In my overachieving sort of way, I doubled the goal I set for myself last year: I completed, not the planned one, but two completely different half marathon races this month. And I’ve learned that what runners talk about when they we talk about races is, of course, our time, our place in the pack, our aches and pains. And we also talk about the course itself. For the edification of no one but own self, and to prevent me from boring my friends and family on Facebook and in person with all the grueling details, I blog about running now.
Half Marathon #1:
- Nearly 700 runners (nearly 500 of them women, interestingly) converge on a forest trail and run in three waves based on one’s speed (or self perception of one’s speed, I suppose). I run in the third wave having signed up for the race months earlier, when I was much slower, thus I have the satisfaction of running faster than at least a few folks in the second wave (a psychological edge that cannot be discounted).
- The weather: 50s and cloudy at the start; 60s and sunny by the end.
- The course: dirt, rocks, hills, mostly single track, still muddy in spots from weeks of rain. Twisted my ankle on a lovely rock around mile 4, but it quickly righted itself, thankfully.
- My stats: 2 hours 8 minutes 15 seconds. Came in 420th out of 683 completers. I’m happy with that–hey, it’s my first! No injuries. Little pain the next day even. Probably could have pushed myself more, I’m thinking.
Half Marathon #2:
- About 1400 runners, also in three waves, but this time the waves were set up by luck of the draw–I happened to be in the first wave this time; this naturally means that there were folks in the third wave who whipped past me even though they began 20 minutes after I did. Psychological edge: zilch.
- The weather: 45 degrees and damned cold while we waited, but by the time the race began the sun was out and it was closer to 50 degrees–warming up to the very warm 70s by the end of the race.
- The course: entirely paved bike trails. After spending the winter running mostly on treadmills, I spent the spring running on dirt trails, so I was not very well prepared for paved bike trails. My feet still ache a bit from the pounding they took.
- My stats: 1 hour 57 minutes 51 seconds. Came in 354th out of 1400. I was told I’d run faster on a paved trail, but 10 minutes faster only 2 weeks after the first half marathon is quite a treat! But, except for my achy feet, no pain at all. Definitely could have pushed myself a little more.
So now, naturally, I want to go faster. Not run a marathon (the idea of running for up to 4 hours just doesn’t do it for me), but to run the half marathon faster. Obviously, I’m not going to win any medals, especially since the women in my age group are damned fast, but I want to at least try to do the 8 minute mile for most of the race (rather than the 9ish minute mile I’m at now): so 1 hour 45 minutes or so. By next year? I’d say it’s possible.
For non runners, especially non running academics, who have bothered to read this far:
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, what’s the appeal? Who cares how fast you run? WHY would anyone want to run 13.1 miles, or run for nearly 2 hours?
I give you the pleasures of running half marathons:
- Being able to control my aging body with my increasingly flexible and strong mind. Since I was never a jock or an athlete, I’m now, finally, thoroughly enjoying the mind/body interaction that running races requires.
- While I struggle for the first few miles (mostly because I’ve not yet figured out how much or even how to warm up ahead of time), once I’m in the “zone” the running becomes easy, fun, exhilirating even. Those endorphins kick in, and the thought of any other mind-altering drug is almost repulsive in comparison.
- I have done my most productive thinking while running.
- I have had my most divine fantasies while running.
Really, for that last reason alone, I recommend running. That and the ability to eat a bowl of cookie dough ice cream every day and not gain weight.