The weather has been great here in southeastern Ohio and raceday dawn with the same wonderfully cool and dry conditions. Since this was only a half marathon they started at 8 instead of the usual 6 AM marathon start time. Yea! Sleep in time baby. Forgot that my wife and son were running the 2 mile race which meant we had to get up at 6:30 anyway to get everyone and everything together. So much for the sleeping in but it's still better than waking at 4:30 and running in the dark for the first few miles.
I was extremely worried about the hills on this course and my legs were still feeling tight so I was still working out my race strategy as I lined up. By the time the gun went off I had come to the extremely well thought-out and detailed plan of "Screw-It this is just for fun anyway" strategy. Pretty good for a last minute plan don't you think? I though so and was proud of myself for thinking of it.
Garmin and I, along with 700 of our new friends, started off behind the 4-5 Ethiopians who had travelled to West-By-God-Virginia. We were running comfortably and I was ignoring Garmin for the first couple miles just to make sure my legs and mind were on the same page before I worried about my pace. Our first real hill was a downhill. I was surprised at the slapping of feet I heard all around. It was like a herd of buffalo running on pavement! I thought I was bad at hill running! My shins hurt just listening to it. We settled out and hit our first real hill around mile 2. I had run this one on Wednesday so I was ready for it. No problem, up and over. Next hill had a water stop at the top of it. What a great idea! I love these people. Grabbed some water and we were on the downhill again. Mile 3 was at the bottom and it was rolling hills after that for many miles. I had made it through the tough part. Holy crap, I'm still alive, both legs still attached and I was still running.
I began to check Garmin as we ran along scenic South Parkersburg. I was easily running just under 8 min/mile. GREAT! Didn't expect that. Hey there's the golf course I got kicked off of when I was in school. They didn't appreciate us racing their golf carts. Or maybe it was the crashing more than the racing? Either way they made us leave with a police escort. Not one of my finer moments in history.
Still more rolling hills as we past my brothers house. Still running under 8's. I was beginning to worry that this may be too fast. I committed myself to keeping it easy until 6 miles. Hey look, 6 mile marker in 47 minutes. Where did that come from? This is kinda fun. Did I mention the water stops? Wow they had one every mile! I'm not kidding, every mile on the 1/2 mile there was Gatorade and water and wonderful, cheering people. I grabbed some water and took my PowerBar gel at mile 7 1/2.
I did some quick math, kept my shoes on so it wasn't exact, and figured I had a chance to PR on this course if I could pick it up a little. I knew there were hills up ahead but I was over half way and I had at least 2 more miles before I got to them so what the heck. I put the hammer down and lengthened my stride and tried to make quick turnovers. It actually felt good. I started picking out people to use as targets. It's a mental game I use to make sure my mind doesn't get time to think too much and figure out I'm actually running. I like to keep him in the dark about these things. I saw a large group of people way up ahead of me and put a bulls-eye on them. I caught them about the time we got back into the city and then picked out a group of women who were running just ahead of me. This was about mile 10 and I was waiting on the hills. As I got closer to these women I could hear them talking. And talking. And talking. Chatty-Cathy's. Here I was running hard and barely catching them and they were chatting about who was going to drive home! Super ego-blow. When I caught them they decided to talk to me. I tried to make good conversation. Something along the lines of, "yea", "good", "Ughh", "Blah" etc...
I did get enough energy to ask them where the next hill was. They told me to look to my right. HOLY CRAP THAT'S A BIG HILL! I thought that not enough energy to speak it. Who puts a major hill at mile 12 of a 13 mile race? Satanic cults with a running problem, that's who! I put my head down and charged up West Virginia's version of Pikes Peak. Thighs burning, lungs in my hand, and chatty-Cathys behind me, I made it to the top. "It's all downhill from hear" is what a spectator yelled at me. Yea! it has to be since there's only 3/4 mile left and I'm at the F-ing top of the world! Where else to go but down! Now shut up and let me swallow my lungs and finish this race.
I hit Market street and it actually was downhill so I started my kick. I caught a couple people and the finish line announcer actually called me out! It was cool to hear my name and home town called out so I raised my arms and showed off a bit. Figured I'd earned it and most of these people don't know where Oklahoma is anyway! Some of them may remember me from my younger days anyway and they would expect no less.
I finished in 1:40:52 according to Garmin. That's just 2 minutes off my PR. I was VERY happy with that given the hills. At the finish I heard an old friends name announced just after mine so I waited to see him. I walked up and re-introduced myself and he remembered me. He said he had run behind me the whole race and noticed me because of the Oklahoma City Runners Club shirt. He had no idea it was an old friend! He had run cross country and track with my brother so I took him over to my parents and brother and we got caught up on all the details of each other's lives. What a great surprise.
This was a wonderful race. I have never seen so many volunteers. They were everywhere handing out water, stopping traffic, directing runners and even riding bikes along the course with radios to watch for runners in trouble. What great organization. This is my hometown but even I was impressed with the race organization and the city's embrace of the event. People were everywhere cheering and watching. All in all a wonderful event and I'm glad I came.
After the race I went out on the Ohio River with my dad, brother and his family. It was a beautiful day and we had a ball. Here is a picture of my son diving into the river.
Thanks for listening.