I’m a little late in coming with this one, but been busy and been digesting it all for a week or so. Last week I completed the Chicago Half-Marathon. My time wasn’t anything spectacular, though I’m pretty happy breaking 2:30 and would like to break that next plateau of 2:15, we’ll see. I can’t quite say it was a life changing moment, but it did feel really good, a genuine sense of accomplishment. Let’s face it, 13.1 miles is a long way to go so finishing is pretty cool. Add to that I didn’t walk at all and I feel really good about the whole thing. It was also cool to see about 15,000 people take off at the starting line. I’m glad we shoved off early, but getting down to the south side by 7:00 am proved to be more of a challenge than I wanted. As it stood, I was a bit late, but because of the lag in the start line I was able to check my bag, stretch out a little and chit chat before I actually crossed the start line, about 13 minutes after the horn sounded for the official start. Thanks to the ever improving timing technology, my time didn’t start until I crossed the start threshold and I think my watch and time chip were about two seconds apart, so pretty accurate.
Out on the course it was a pretty social scene, yet a fairly focused, maybe tending toward intense. A lot of people were running in groups or just a friend or two, having a pretty good time, considering we were all trying to run a pretty long way. I talked a little along the way, but for the most part I kept to myself. Also I measure my intensity by how well I can talk and if I’m shuffling my feet or not. When I’m racing* I want to be at that point of not being able to sustain a conversation, that place of not really being able to talk. In the same vein, I want my strides to be pretty smooth so I want both feet coming off the ground. The longer the run, the more I fight the shuffle. So, seeing how 13.1 was the longest run I’ve ever done, the shuffle was a fight for a good portion of the race.
*When I say racing, I’m not really racing of course. There is no competition with the other runners, at least as far as moving up in position, trying to get a better finish and all of that. But there is some competition. I am in a competition with myself, with my time, with my form and just that inner push to keep going. There is a quasi competition, however. I say quasi because I think for it to truly a competition both parties must be aware it is in fact, a contest. As I run, especially during races, I pick out people that I try and keep pace with, try to pass and just plain outrun. It may not be the most mature or sporting behavior, but it keeps me moving. I just have to pass old guys, keep pace with people who look like I want to look like when I’m running and I have to beat people with horrible form, I just have to.
It was a lot of fun having so many people cheering us on as well. There we’re lots of family and friends out and about, but the cheerleading squads along the route were, I hate to admit in the pale light of day, a little motivating; must be the pom-poms. Also the people cheering from the overpasses were a great boost, especially the pass that had the booming dance music for some reason. Maybe it was just the right time to hear some dance tunes. The bands playing along the way were ok, but changing the lyrics to incorporate the act of running is lame, even if I am exhausted. Because of the turn around aspect of the course, up one side of Lakeshore Drive and down the other, we were able to seen the lead runners as they cruised to the finish line; talk about an inspiration. Holy JEBESUS, but those guys could fly. It really was something to see and it was fun to cheer them on a little bit and get cheered on by some of the fast runners as well.
Somewhere in between miles 7 and 9, I pretty much hit my peak. I felt great all the way through the turnaround and into mile 10, but then fatigue, a cut toe, some nagging soreness began to really get to me. Strangely enough between 10 and 12 I probably felt my worst. I felt like the whole race was passing me by and I was slowing down to a crawl. When that mile marker read 12, however, I felt awesome. One more mile to go and that just seemed very possible.
When I finished, I was surprised and pleased with my time and I was thrilled about receiving a medal, truth be told. Medals are just cool. It was a little weird not being able to pick out the wife and kids and after all of that, I really wanted to see them. We eventually met up and the kids were excited and really anxious to get moving toward home. Waiting for dad for an hour is a lot to expect.
Looking back, I’m really glad I did it and I think I want to do two in one year. The Indianapolis half-marathon looks amazing. The final 2-2.5 miles of the race is a lap around the Indy Motor Speedway. I’m not into car racing at all, but that would still be a great experience. I guess the only thing I didn’t quite expect was a little voice with a judgmental English accent saying in the back of my mind, “ so couldn’t quite make the full marathon, then? Well better luck next time.” And that little English fucker has been with me since I finished and I wish he would just go away. Somehow I don’t think more racing will make it go away any time soon.