Okay, we got to the parking lot for the half marathoners at 4:30 a.m., jump onto a bus, and half an hour later were at the start area. Yea, that meant rising at 3 a.m. so I could eat breakfast and pick up J. Can you even see the balloons at the start chute? Dang, I realize I've remembered my hard boiled egg for breakfast but forgot my Tylenol. This could get ugly. Hundreds of runners start huddling around the heaters in the complete dark. My mystery-reading, half alseep brain starts conjuring up great story lines from this.
It warmed up to a gorgeous mid-70s degrees Farenheit by afternoon, but it was still stinking cold in the early hours, in the low 40s, with a breeze that was most unkind to bare legs. Those heaters were no help. And the twenty-something runners had no respect for their elders and glued themselves next to the heaters, sucking up what little heat they offered. Yea, they did throw some heat--up at 7 feet. No help. But the top of my head was slightly warmed up. J and I left the heater and just made our way into the center of the mass of people after a large enough crowd had assembled. 1200+ people generate a heck of a lot more heat than those stinking heaters do. See J shiver.
Ahh, here comes the sun over the back side of the Catalina Mountains! C'mon sun, bring some heat!
Your shivering correspondent.
The 1200+ half marathoners started lining up at the chute at 6:45 a.m. J and I are courteous walkers, so we hung out until the last group of 200 to enter the chute so we wouldn't be in anyone's way. Or get run over. Besides, we had more clothes on than most of them. We're tough, we can take it a minute longer.
We start! Just as the sun crests the mountains.
Within minutes, it's light and you can see the line of runners stretched out ahead of us. Note all the walkers!
We've turned off the road on which the marathon started, and are walking now on SR 77. It's surrounded by State Trust land, so the views are stunning--miles and miles of largely undeveloped desert. See the Tortolita Mountains in the distance? They're about 18 miles west of us or so at this point. This isn't a marathon--this is just another beautiful desert hike. Piece of cake. Famous last words.
Then, at mile 6, we turn on Oracle Road, and the nice hike turns ugly. Main drag, lots of cars, exhaust, and a killer blacktop that strips your hips and makes your feet hurt. I kept telling J that training along the River Park was pretty, but we needed to walk on tarmac to get us ready, but she hates the exhaust and hates the lack of view, so she wouldn't. That was a mistake, and I should have insisted since I knew better. By mile 10 my hips were soar and my feet, which hadn't hurt one bit during all the training walks, were hurting. No, I didn't hit a wall, but I did start thinking "Please, please let this be over soon!" Now I kick myself over the forgotten Tylenol.
At just under Mile 9, the winner of the full marathon runs past us. He's not even breaking a sweat, just cruising along at a lovely pace. I straighten up and stride purposefully. At Mile 10, J started to tell me about some office gossip--I'm good to go for at least a mile on that fuel. Seriously, even though we had done 11 mile walks during our training, the blacktop was a severe issue and my hips were hurting the last 2 miles. This sign makes me very happy, especially since we've turned off the main drag and are on much softer side roads.
Sorry, no photo of the Mile 13 sign--I didn't want to get in the way since several full marathon runners were reaching the finish line as we did. We were passed by about 11 or 12 on the walk, but then another 4 or 5 came through in the last stretch. One man was running in huaraches, based on the famous Tarahuamara running sandals. Our coworker M ran the half in a Santa hat, ho ho ho.
As we crossed the chip reading mat at the entrance to the finish, the announcer called out "And here come Frick and Frack of Here finishing the half marathon. And they're smiling!" That was because I'd just caught sight of our time on the board as we turned the 90-degree corner off the mat into the chute. I'd told myself my goal was 3.5 hours, as near to that on either side as I could get. A 15-minute mile pace was the goal, but I wasn't sure we could reach that, or sustain it. I started laughing with this amazing surge of pride and relief when I saw the time as we turned the corner into the finish chute--3 hours, 3 minutes, 40+ seconds. I crossed the finish line at 3 hours, 4 minutes, and a few seconds. We blew my goal out of the water!! Our average was a 13.7 minute mile!!!!!
I'm not sure I'll do another half marathon, or if I'll stick to 5ks and 10ks. I don't know if I'll ever be so focused on a time and pace goal again. But I'm so pleased I did this. I wanted to test my body and its strengths and resources after my mid-life birthday, and I'm happy that it's still pretty resilient. I don't mind aging, or the small aches this morning, but I want to be able to age with health and graceful acceptance of what I can and cannot do. This proved I can still do some major things with the mileage on this puppy. She may be wrinkled and sagging, but she still pulls through in the clutch.