The alarm went off at 4:30 AM on race morning. Start time was 7 AM in Columbia, MD, about a 40 minute drive from my house. The first thing I did after shuffling downstairs and starting the coffee pot was check the weather. The forecast for race day was calling for the possibility of showers for the entire time period of the race. I turned on the deck lights and took a look outside. Damp, but not raining at the moment. Maybe the rain would hold out. I piddled around the house, had a bagel and some coffee, got dressed and headed out the door. There was a light mist in the air, mixed with some fog, as I drove to the site of the race. I got there plenty early, so I relaxed in the car for a bit while I drank some water. I got my chip, took care of business and then started off on a easy mile warm up. The rain was nowhere to be found, though it was still damp all over. The temp was in the low 50’s, very comfortable. I finished my warm up, changing into my lightweight trainers for the race and shed a couple layers of warm up clothes to get down to shorts and a t-shirt. I headed over to the start line and did some light stretching before lining up in the second row back from the line. I notice that there is no timing mat at the start, so I make a mental note to start my watch at the gun, not when I cross under the balloon arch. That probably cost me a second…maybe two.
The gun fires and we’re off. There are maybe 200 runners in this race, so it’s not crowded at all. I try to get into my goal pace for the first couple miles (7:20) but it’s just feels like a struggle. The course is through rolling hills and this first mile is pretty much all uphill. I manage a 7:33 for the first mile and it was harder than I thought it should have been. Mile two, it’s time to dial it down a bit. I pass a lady that was maybe 20 meters ahead of me through the first mile, still running more uphill than down. Second mile passes in 7:20. I’m off the pace by about 10 seconds so I push a little more. Then…the rains came. At first it was just a drizzle but it steadily gets harder and harder. By the end of mile 3, we are in a steady downpour. Mile 3 passes in 7:15. There is another runner ahead of me that I have been reeling in. He gets a little closer on each uphill segment and then holds steady on the (relatively) flat sections. Near the end of the 4th mile I pull up alongside of him and hang there for a moment. I say “It’s probably a little early for us to start racing, isn’t it?” causing him to chuckle. Mile 4 passes in 7:21 and the rain is still coming down pretty good. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that 7:10’s aren’t going to happen as long as we keep climbing. As this is an out and back course, I figure what goes up, must come down. The rain has let up now and is back to a light drizzle. The miles click off as we head to the turn around. There seems to be more down than up from mile 4 to the turn. I manage a 7:09 through mile 5, 7:12 for mile 6, where the steep uphill to the turnaround starts. I make the turn and don’t bother to look at my watch for a split. I probably wouldn’t have remembered it anyway. There is now a nice, easy cruise back down the hill. I greet each runner I pass with a “Nice Job”, “Way to go” or “Looking good”. I love to see how their faces light up with the encouragement and I return their smiles. I even get one back “You’re looking so strong, good job!” I think I may have sat up a little straighter in the saddle after that one.
Earlier I mentioned that what goes up must come down. Well this course is the only out and back course in the history of the world that is uphill both ways. I think it’s the route that my father used to walk to school with no shoes on in the snow. The rolling hills keep rolling in this direction too. I manage low 7:20’s for the next few miles of the return journey. My plan is to pick it up for the last 5K if I’ve got anything left in the tank. I made a mental note of where mile 3 was as that would be 3 miles to go too (go captain math!). My memory is aided by the conveniently painted numbers on the road. 3 to go. Time to go, but there just doesn’t seem to be much there. I thought that this would be downhill all the way home, but I was mistaken. I decide to wait for mile 12 to go. 7:18 for mile 11. Now it has to be downhill, doesn’t it? Kinda, but not really. I push a little more, but nowhere near my goal of sub 7:00’s for the last 3. I’m hurting pretty good now. There has been a guy 300 meters ahead of me for miles and he’s not getting any closer. 7:16 for mile 12. I have got to go now. I summon what little bit I have left in the tank and push on. With about a half mile to go, I start to hear the music, the voice of the PA announcer (or is that God?) and the cheering of the thin crowd at the finish. I’m pushing as hard as my body will allow now. I am able to make a strong kick for the finish. 7:01 for the last mile. I cross the line and am greeted by the guy that was in front of me. Nice run, he says, tough course eh? Was it ever…
1:35:36 – Good for a PR by 93 seconds
17 OA out of 184 finishers
3rd AG – Good for $100! My first winnings. Does this make me a professional now? 😀
I’m thinking about going back to Philly in the fall for The Race Formerly Known as The Philadelphia Distance Run where I set my previous PR. I think this would have been much faster on a flatter course. Overall, I’m very happy with the result and how I ran the race.