I am posting this a few days late, but this past Saturday I finally ran the half marathon that I had been preparing for since April. The Marine Corps Half Marathon started at 7 am on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville North Carolina. I was excited and a bit nervous and just wanted to post a good time for myself. During training I never exceed a distance of 10 miles in my runs. I figured if I can do 10, the extra 3 would be no problem. Based off my pace on those 10 mile runs I was hoping to finish the half marathon at a time right around 1 hour and 40 minutes.
I made sure I was right at the front of the pack for the race start so I wouldn’t have to dodge around slower folks and could settle right into my pace. This strategy worked well and I had plenty of clear air to work with for the entire race. Initially I pushed my pace a little too hard but a few miles into the race I settled down and stopped worrying about keeping up with folks in front of me. I found my rhythm and picked a pace that was challenging but one that I knew I could maintain for most of the race.
The last 3 miles of the course were a challenge. Cardio wise I was fine and nowhere near winded but my quads were just about done. It didn’t help that over the last 3 or so miles of the course there were long gradual hills. The type of hill that you normally wouldn’t think twice about but 11 miles into a run at a fast pace they were killer. I managed to push through them even though in the back of my head I wanted to stop and walk and I managed to pass a few runners that were ahead of me for most of the race.
Eventually I made it to the final mile and I held my pace so that I could go all out for the last quarter to half a mile. Once the finish line was in site I ran as fast as my legs would let me go. Once again my cardio was great and I crossed the line at 1hr and 47mins (according to the race clock) without even breathing hard. My legs were what held me back from going faster. I wasn’t thrilled with the time but was glad I was under 2 hours which was my ultimate goal.
When the times were posted I went to find my name and did not see myself listed at 1hr 47 so I started looking for my bib number and noticed it had me down for 1hr and 42 mins 17 sec. I was surprised and happy as this was closer to what my phone, which I started as soon as I crossed the start and turned off a minute after I had crossed the finish, had recorded. This put me at 44th overall out of 600 plus runners. I was very happy with that result. Next I began counting the people ahead of me in my age group (25-29). According to the list I was 5th fastest in my age group. Again I was very happy with that result.
For some reason we decided to wait and listen for the age group awards to be announced. When they finally got to my group, they called off 3rd place and it wasn’t me so we assumed there was no chance I won anything and started getting ready to leave. To my surprise they announce second place for the 25-29 group and my name was called. My wife and I were both completely surprised. I still can’t believe it. I have always been a decent runner as far as maintaining a pace over distance but I just was never into running for fun and I still don’t really enjoy it like other runners do.
I took on this Half Marathon to challenge myself and also as something of a tribute or nod to my grandmother. Grammar as we call her, (we couldn’t pronounce grandma right as kids I guess and this just stuck) was a USA certified ski instructor for 30 years and taught me and my siblings how to ski and snowboard. She also ran multiple marathons and races, and has always led a very exciting and active lifestyle. Over the last couple of years she has developed Parkinson’s Disease and it has unfortunately taken a severe toll on her. The grandmother who was always the cool energetic woman now has trouble making it through the day. It is heartbreaking but she is a fighter and I am sure will be with us for a long time to come. So ultimately this one was for her. Love you Gram!
Overall I really enjoyed the experience. I am completely thrilled with my performance and overjoyed that I placed 2nd in my age group. Not bad for person that hates running and had never run a half marathon or even passed 10 miles in a single run. So what next? I plan to keep running and and do some many more races. I am sure I will do a few more half marathons but no plans to do a full marathon any time soon. I can’t imagine going another 13.1 miles.
I think my wife has a few photos of me right after I finished. I will try to get them and add them. I probably look pretty terrible.