As I’m laying on my couch relaxing my hard-worked muscles from the race this morning I have good news to share. I set a new personal record for the half marathon distance! My finish time was 1:51:27. My overall pace/mile was 8:31 and within my age group (25-29) I finished 299 out of 1,627. The only other 13.1 race I’ve done was the Philly Distance Run in 2009 (2:08) and my half marathon split time for last fall’s Marine Corps Marathon was just under the two-hour mark so all in all I’m moving a little faster.
My morning began at 5:30 am. At 5:45 I downed my pre-run meal of a waffle with peanut butter spread on top. Then after getting the appropriate running attire on (today was a long pants, long shirt, headband to cover my ears and gloves kind of run at around 34 to 37 degrees–I don’t know where spring disappeared) it was off to the races. I picked my friend up and we headed to the metro. We literally jumped in the race queue and within about two minutes were crossing the start line. In all honesty, I needed to stretch a little more but I managed well enough and it was good not to stand and wait in the cold weather for too long.
At 7 am there were not a ton of crowds out until later in the race when we hit more populated areas and neighborhoods. I was keeping pace with my friend and for a while we were running 8:10 splits. “Whew that might be a little fast,” I was thinking, but I wanted to keep up. Around mile 6 right after going under Dupont Circle, I needed to slow down and eat a snack (mini oatmeal raisin Cliff bar in this case that I was carrying in my back pocket). Unfortunately I was never able to catch back up to my friend because a side cramp was forming and I feared going too fast and making it worse. So instead I settled into a groove. Coming up towards the Adams Morgan neighborhood some folks had the boom box going and there was great hooting and hollering. A few miles later there was more raucous cheering and dancing at Howard University. At those points I really needed all the help I could get because the hills were killing me. I don’t remember so many hills and slight inclines in one race!
There was a problem with this race and it is that there were very few mile markers. As I knew I was nearing the latter part of the course I asked a guy running near me if he knew what mile we had reached and he guessed we were near Mile 9 based on the number of water stops (one every two miles). So I made a new friend to chat with for a few miles. This guy was running the full marathon so towards the end of the half he would split to continue on for the rest. Interestingly enough he told me that he ran this race last year (the half) and he heard fans saying, “hurry, you can catch Bill Rodgers ahead.” Sure enough Bill Rodgers, former American record holder in the marathon, was up ahead. He caught up and crossed the finish line with the famous runner. During races I find myself picking up new-found friends along the way and for a brief moment in time they are helping me get that much closer to the finish line (at the Philly marathon it was a 65-year old female running coach from Oklahoma and at the Marine Corps marathon it was a 40-something year old male who was from my home state of New Jersey).
Finally there were some mile markers and the time for mile 10 said 1:27 so I knew I could finish the race in under two hours if I just maintained. Around Mile 11 I dropped back from my new friend a little and continued to chug away. At last I could hear the announcer in the distance and knew the finish was near. As I rounded the corner and made my way down the straight away, I heard my name called and my friend was there with her husband and 7-month old! I knew they were coming out but it was still a welcome surprise since I wasn’t sure where to expect them. Then the announcer butchered the name I had on my bib. “Go Big Seal!?” he said. Ok that was supposed to be “Big Sal”. Then he said “ahh I’m going to have to start saying bib numbers instead of names,” which I thought was funny since he knew he said it all wrong.
After I found my friend who finished about two minutes earlier, I grabbed my medal, water, snacks and a HeatSheet (they are the foil-wrappers given out at the end of cold-weather races that one wraps around the body to help reflect heat and capture it close to the skin). We made our way to a good spot to watch the marathon winners make their way to the finish. Thirty-six year old Michael Wardien won the race for what I think is the fourth time at 2:23:01. He is a local guy who comes out every year and smokes the competition. The second place finisher was a good five minutes behind him. It’s crazy to think that just a little more than thirty minutes after I finished a half this guy finished a full!
Coldness was starting to sink in now that my body was cooling and it was time to make my way back home. Just as a lot of the world was beginning to wake up from a Saturday morning of sleeping, I was rolling back home and ready to begin my day (which has mostly been relaxing on my couch–a luxury I don’t partake in enough).
Overall a great start to the 2011 running season!