice to hear that little mantra. My friend had slowed to a walk by the time I caught up to him. I took this as an opportunity to walk for a few seconds and make sure he was feeling okay.
He was fine so I started my final jog. I knew where we were on the course and I guessed I had about 5-7 more minutes left when I heard a familiar voice behind me yell “lead us in Josh!” I tried my best but those two women over took me in the last quarter mile. That’s when it hit me a quarter mile to go I got a cramp in my quad and I tried to rub it out but I couldn’t and I had to stop and stretch for a few seconds to power up the final hill The finish looked so close and I looked at my watch. I was so close to reaching my goal and finishing under 2:20. I saw Jordan’s Orange track coat and she was holding a sign. Cindy was there next to her with a sign as well. Jordan’s sign read touch here for power and Cindy’s sign said 2 legit 2 quit! I listened to the crowd cheer me on and I heard the announcer call my number. As I jogged through the finish lines I had friends there who took my picture. I grabbed my water and received my medal and I felt accomplished. Jordan and Cindy came up and gave me hugs and kisses. What a great way to finish a race.
I’m sore today but this weekend I am getting new shoes and I will be doing my next Half Marathon in 3-4 weeks. Cindy will run this next one with me and Jordan still isn’t recovered enough to go that distance but she is already planning on what new signs to make for the run. She really enjoyed inspiring be people to finish. I love that fit ness and athletics is an important part of my life my daughters life and my girl friends life. Everything in my life is not back in place yet but it is well on its way.