Sunday September 2, 2007 is a day I will remember forever. This day marked the 1 year anniversary of my first road race, the 2006 Rock and Roll Half Marathon. That day I ran the race in 2:17. A PR simply because it was the only half I had ever ran. One year later I thought I was wiser and faster. I have completed 3 Half Marathons with a PR of 2:00 flat. I ran this time in both of my previous two marathons. I was hoping to set a PR in this race, but that was not the case.
The day started early as my wife and I arose at 4 AM. We met up with our friends at there house, near the start of the race. My friend Rex and I were dropped off at the shuttle bus. When we arrived at the start we had some time to kill. It was a cool 70 degrees Fahrenheit that morning. This is a large race with 20,000 entrants and I watched in amusement as peope in costume milled around the staring area. The best costumes were two Geico Cavemen, and of course Elvis. As we lined up to start the race I chugged a gatoraid. I had not eaten much this morning and that would turn out to be one of my larger mistakes of the day. As I awaited the start I had the urge to go to the bathroom, it was too late now and I would have to go during the race.
The race started and we hit the line at around 7 minutes on the clock. I ran hard the first mile and was feeling ok, but not good. I hit the first set of bathrooms and lost a good 45 seconds right at mile one. I then fell in behind the 1:52 pace group. This is where I would stay for the next 3 mile. I got a huge boost as I ran past my wife cheering for me. She is my number one fan. Over the bridge I ran. Then I started to tire. This ended my hope of running with the 1:52 pace group for the entire race.
At mile 5 I fell off the pace and began to slow down. Clearly I had not eaten enough that morning and now I was paying for it. For some reason I waited to eat a gel that was in my pocket. The long trail run I ran the past weekend was taking a toll on my legs as they felt like lead blocks by mile 6. I started walking through the water stops. Not a way to set a PR. I was quickly revising my goal to just finish in 2:05.
As I ran mile 9, back over the bridge I knew I would soon get a boost from my wifes cheers again. This kept me going as I counted streets along the Atlantic Ave. Street by street I ran, quickly realizing that 2:05 may not be achievable. It is fascinating how you can revise goals so quickly while on the run. My mile 10 goals was now 2:10. I got a huge boost by all the cheering people from miles nine to the end of the race. They really kept me pushing towards 2:10.
I felt pretty good physically. My legs were heavy, but nothing was hurting more than usual. I sped up as I made the turn onto the boardwalk and ran hard for the next 1/2 mile. Then I had to slow down again. This process repeated itself for the last 2 miles. When I was within 1/2 a mile of the finish I sped up and started to sprint with 2/10 to go. I almost ran out of energy, but was able to cross the finish in 2:07. This was a PR for the course, but not anywhere close to my pre-race goal.
I love the crowd and the noise and the other runners on the course. It feels like a big happy family out there with everyone pulling for everyone. Before I ran I did not know what I was missing. The feeling I had when I crossed the finish line was amazing. Such a feeling of accomplishment. It is strange what goes through your mind while you are racing. I went through a lot of lows in this race and never really hit a high note. I was not able to reach that place where you push yourself beyond your known limits. I just never got my mind to that place. This race is quickly becoming my rival. I just have not been able to perform up to the level I have in other races. Maybe next year I will be able to conquer it.....