May 2, 2010 - 7:45 PM
Last year, cursing, sweating, and limping I questioned why I would put myself through 13.1 miles. So what did I do this morning? I cursed, sweated, and limped (I even added bleeding to the mix), asking myself why I would put myself through 13.1 miles again. Today was the Eugene Marathon and Half Marathon, and for the second year I participated in the half marathon.
I've been running competitively in one way or another since the third grade, but it's been more difficult to keep up with it in college without structured competition. For that reason, I have run the last two Eugene Half Marathons to keep myself in shape and training. This term I'm taking a PE course entitled "10K Training" that has a half marathon training built into it. It has helped me build stamina and strength with speed workouts, and Joe Henderson (my instructor) put me on a great schedule to succeed.
Thus, this morning my roommate Jeff and I awoke groggily at 6am to stretch and get dressed before the gun went off at 7am at 15th and Agate. We Blasted Steve Winwood's "Higher Love" to jolt us awake and put us in the right mindset. As a quick aside, I challenge you to find a better pump-up, feel good song than "Higher Love." Seriously, prove me wrong.
After our Steve Winwood session, we jogged over to Hayward Field and stretched and said hi to Joe Henderson. The voice over the loud speaker announced that it was time to make our way to the start line, and we obeyed orders. We filed into our respective expected per mile pace (I went with a conservative 7:30 pace), and anxiously stood through the Star Spangled Banner. Linda Prefontaine, Steve's sister, shot the starting gun and we were off, sentenced to 13.1 miles.
I took off like a gun, adrenaline pumping through my body, and I finished the first mile in 6:36. I calmed myself down, knowing I couldn't keep that pace, and settled down into a groove as we made our way up the Amazon Parkway. I felt great through the first 8 miles maintaining a 7 minute mile pace. The eight mile mark is fantastic because you run through a gauntlet of screaming fans, music, and cowbells to keep the adrenaline pumping. However, you turn the corner out of the gauntlet to be greeted by the steep, steep hill that stretches up 19th Avenue for almost half a mile.
I crawled my way up the hill, and somehow miraculously managed to keep my 9th mile under 8 minutes. I was greeted by a much needed water station and Melissa (my girlfriend) and her dad taking pictures, and I did my best to hide my pain. I passed by Hayward Field at the 9 mile point, and knew that I had to hang on for four more miles until I returned to Hayward to finish.
I dragged my screaming legs the final four miles around the river path, and checked my watch as I made the turn onto the Bowerman Curve on Hayward Field. My watch read 1 hour 34 minutes and 15 seconds. That meant that I had 45 seconds to make the finish line about 200 meters away to achieve my goal of finishing in 1 hour and 35 minutes. I took off, giving every last ounce of energy I had left and crossed the finish line in 1 hour, 34 minutes and 57 seconds. I did it! I improved my time by over a minute from last year, and I was on pace to qualify for the Boston Marathon (all I have to do now is double it!).
The race was perfect. I ran hard, met my goal, and I feel pretty good afterward (minus a couple blisters and a bloody heel). On top of that, the course is beautiful, and the support volunteers and supporters give is amazing. The weather this morning cooperated beautifully, too-it was a sunny morning in the low-50s. I couldn't ask for better running weather. With a couple halfs under my belt, I definitely want to bump it up to a full very soon.