Over the course of January I ran about one or two times a week (I even made it to one Thursday morning AM run, man 5 AM is early) and had planned on the Valentines day 5k to be my first race as a cruiser. It of course was cancelled due to weather and I didn't know which race I would do next. One of my coworkers who was training for the LIttle Rock Half Marathon got hurt and asked if I would be interested in transferring her number. I said sure why not?
This motivated me and in February I got to running 3-4 times a week and even put in a 9 mile "long" run. I had planned to do more but being a single dad of two kids it seems like sometimes it is hard to get in runs.
The race day arrived and I was getting the pre race jitters that i have always enjoyed. This time it was a bit different. I was a miler in college and have never raced over a 10k so a half marathon was a new horizon for me. I had a goal of trying to go under 90 minutes even though I didn't really know what to expect or what I could run. I felt as though the weather was good for a half marathon but was a bit concerned by the course. I felt as though there were a few more hills than I might be ready for.
As I stood in the corral I told myself that the key to the race was for me to be very patient. I am very good at getting out fast but in this situation it was just not what was needed. To try to prevent myself from getting going too fast I only warmed up a mile and only did one stride. My plan was to try to keep myself a bit tight to start slow. As they released the first group of runners I was a bit irritated as I stood there waiting to start because let's be honest this is a race and I don't want to give anyone a head start. I had asked to be up farther in the corals but being that I had never raced a half they put me back a bit.
They finally said go and away I went at a complete jog. I saw as many people around me took off. There was the 13 year old girl. There was the 75 year old man. Then there was me just trotting along behind them. It took all of my patience to just stay at my pace. As we took the first right at the Clinton Library I decided it was time to go. I started to pass fairly large numbers of people and saw that we were already starting to gain on the group that started in front of us. I looked around and saw the posters and fans and immediately fell in love with the moment.
At about a mile we passed the first guy from the group that started in front of us. I was tempted to look over at him and yell liar but felt as though it was probably a bit overboard. I looked at my watch as we passed a mile and it was 6:48. I felt like with the way I started the race I was probably running right at 6:40 pace. I felt good though and decided I should push it a bit. We went over the river and at the two mile mark I was at 13:06 (6:18) I immediately got worried and relaxed a bit. I kept trying to find a pack by speeding up and catching people but when I got to them I felt like they were going too slow so I moved on.
Then the miles started to click off through North Little Rock. 6:39, 6:33, 6:51 (it's ok we went back over the bridge I told myself), 6:38, 6:48, 6:42. I was at 8 miles and had split faster on every mile than the pace I had hoped to run. I felt as though 88 minutes was now a possibility. Thanks to the random people who were yelling, "hey theres a cruiser!" It made my day. As we headed out of downtown Little Rock though I started to hurt and the crowds dwindled. I kept telling myself Get back to Erin (my fiance) and see her. At one point I even told myself, "no big deal you gave it a good go no shame is just walking back to the car." Then the idea hit me that I was well under my goal and I could slow down a bit and still hit it. I told myself just to run 7 min miles on the way in.
My next two miles were 6:59 and 7:00. I was happy I was only a 5k away and that I had been able to stay close to my goal pace without giving much time back. The problem was I had hit "THE WALL." I had heard of this thing but never really experienced it. I have locked up so back from anaerobic respiration that my legs won't move but not this feeling. This concrete blocks on my feet feeling. The thing was I only had a 5k. My wheelhouse. I stopped thinking of it as a half marathon and now it was simply a 5k. I tried to pick it up. Big mistake I was dead. I trudged through the next mile in 7:15. I felt it all slipping away. I turned left and hit a major wind and felt like that was it. A girl passed me and I told myself to go with her. I got right on her back shoulder and tagged along. We went about 200 meters and I could tell she was slowing down. I passed her and said, "tuck in" and pushed forward. After about 300 meters I pulled off and said, "you work now." She passed me and I tucked in. We continued this though the next mile and a bit. Finally as we made the final right hand turn to go in I looked at my watch and felt like I had it. 5 minutes left and it didn't seem like very far. I tried to push it but lets be honest I had nothing left. As we passed the banner I looked at my watch and I was at 88:20. Plenty of time to run the last tenth of a mile. Then I realized that was the banner for the marathon and it was 26 miles. I still had two tenths left. After a moment of freaking out I pushed as hard as I could. Crossed the finish line in 89:54 and instantly my legs cramped up. Calves, hamstrings, and quads all at once. I was in agony. I hobbled over to Ering to show her my time and grabbed two swiss cake rolls and a chocolate milk.
Thank you to the girl I worked with. You are the only reason I reached my goal.