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The video footage of me running the Rex Healthcare Half Marathon amounts to about 20 seconds. Here’s what it doesn’t show.
3 minutes before race time
I take off my warm-up pants and every hair on my legs stands at attention. It’s 31 degrees.
Although my iPod ear buds are in, I haven’t pushed play on my iPod Shuffle. I think I hear a baby buffalo stampede. Then I realize that it’s really just the sound of more than 3,000 pairs of sneakers beating the road. It’s not quite as cool as buffaloes in North Carolina, but it’s still kinda’ neat.
Timex split: 9.08. This puts me right on pace to accomplish my goal of finishing the race in less than 2 hours.
I see a barefoot runner. Not only is he passing me, he looks like he’s having more fun than me. I consider ditching my Mizunos on the side of the road. Then I imagine how freezing cold asphalt will feel. I decide to keep running. Like a normal person.
Timex split: 8.24.
I start to see why it’s worthwhile to run a race I’ll never win. I’m running on the yellow lines of a carless city street. The traffic light above me is red but I’m still going. I feel like I own the road. (Even though there is a sea of runners as far as I can see in both directions.)
Timex split: 17.30. That probably seems like a long time, but it’s for 2 miles. I missed the Mile 3 marker. Also, I slow down as I near the first water station. It’s right next to one of my favorite Irish pubs. I hope that the cup I receive from a volunteer is full of Guinness. It’s not. Just water.
I run past my own personal pit crew, consisting of Carie and my parents, who would probably want you to know that they were almost pulled over by a police officer for sneaking their way onto the course in my mom’s minivan.
I’ve been running at the exact same pace as the woman in front of me for about half a mile. I start to realize that it’s probably because I’ve been staring at her butt for about that long.
I wonder if Carie will be mad when she reads this.
I decide that she would probably be looking at this lady’s butt, too, along with other guys’ butts.
I start to wonder if anybody’s looking at my butt.
I figure I should probably concentrate less on the rumps of the road and more on the bumps of the road. I pass the butt lady.
Timex split: 26.01. Yep, you guessed it. My wandering eyes missed not one but two mile markers this time.
I hawk a loogie directly into a gust of wind. My right sleeve is covered in gooey saliva. A nearby onlooker gives me a disapproving look as I wipe it off with my left hand.
Timex split: 16.50. I’m going much faster than I’d planned.
Timex split: 8.11. I look at my overall time. With only 3 miles left, I’m at 1:25.49. I realize that if I average 8-minute miles, I can finish 10 minutes faster than my goal. I decide to go for it.
Timex split: 7.46. I’m right on track to finish under 1:50.
I remember that there’s one more long uphill stretch. Crap. Plus, I realize that I wasn’t accounting for that extra tenth of a mile when I decided to change my goal midrace. I decide I better pick up the pace.
Timex split: 8.04. Not bad, considering most of it was uphill.
I can see the finish line. I look at my watch. I’ve got about 90 seconds. I sprint a few yards and look at my watch again. Time seems to be going faster but I don’t seem to be getting any closer to the finish line.
I look at my watch again before realizing that I need to stop looking at it and run faster. Except I feel like I’m going to throw up. But I’ve got to do this.
I punch the Timex’s stop button. Never have I been so excited to see a stopwatch reading. It says 1:49.59. (Later, I learn that my official time was 1:49.53.)
On the car ride home
I reflect on the race. I think aloud that half is a weird word. Why is there an l in there?
Also, I reflect on the race. I think about how it’s crazy that I pulled it off, especially since I had never run farther than 4 miles at one time until last month. I know that a full marathon is a reality. That if I can do this, I can do anything.
But first, I’ll need a nap.
Unofficial half marathon finish time: 1 hour, 49 minutes, and 59 seconds.
Time it will take me to thaw out after running 13 miles in freezing temperature: TBD.
More to come later.
I opted out of joining Blackbeard’s Challenge today. So did most of the 3,604 people who have become Facebook fans of the attempt to break the Guinness World Record for most pirates in one place.
Only 813 costumed pirates showed. That might seem like a lot, but they needed 5,353 more pirates to break the record.
So unreliable, those pirates.
Even though they didn’t reach their goal, I would have liked to say I made a go at a Guinness World Record. Hopefully, the organizer gives this another shot next year.
As for now, being a pirate probably wouldn’t have been good practice for the half marathon I’m running tomorrow. As I have no desire for this to morph into a blog about running, I promise that my report on the half marathon will be short and sweet. I wish I could apply the same adjectives to the actual run. Instead, I fear it will be long and freezing. Right now, Weather.com is forecasting a race time temperature of 34 degrees.
Shiver me timbers.
During the past seven months, I have achieved some of my wildest dreams.
But now it’s time for me to concentrate on achieving a somewhat mundane yet equally worthwhile dream. Three weeks from today, I’m running in my first half marathon.
What’s that, you say? It takes months to train for a half marathon? Not weeks?
Well, you’re right. Most training programs I’ve found on the Web (including the plan in the book that’s been sitting untouched on my desk for the past two months) aim to prepare you in about eight weeks. Of course, it’s not like I’ve been hibernating for the past two months. In fact, I’ve been running on a regular basis since June. The only problem is that none of those runs were longer than four miles.
That’s why I decided to go for a long run yesterday morning. Knowing that this would be in stark contrast to my shorter runs, I took a few necessary precautions. I loaded my iPod shuffle with a collection of upbeat 80s music and podcasts of This American Life and The Story. I bought a Camelbak hydration pack, filled the water bladder to capacity, and stuffed the pockets with a few packs of energy gel and my cell phone—just in case I needed to call an ambulance at the end of the run. I also found a place to run where the miles were clearly marked.
It was 10:30 a.m. and I planned to run 10 miles. Five miles out and five miles back at an estimated pace of nine minutes per mile. I would be back to the car in an hour and a half.
After the first three miles, everything was going as planned. I felt great. Actually, I felt so great that I knew I could run farther than 10 miles.
So I did. I cruised past the 5-mile marker, past the 6-mile marker, all the way to the 7-mile marker.
A few minutes after 12:30, I returned to the parking lot. I had been running for two hours and nine minutes. I had run 14 miles.
Even though I could barely move my legs by the time I returned home, I felt amazing. Even though most of the moving parts of my knees feel like they’ve been replaced with concrete today, I still feel amazing. Mainly because I set a goal and exceeded it. Also because my soreness gives me a great excuse to lie on the couch and watch football all day.
I may have to do this more often.