Best race ever. No, really, I ran my best race ever, taking down my PR in my 19th half marathon by 1 second to 1:29:12.
DID YOU WIN?
I was 2nd of 574 overall, 2nd of 211 men and 1st of 29 in my age group. This was my first half marathon age group win since I won the 2010 Boo Run outright. I lamented on Twitter before the race that I'd need an other-worldly effort just to place in the top 3, based on a view of who had registered. A couple guys ran with their wives or paced slower pace groups, but indeed, the guys in M35-39 placed 2-3-4-6 overall.
HOW'D THAT HAPPEN?
I started the race way, way too fast. At one point I heard someone behind me, perhaps Paul, note aloud that he needed to rein it in. I thought that would be a good idea too, but no, there I was in the lead. The eventual winner passed me before the Mile 1 marker, but no one else would the entire way. I knew I was running too fast (6:10 first mile?!) but I didn't feel based on my breathing that I was really taxing myself, so I went with it. I was through 5K in 19:33, only 11 seconds off my PR at that distance -- only in this case I still had 10 miles to go.
Mile 4 headed south, into the wind, and my pace slowed to around where it should have been anyway. Then it was back to the north, and faster once again. I passed 10K in 40:15, 15 seconds below the one good 10K I've ever run. At each turn I'd try to get a peek at how far back the next guy was. It seemed he was always close enough that if he were gaining on me, he'd be by me in no time.
At the aid station at 6.4, I got some encouragement from my Frisco Running Club friends -- well, it was more like all the way down the street, in Hamlin's case. I couldn't falter within view of these guys, now could I? The next runner was 23 seconds back as I crossed the timing mat.
The wind started to hold me up again as I turned back for home, but I was still easily ahead of schedule. I was through 15K in 1:01:35, more than a minute faster than my best for that distance. Mentally I went back and forth between thinking about a PR and thinking about the guy behind me, but both thoughts told me the same thing: Keep running hard.
Turning back onto Greenville at mile 11.5, the headwind hit with its hardest force yet. It was only half a mile to the next turn, but that stretch felt like an eternity. I was running as hard as I could just to keep moving forward. Getting off of that road was a cause for celebration. I closed in on the last out-and-back section of the course and saw the winner go cruising by. As I rounded the turnaround cone, I started counting the gap behind me. Thirteen seconds later, I crossed paths with the next runner. My 26-second edge could still be overcome, so I sped up once again.
On the last street to the finish, I saw no one behind me and relaxed just a little. When the finish-line clock came into view, it said 1:29-something. I had forgotten all about my time, and when I crossed the line and stopped my watch at 1:29:14, 1 second slower than my PR, I was a little ticked; good thing we went by the chip and not my watch.
The course is unlike most others in this part of the world -- it's by no means in the middle of nowhere, but it is country. Look, houses with actual front yards! The setting is peaceful without feeling lonely, pretty ideal for folks who just like to run.
This was a rare race that sold out but still felt like it could have been much bigger. It was probably a wise move not to overreach with an inaugural event, but I would expect the field size to grow next year, depending on the consent of the local authorities.
6:46 pace last .26
OK, WHAT ABOUT THE REAL REASON WE ALL RUN, THE STUFF?
The race packet included a stylish grey tech shirt, a few inserts for local running-related businesses (mine included) and, rather brilliantly, a couple of samples of anti-perspirant and Emergen-C, the latter of which I consumed immediately after the race (you know what long, hard runs do to your immune system). The finisher's medal is bold and heavy in the Active Joe tradition, and age-group winners get a pint glass indicating such:
Double Blue Ridge Marathon, Apr. 20.