Rock & Roll St. Louis Half Marathon
ďÖto race each mile as skillfully and efficiently as I could.Ē Thomas S. Miller from his book Programmed to Run.
You never go out on a whim and run a half marathon. Oh you may decide to go run a 5k in a spur of a moment manner, but not many people can randomly go run 13.1 miles. I trained for the Rock and Roll St. Louis half marathon week by week, steadily increasing my mileage as the summer progressed. When the temperatures got cooler I remember my swim coach Tom has often said: ďIf you want to swim faster, swim faster.Ē
I heeded this advice and began to push myself during my training runs. The week before the race I compared the times of my recent training runs to some of the times I was running prior to the Carlsbad Half Marathon in 2007. I had a PR at Carlsbad, which is a personal record or personal best time of 1:50:54 and I now was running faster during my training runs. Could I beat my fastest time?
For a while this sort of freaked me out and Iím not sure why but I spent too much time mentally trying to figure out my race strategy. I had optimistically signed up with an estimated finish time of 1:45. The race participants would be divided into corals and start in waves based on the submitted time. Iíve had some disappointing experiences in the past when I started marathons with a pace group only to be dropped in the final miles when I could no longer run at their speed. Most large races have pace groups and this means that there is a person who runs holding a flag with a sign stating a particular pace that the pacer will run. I had to decide if I was going to run by the pace group and if so should I start with the 1:50 and then later try to speed up and pass them by or start with the 1:45 and see how long I could hang with them. My mind was full of what ifís. What if I start out with the pace group and cannot keep up? What if itís really crowded and I get blocked in and cannot run as fast as I would like? What if I run hard for all those miles and do not achieve my goal? What if I run my best, my very best and it is over 2 hours? What if, what if filled my brain but what I really wanted was a guarantee that if I tried hard, if I pushed outside of my comfort zone I wanted to be assured of success. The sticking point for me was why try hard, really hard and finish with a middle of the pack mediocre time? If that was going to be the case then I could just run a relaxed sociable pace and still finish in the middle of the pack with a mediocre time. Why give it your all when you could fail?
After some time the committee in my head determined that I would run as fast as I could. I would give my best for all 13.1 miles regardless of the outcome. Factoring into this decision was my belief that God gave me the ability to run and performing the best my body was able would be my way of showing gratitude to God for the gift regardless of the outcome. Once that was decided I was ready to race.
My friend Janet had invited me to spend the night with her at the Crown Plaza Hotel. She is a coach for Team in Training and this was the hotel for their group. Saturday night I was her date for the Pasta Dinner. What an inspiring group TNT is. Many people achieve personal success reaching their racing goals while earning money for this worthwhile Leukemia and Lymphoma cause.
2011 was the first year for the Rock and Roll marathon in St. Louis and this proved to be the largest marathon run in here. Over 22,000 people participated and thanks to the coral start it wasnít congested at all. At the expo when I picked up my race gear I noticed that there were at least 23 waves and I was slotted into coral two so I did not have to wait long to start the race. Iíve run the Go St. Louis marathon a few times and I thought this was a better course to run because it took us through many residential neighborhoods which created more spectators cheering us along. The first few miles I ran right beside the guy holding the 1:45 pace flag. At the third mile I saw my friend Mark working at the water station. I waved to Mark and then lost track of the pace guy. I figured he had passed me by and then I hoped that the 1:50 pacer wasnít very close to me. I ran at a pace that was comfortably hard, a pace that I thought I could hold on to the finish. After five miles my right quad and left hamstring felt tight. I knew if I didnít stop and stretch I might be forced to stop later, begrudgingly I ran to the side of the street and stretched right before the 10K timing mat. I had to stop again later and do the same and I never saw the 1:50 pacer as I hopefully pushed on.
Do you know what Mortonís toes are? It is when your second toe is longer than your big toe. This sometimes causes me problems and the longer I ran the more my toes hurt. I am not sure what I did to irritate those toes but they were complaining loudly. Mile 9 is a nice mile to reach because at that point you can say to yourself only four more miles to go. Every mile marker sign had a race time clock to help monitor your progress. When I got to mile 12 I knew that I could break 1:50 if I pushed hard. Itís always a guessing game when you run to the finish giving it all youíve got. I figured Iíd turn it up and empty everything I had left in the tank.
I finished with my best time ever 1:48:22 and oh boy did everything hurt, all my leg muscles and my toes, my poor toes were screaming. At one point during the course I pondered the question, was I having fun? Truthfully it wasnít fun, it was work both mental and physical. It was fun to tell people I ran 1:48 and it was fun to see the results but fun, nope not so much. Hereís what I learned, if you give up before you start and decide not to try, not to work, then you know what results to expect. But if you give it all youíve got and try your best then you have a chance at achieving success and if you have done all the work and preparation, why would you give up mentally before you started? Working hard and doing the best with what youíve got is rewarding.