Monday, December 05, 2005

Top twenty finish, first overall female

I didn’t break two hours in the half marathon, or beat my PR by 75 minutes or anything else comparably spectacular, but I did manage to hit the finish line of the Gar Williams Half Marathon in the top twenty.

How to reconcile such a paradox? Just requires starting an hour and fifteen minutes early, running a completely different version of the out-and-back course, and a healthy dose of self-delusion. But I’ve never shied away from a challenge.

It seems I didn’t get the memo. All the other bloggers I know of who are running Miami in January scheduled themselves to run half-marathons on Saturday. Instead, I scheduled myself to run sixteen miles.

I started worrying the night before (as I do) when, sitting on the couch, indoors (in case that wasn’t clear), under a blanket, I was freezing. Because running happens outside, with no blankets. Which sounded colder.

On Saturday morning, I drove out to Alexandria to run with the Potomac Runners. Other than Thanksgiving, I haven’t missed a week since I started running with them. The organizer, a former Ironman who got injured and can’t run anymore, used to welcome me with a pleased, “You’re back!” Now he just says, “I’m glad you’re here!” He’s known the other runners longer, and so he has more to chat about with them.

On Saturday, Chelle strolled over and commiserated about the cold. She was wearing a tech shirt, a thin wool sweater, and a fleece vest. I only had two layers, and I was jealous. Deanna, I knew, would be running the half-marathon (starting at 9:30 am), and so wouldn’t be joining us that morning. I ran with Chelle and another guy for the first mile and a half or so, but soon their pace picked up or I slowed down or both. After that, there didn’t seem to be anyone at my pace, so I was going to be on my own.

The rolling hills of the Mt. Vernon trail become more hill than rolling after about 4 or 5 miles, so I decided to run out and back twice — five miles out the first time, and three miles out the second. That also allowed me to hit the Potomac Runners water stop twice.

And it meant that I saw both ends of the Half Marathon. The race started as I headed back the first time, and I ran past the whole group between their miles one and two (my miles 8 and 9). Their course was a straight out-and-back that started about a quarter-mile south of my starting point, so I didn’t see them again after I turned around at my 10th mile and headed back out three miles.

I turned around just past one of their water stops, and headed back, finally on my home stretch. The racers were still behind me, and the winner didn’t pass me until somewhere around the next mile marker.

He was well out in the lead. The next runner didn’t pass me for at least several minutes. And the next runner after that was another several minutes behind. Three, four, and five were closer together (three and four were right on each others heels), and number six was the first older runner.

For a while I thought I could make the top ten—and I was behind number seven for a good half mile, but once number eight streamed past, my hopes were dashed, as another five or six runners quickly followed.

I’ve only ever seen the front of a race from the other side of the turn around, and it was fun to watch it play out in front of me. Some much needed entertainment, after more than two hours of running on my own.

The sixteen miles were hard—I don’t really want to think about how I would have felt running another 10 miles on top of that. During an especially hilly portion of miles 12 and 13 I had to fight to keep myself from stopping to walk—I told myself it was mile 22 of the marathon, and I was close to finishing at my goal. It helped me get through those last 4 miles, but it wouldn’t have gotten me through another 13.

But that’s what the next month of training is for, right?

It’s nice to think about how far I’ve come since last time. I’m much faster (Saturday’s run clocked in around 2:38, which is just below a 10 min/mile pace). And much less achy. Last year, I was stiff and exhausted for days after my long runs, and by this point of the training, I was skipping at least one workout a week, if not more.

But after Saturday’s sixteen miles, I went to my dance class on Sunday (there was a substitute teacher, who I kind of hated), ran another 4 miles (at an easy pace), and tried out my new yoga DVD. Not in a row. There was lunch and other stuff in between many of those things. But still.


Blogger Anna said...

Youy know what this entry made me think of? The summer that Tamara and I lived in DC and she told us how she was training for a marathon and would run in VA along the Potomac, and we were so incredulous that anyone could ever/would want to run a marathon. And now you are Tamara! That's so crazy! (And cool)

1:18 PM  
Anonymous Liz said...

Hey, just wanted to say how much I enjoy reading your blog. I'm a runner too (well, more or less) and I just moved to DC. How do you like the Potomac Runners club? I'm a little concerned I'd be too slow. . .I usually am comfortable around 10 min/mile or just below. I've run one marathon and now I'm training for a half. If you get a chance, I'd love to know what you think of the club or any others you've tried. My email is

2:08 PM  
Blogger susie said...

Wow, your training has paid off. That's a great run..and to do the rest of your day on top of it. Well, I'm impressed. One day I want to run the Potomac, too:)

5:40 PM  
Blogger jeanne said...


What's the name of your new yoga dvd,and do you like it?

(Awesome run. Really. That is one hilly trail.)

11:18 AM  
Blogger Susan said...

That is fabulous - congratulations.

9:51 AM  
Blogger a.maria said...

damn girl. you go. and strut n'stuff!

11:45 AM  

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