2:14:29 and still smiling!
I had a great day at the Victoria half marathon yesterday! The day started early with a mile-plus walk from my motel at 6:30 AM. The dawn streets were deserted except for a gradually growing crowd of other runners approaching the start. On the street near the starting line, a throng of runners made further movement difficult as we jostled for space. As approximately 5,000 half marathoners lined up to go, I was thrilled to claim my spot behind the sign for those expecting to finish in 2:15 or so. Last year I’d lined up with the 2:45ers.
It was chilly (mid-40s) at the start, but I decided to go out in short sleeves and no gloves.
Even with this position farther forward in the pack, it still took me 3+ minutes after the gun to reach the starting line and activate my chip. I’d planned to run the first five miles on a 10:20 pace, pick up to a cumulative 10:15 pace by mile 10, and then go for it with whatever energy I might have left.
There was so much traffic at the start that I ran that first mile in 10:41. People were running eight or more abreast (we completely covered the wide streets in downtown Victoria) and passing was extremely difficult. I told myself to relax and wait for the crowd to thin out. The spectator support was wonderful here, with crowds lining the sidewalks and lots of happy noise.
My fingers and toes went numb from the chill in the first two miles but then thawed out once we got to Beacon Hill Park, where there was a bit more room to maneuver and pick up speed. The race here takes a series of loops through the heavily wooded park. There are some gentle hills, and my confidence grew as I began to pass runners on the hills. I flew through miles 2 through 5, each mile faster than my planned 10:20, and got myself back on the cumulative time I wanted. But I felt a bit more tired than I wanted to be at that point.
Miles 6-10, then, were about settling down, conserving effort, and staying focused. This part of the course is a long out-and-back along the waterfront and through a residential area. I took in the views across the water to the Olympic Mountains. I thought about places I’d hiked in those mountains. Coming back from the turnaround point, I kept my eyes peeled for the full marathoners who’d started an hour after us. There are few sights more inspiring for me as a runner than seeing Kenyans flying toward me! I was also thrilled to see a local attorney on his way to a new Guinness World Record for the fastest marathon run in a business suit (he ended up running an astonishing 2:35:something for a full marathon!).
By the time I hit mile 10 I was exactly on my planned 10:15 cumulative pace and feeling good. I did the next three miles at a sub-10 pace and was passing lots of people (while still being passed by others).
Then came the longest ever last “10th of a mile.” I’d already passed signs that said “1 mile to go,” “1 kilometer to go,” and “500 meters to go.” The course workers, who thickly lined the course at this point, kept shouting that we were almost there. More signs: “400 meters,” “200 meters,” “100 meters.”
Victoria is the only half marathon that I’ve run in Canada, so I don’t know whether this course simply measures long or all Canadian races measure long (perhaps because they are measured in kilometers rather than miles)? In any case, last year my Garmin measured this course at 13.25 miles. This year it measured 13.27 miles. That extra 0.17 mile is more than a minute and a half when you’re running a 10-minute mile! And it seems like forever when you’re going as hard as you can, straight into the sun and a wall of noise, looking for the finish line that seems to never come.
I finally found the finish line and clicked the “stop” button on my watch. It read 2:14:30! (My official time was recorded as 2:14:29, and I’ll gladly use their numbers.) I walked forward in a bit of a daze. I remember being grateful that the person who handed me my medal called me by name. What a wonderful custom it is to put a runner’s name on a bib — hearing one’s name at the finish line quickly brings a tired runner back to the “real” world!
The Victoria finish line chute is well-planned, as runners are channeled directly through a long line of tables brimming with water, chocolate milk, bananas, orange sections, apples, cookies, donuts, muffins, and bagels! I think I had at least one of everything but the donuts and muffins.
I had to walk all the way to the far end of the chute before my friend and I spotted one another. He’d managed to find me three times on the course, but missed me at the finish in the crush of spectators. Here’s a photo that he got of me near the entry to the park:
We left the finish line area and walked to a waterfront brewpub where we enjoyed a couple of local Victoria beers on the sunny 60+ degree patio. Here I am relishing my finisher’s medal while relaxing and having a microbrew:
After leaving the brewpub, we had to walk quickly to catch the ferry to get back across the strait. Then another mile-plus walk from the ferry back to my house. In all, I figure I walked 5 miles yesterday in addition to running 13.27 miles at a pace I didn’t dare dream of a year ago.
I ran this race last year in 2:40:33 and thought I’d never, ever beat that. I was two minutes a mile faster this year. I ran a negative split (faster second half) by two full minutes. I was 87th out of 210 finishers in my age/gender division (last year I was 132nd out of 218). I executed the race almost exactly as I’d planned it — and my plan worked! It resulted in another PR by 59 seconds, preserving my streak of a new PR with every race. I continue to be amazed at what is possible if you just keep putting one foot in front of the other.
I was rather sore and very tired last night, but today I’m feeling better than I thought I would. However, it will be at least a week or two before I feel like running again. When I do it will be just for fun… no more races on my immediate horizon.
There are some trails that I am itching to hike before the weather turns rainy and cold.
One step at a time!