I ran my first half marathon in, well, years. And what a tough marathon it was, as it was a very hilly and often crowded course. My goal was to finish in the top 10 and to not walk any part of the course.
I wore Brooks shorts, CrossFit Surmount shirt, Drymax socks, Altra shoes, and skull cap.
The CrossFit Surmount athletes, Kelli, Mike, Marianne, Susie, Thom, Evelyn, Jennifer, Carin, and I gathered at the start. At 10 minutes until 7 I entered the starting corral and made my way toward the front. I know that I don’t like a crowded start and I’m not shy about beginning a race at the starting line.
The first mile was down Lassiter Mill road, and the entire time I was enjoying the downhill run I was thinking “This is going to be the last mile, and it’s going to be all uphill.” I glanced at my watch when I ran past the first mile marker – 6:18. I was breathing every 4th to 5th step and felt comfortable.
And then it hit me. It hit my like a ton of bricks. Stop. Running. Now. What the f@ck? Where did that thought come from? I didn’t stop.
The course ran through neighborhoods and along Greenways. It brought back many memories of when I used to run with a group from Raleigh Running Outfitters. That seems like a lifetime ago!
As I approached the first turnaround (6 mile into the course, if I recall) I made sure to count the number of returning runners. I was in 10th place. I made sure to pose for the photographer at the turnaround, and I even gave a volunteer a high five as I said, “If you can’t have fun while you’re racing then you might has well stay home.”
I kept looking for my friends and eventually saw them all running together. Yay!
I was passed at about mile 7. Dammit. I was now in 11th place. Dammit. During the 9th mile I caught up to a runner who immediately said, “The heat and the humidity have gotten the best of me.” I replied, “Run with me for a while. I’ll pace you.” He said, “Thanks, but I know I won’t be able to keep up with you.” I ran past and ahead of him. Tenth place. Yay!
The half marathoners were very good about staying to the right. At mile 9 the slower 5K and 10K racers were also on the oftentimes narrow course. Uhm, they weren’t so good about staying to the right and I often had to remind them to do so. I spent far too much time weaving in and out of runners.
Whilst running up a very steep hill through a neighborhood I glanced down at the very large chalk writing on the road. It read: THIS GOT YOU. I thought, “What sick person would write that?” I then realized I had read it from the bottom to the top. YOU GOT THIS. My least favorite inspirational saying. Ever.
Just before the 12-mile mark the runner in 9th place glanced behind him to see where I was. Bad and BIG mistake. Without thinking I shouted, “Don’t look back! Keep running strong!” I eventually caught up with him. He said, “I’m done.” I replied, “No, you’re not. Stick with me. I’ll pace you to the finish.” He did stay with me, including our initial ascent up Lassiter Mill Road.
And then he tried to pass me. And that didn’t work out very well for him. I picked up the pace and dropped him with a half mile left. Ninth place!
And then some random dude ran toward me and said, “I’ll run you to the finish!” Again, what the f@ck? He then began to coach me. “Make sure you use your arms. Lengthen your stride. Kick back,” Uhm, I don’t need coaching. I did, however, need a distraction from the utter misery I was feeling. I set my sight on the 13-mile mark and determined that I’d begin my final sprint then.
And that’s what I did! It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. And I finished strong.
Place: 9 of 1027
Place of gender: 8 of 429
Age Group: 1 of 44
Pace: 6:57 minutes/mile
Certainly not my fastest race. Keep in mind, however, that I did NO specific training for this, and haven’t run farther than 5 miles at any one time in years and years.
This CrossFit sh!t works. Just saying.
Mike and I walked to the bottom of Lassiter Mill Road and waited for my friends. Susie was the first to arrive. She looked at me and said, “I love you, Paul.” I do believe she was hoping that I’d run her to the finish, and that’s what I did. I’d say, “Pick up your pace.” She’d reply, “No.” I’d say, “You can do it, Susie. Stay with me.” And stay with me she did. She had a great finish.
I once again walked toward the bottom of the hill and halfway down found Mike running with Ashlyn, Marianne, and Kelli. I ran with them and ran Kelli, the fastest of the group, to the finish.
I. Was. Done. I was craving my recovery drink so I retrieved it from the car. I was able to watch Thom and Evelyn run Jennifer to the finish!
It was a great day, and I’m very proud of Surmounties.