This race was not a goal race necessarily, but you always want to do your best. I am training for a full marathon in June (now in a few days since I am so lazy posting), and this event fit almost perfectly into the training. It was also a race a couple of my friends were running, and one that was out of town with new roads to discover.
Training had been sporadic during tax season (as usual), so I have been playing catch up for the past month (as usual). I am also trying to split my time with preparing for some bike rides this summer, so I was feeling pretty average at two things, rather than totally prepared for the race in front of me. I showed up at the start line more or less ready, but not exactly confident.
After not running a half marathon in four years, I ran two last year, mostly through the positive influence of a couple of friends who were now running. Though it is always hard work, it was great to be back at it. The dedication of getting out on the roads even when you don't feel like it, the camaraderie of the start line and the joy of the finish. The half marathon is almost the perfect event. Plenty long enough to be a challenging undertaking, but the training doesn't take over your life and weekends.
I was running again with my buddy Steve who had run both halfs with me last year. He is more recent to this running thing, but has been making great strides (see what I did there). I had been his carrot to chase, and he has pushed me forward. This year he has proved quicker than me, and has taken me down in both the 5k and 10k distances, all the while claiming he wasn't a "runner".
He, his girlfriend Tania and I hit the road in the wee hours in order to make it to Olympia by the start. The race, while not small, is not one of these colossal productions with tens of thousands of runners. It had a small town feel, running through neighborhoods for much of the route. Olympia is Tania's old hometown, so there were probably memories around every corner.
Steve and I took off together, but soon he was rabbiting ahead. It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of the start line, but I tried my best to stick to my plan. The route was a bit hilly with a two mile steady climb early in the route, and a more dramatic hill at mile ten. The plan was to keep a steady effort, saving some juice for that last hill, and then turn it loose (if I had it in me) on the downhill from mile ten to the finish.
Steve had a bright orange shirt on, so it was relatively easy to see him in the crowd, but soon he was speck in the distance. As we ran through the neighborhoods, several people were set up on their front lawns, cheering us on, and in places handing out oranges. I stopped at a make-shift water station, mostly because a couple of girls maybe ten years old had set it up like a lemonade stand, and I traded high fives with other enthusiastic kids down the street. I have read that keeping a smile on your face (even when you don't feel like smiling) will help keep pain at bay. No problem smiling at this race so far.
I caught up with Steve at around mile six. We chatted for a bit, but soon he sped up. This had been a pattern at our other half marathons. He is the rabbit to my tortoise. When I caught him again at mile eight, he cheered me on as we headed downhill, shooting off again. At the top of the climb at mile ten, we joined ranks one last time, but this time it was I that was able to push on. The next couple of miles were mostly flat, and then the last mile was noticeably downhill. My shoe came untied a mile out, but there was no stopping at that point. The feed of gravity had me feel like I was flying, and wasn't sure I would be able to recapture it if I stopped.
I crossed the line in 1:46:18 just a few seconds shy of my second best time. It felt great to have run a strong race when my training had seemed so iffy. Steve came in just a minute later, notching a new personal best. Some of Tania's friends and family were at the finish, and some others were out running the half marathon as well, so we cheered them all in. We all earned ridiculously large medals, complete with a bottle opener on the back. All we needed was a bottle of Oly.
Another great day on the roads. New places, new faces, and free race photos. Can't ask for much more.