Training For And Running 13.1
On October 28th I ran my first Half Marathon. It took place in Pennypack park as part of the Uber Endurance Sports “OktoberLaufFest” which host a series of Marathons, Half Marathons and Ultras races. There’s a lot that I like about these races hosted by Uber: They don;t have corporate sponsors so your shirt is not filled with logos; their smallest race is a Half marathon: they rarely get overcrowded; certain “water” stations have beer, granted it’s a 2 oz. shot but, trust me, it helps! The route for this race is beautiful. It’s a paved road that winds through Pennypack park and follows the Pennypack creek. Their websites mentions that in this race it’s 100% free of traffic and that you will not see a single car or house along the route.
During the summer months of 2012 my friend, Katrina, and I signed up and started training for this race. We stuck to a decent training schedule and ran together as often as we could; usually once a week and one weekend long run where we’d invite our running friends to join in. This is how we got to be running partners. We also got her sister, Jess, to sign up since she was running all of these runs with us. I was introduced to, and started following, the training advice of Hal Higdon. He has a series of different training programs for all types of races and levels and they work!
At that point in my training I wasn’t doing hill repeats, fartleks or any type of interval training. I was simply going out there and finding my stride. I was gradually adding mileage, doing 3-5 mile runs during the week and longer runs on the weekend. The longest run I did was 10 miles. The longest run I did without stopping was 8 miles. I saw my progress in many aspects. I was running faster. I was able to run further without breaking down. I was watching what I ate and the weight was shedding off my body in a good way. I was now ready for this race.
The week leading up to the race we heard reports of the news about this hurricane named Sandy that was approaching. All week we followed it’s movement up the east coast. So far, the race is on. The Philadelphia area was due to get hit the same day as the race, but later on in the afternoon. We would literally be racing against hurricane Sandy; running from the storm.
It was an overcast day and the morning temperatures where in the 50’s. By the end of the race the temperatures hit mid 70’s so all in all perfect weather for a race. This was the first race I ever threw up at before the race. (at home, luckily) I have since done so before every major race since. I attribute that to nervous, pre-race jitters. We met up with Jess and Katrina , gathered our swag and hung out at the starting line. My wife and my parents were there to support me.
Before long we were gathered at the starting line while a man spoke into a megaphone that the first 20 people in line could hear. Overall there were 400 people running this race. The horn was blown for us to start. We all high fived each other and started our race. The first half mile loops around the parking lot so the people who came to watch us could cheer us on and take pictures of us.
Into The Woods
We were running together, Katrina and I, along the first mile with a handful of other runners. We were now into the woods of this path, no where in site of our family and friends who weren’t running. I was watching my phone’s GPS, monitoring my pace. I started talking to another gentleman in the pack. After roughly 2 miles we hit a nice downhill to help pick up the pace.
“Remember this hill,” he said, “because it’s going to be there on the way back and it won’t be a downhill”.
He then proceeded to tell me his running partner was running too fast and that they both had trained on this exact course.
“You watch, he’s gonna burn out to quickly”
I know what he’s talking about and I kept my conservative pace going. It was somewhere around mile 3 plus that I lost Katrina. She kept looking back to see where and how I was. I knew she had run a half marathon before and her goal was to PR her previous half time. I gave her this look that said “Go on. I don’t want to hold you up.”
“I’ll be OK. You go.”
I watched as Katrina got further and further away. That would be the last I would see of her until at the finish line. I was happy that she did as well as she would do that day. As the miles went on the crowd around me get smaller and smaller until it was just me with two people behind me a one guy ahead of me. I took a moment to take in the scenery. It was gorgeous! Running along side a stream and with the fall colors all on an overcast day.
More than 10 Miles
Somewhere around Mile 7 the path “lollipops” back to the same path you ran on. I put my headphones on to help give a musical boost. “Marathon” by Rush is what gets me pumped up so I listened to all 3 versions. Before I knew it, I was at Mile marker 10, a water stop. I took a much needed sip of water.
“Would you like a beer?” one of the hosts asked me
“You just ran 10 miles! I think you’ve earned it.”
Of course I did! And of course I would! I had my 2 oz. shot of beer and a Bavarian pretzel and was on my way. All of the sudden I got this boost of energy! It was like my legs, body and lungs were fresh all over again! So I took off running. Little did I know that what lie ahead of me was the dreaded hill my fellow runner spoke about earlier in the race. It was murder! It slowed me down incredibly and almost knocked the wind out of me. But I made it!
I was happy to know that I was about to get in under 2:30. Then, around Mile 12, the path turned from a paved one to that of a true trail. It was thin and went uphill, covered in fall leaves and huge rocks with tress leaning in towards you. There was no way I could run through all of this. I started to get upset. I had not trained for this type of terrain! My pace was suffering and my mental state was not pleasant. I was thinking I was going to break an ankle on a rock if I wasn’t careful.
The last quarter of a mile was back on a paved road. I could hear people and I could see the parking lot. I knew I was close. My Dad was on the path with his camera to take my picture. It was a bit of a tease because the path looped in and out and all around.
“Where the heck am I going?”
I finally saw that I was about to run through the finish line. 13.1 miles. I git a bit emotional. I crossed the finish line. My wife, my mom and Katrina were all there cheering me on. I remembered what I was taught to not stop completely so I kept walking. My wife came over to me but I had to keep walking. I felt bad. I didn’t want her to think I was walking away from her but I had to keep my legs moving. I also started to get the short wheezes. I had to inhale but was having trouble doing so. Turns out I was fine and whatever it was had passed. My final time was 2:42.
We got our medals and had some great food! Some sour kraut and sausages with oranges and beers! Now THAT’S how you celebrate 13.1 miles! Katrina and I decided we are signing up for this race again, with one exception: This time I’m running with her the whole time, and my final time WILL be that much better!