Race Date: November 3, 2013
I chose this race for my half marathon goal race this fall because it’s a bit later in the year which allowed me to spend the summer concentrating on trying to improve my short distance times and give me a few extra weeks to get in an abbreviated training cycle.
Even up to a few days before the race I hadn’t really given my goal much thought. To be quite honest, I signed up because I need to have goals in order to keep myself on track. My main goal for this year was my 5k training and with that finished (for now – stay tuned), I finally started to think about this race. The only goal I really had was to break my PB of 2:24:48.
Race morning was crisp, cold and windy. I was wearing long tights, a t-shirt, a long sleeve shirt, neck warmer, gloves and ear warmers as well as a throw away sweatshirt I would wear until the race started and I was warmed up. Thankfully there was an old school open for us to wait inside until the race began.
My buddy Ginny and I went out to the start corral together. We weren’t sure how long we would be together, but we would start out and see how things went. The first few kilometers we were trying to warm up but fighting that strong cold wind. I was so glad I was wearing that sweatshirt for the first 5 minutes or so before throwing it to the side of the road. The first 5k was spent navigating around people including walkers with poles. The road was flat and the people along the route were amazing. They had come out on such a cold morning to cheer everyone on. One man even brought orange slices to give out to the runners as we went by. We were keeping about a 6:22 pace which was right where I wanted to be.
Just past the 5k mark, we turned onto a highway and there began a 4km downhill with a spectacular view – fall colours, the city below, it was beautiful. It was this part of the course that I had been waiting for – a nice downhill where we would naturally pick up the speed a bit. Unfortunately, we were fighting a strong headwind for most of it and weren’t able to enjoy it as much as we should have. Although our speed did pick up to an average of about 6:15, we really had to fight for it. The highway portion of the run went from 5k to 11k. As cold and windy as it was, I really enjoyed this part of the race. Running downhill on a highway was amazing. It gave me a sense of freedom. There were people that came down onto the highway and others standing on the overhead bridges cheering and holding signs. There was even a group of drummers set up along the way that Ginny totally photo bombed as someone was taking a picture of them. It was hysterical! At 10k Ginny asked me what our time was. We were at 1:09:00. We realized that we could both be well on our way to those PBs we were hoping for!
The next part of the course was the hardest – the last 10k was along a gravel path, over a bridge and then 7k of an out and back along a flat, paved lakefront path to the finish line. If you know me, you know how much I hate, hate, hate running on paths or in parks. Within a minute or two of hitting the gravel section of the path we went up a short, fairly steep hill and I realized how much my butt hurt. A lot. In all the long runs I had ever run, I had never felt that before. I thought it was probably from the long downhill section we had just run.
As we moved along the path, my legs were getting heavy and our speed was slowing down to anywhere from 6:30 to 6:48.
Every so often Ginny would ask our time. Her Garmin had died around 8k and she was recalculating our finish time over and over. I was doing the same. That last 7k stretch was one of the hardest 7k runs I have ever done. More than once in the final 5k I was ready to pack it in. But Ginny kept going so I kept going. Watching our time, talking about what was coming up. Somewhere along the path, as the lead marathon runner passed us (for the second time), I had come to the realization that my PB may be out of reach for now, so my focus turned to Ginny. Keep moving, keep tracking… With about 1k to go we saw Mike snapping pictures. I almost missed him because he was crouched down low to the ground. This put a little bounce in our step because it meant we were almost there! One last look at our time told me that I was still within reach of my PB. Up a small incline and turn the last corner to the finish line. “Go for it” Ginny said (or something like that). I dug deep, found a little bit of energy and made one final push to the finish line. After I crossed, I turned around just in time to see Ginny cross a few seconds behind me. She had beaten her PB by over 5 minutes! I was so excited for her. She was overwhelmed with emotion and I was feeling it for her too. Myself, I bettered my PB by 1:35 and was quite happy with that considering I hadn’t really trained all that hard for this half marathon.
Overall it was a really well organized race with a nice course that, on another, less windy day, could have produced even more amazing results.
This race could have ended very differently if we hadn’t run together. As it was, we stuck together and ended up being our own support system to help each other attain our goals. Could I have any better running buddies? I don’t think so.
I am so, very happy for Ginny and her new PB!
Here’s to even bigger things in 2014. Did someone say “marathon”?
Official time: 2:23:13
Photos by Mike