Monday, April 16, 2012

Corvallis Half Marathon

With only two weeks until the Eugene Marathon, all the hard work is behind Craig and I. Last week was our last long training run, and even after 21.4 miles, we both felt the best we ever had after our weekly long run. Brimming with confidence three weeks out, our training now tapers off for the next twenty days to let our bodies (and minds) recover some.

The recovery process gives us about three weeks of down time while reducing the mileage of our weekly long runs. We decided that running the Corvallis Half Marathon one week and then just doing a couple of six or seven mile runs on our own the week before the Eugene Marathon was a satisfactory recovery path.

Craig has run the Corvallis Half both years of its existence. Also, he is a (baller) physical therapist in Corvallis, so he works with and knows a number of local athletes, runners, etc. One problem that both he and I had to consider was the overall cost of these races. The Eugene Marathon cost 100 clams, and the Corvallis Half skyrocketed to seventy-five (from a previous of like, twenty-five). Now, not to be entirely cheap, we both struggled with being ok with the idea of paying 175 only to run 39.3 miles, which we could do on our own for free. To complicate matters some, Craig would certainly encounter either patients or colleagues in the run, but understandably, didn't want to appear without a race bib. Myself, I really didn't care for a couple of reasons: 1). I'm not known in Corvallis' athletic community and 2). I had never been in an organized race before anyway.

Craig informed me that we had two options: We could either layer up and pretend a bib was underneath one of the layers and run with the pack, or we could just "warm-up" beyond the starting line and take off twenty minutes early. Again, I had no preference and said I would be fine with whatever he thought would be best for our "predicament" and saving face.

Hah. Saving face.

Just as the race announcer asked people to group up according to estimated split times, we began to "warm-up" and just ran through the start. We both nonchalantly began our respective timing devices and we were off! Immediately, it felt kinda funny, but I thought to myself, "It is what it is."

We were no more than a mile and a half into the race and we passed by a father with two young daughters who were there to cheer on the [legit] runners. As we passed, he explained sweetly, "Look girls. These boys are winning." They're winning. THEY'RE WINNING. THEY'RE WINNING.

An indescribable amount of guilt flooded through my body. I can only equate it to a dam giving way to an unrelenting body of water. I chuckled uneasily. I glanced at Craig and could only mutter, "Ugh." Moments later, we exchange looks again and I inform Craig that I feel awful and like a total fraud. I didn't want people to cheer. I didn't want people thinking I was actually an elite runner. Why did we do this?

We had planned originally to run at a casual pace, around 8:15/split, as our target marathon time is 8:30, to see how viable 8:30 would be over the span of 26.2 miles. Additionally, we attempted to guess when and where the marathon leaders might pass us. We estimated around mile eight based on some (faulty) math.

After enduring a number of chuckles and jokes from some of the spectators (e.g. "Did you forget your numbers?", "Out for a jog, boys?", etc.; some of which caught onto us and were cool, others seemed as if we were stealing their cheers), I sort of eased up. We were at 8:00 splits, approximately, and the we both felt decent, if not mildly nervous to keep up the pace. Near mile four, Craig spotted the race leaders. Whaaaaaaat, this soon?

Mile six is when we relinquished our "leader" spots. Six. We cheered the true leaders on and told them to keep it up. I felt like they glared at us. Craig just said that's how you look when you're running five minute splits. Fair enough. I felt like we were antelope and we had made our one mistake in the game of life and death. The lions caught us even after "cheating." Something inside me changed at that moment.

Now powered by extreme guilt, stolen cheers, and the chase, it was on. We dropped our splits twenty-five seconds to 7:35, hills or otherwise. However, I couldn't look at the spectators. I felt like a cheat, but within my control was the ability to at least attempt to look like a solid runner. Granted, the difference between runners running 5:10 and 7:35 splits is visually apparent, but I still wanted to make it look like we were busting our asses.

As more of the legit leaders passed us, I felt more comfortable, but still was trying to put on a clinic, as least in front of the heavy spectator zones.

One hour and forty-two minutes later, with 7:47 splits, we finished. A new half personal best.

 I hope I feel as guilty during the Eugene Marathon.

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