The idea of running a half-marathon would have seemed pretty odd a few years ago. I’m not a strong natural runner, and running certainly isn’t a fave for cardio exercise. But with persistent encouragement from some friends and my own stubborn streak kicking in, a half-marathon became my Spring work-out goal. Setting goals and working towards them sounds inherently lame on some levels, and yet the older I get the more I realize how effective this simple motivational structure can be.
There I was, a few months back, running on the last snowy day of the year. I used the Hal Higdon schedule (Novice 2), which basically increases long runs incrementally on the weekends and intersperses them with shorter runs during the week. Longer runs on Sunday afternoon became something I almost looked forward to and certainly planned for. Id’ be out there with my MP3 player, listening to lengthy Illini Sports and Sci-Fi themed podcasts. The goal of being able to run 13.1 miles at a steady pace without stopping came into focus. Mostly I ran a course that took me through Washington Park and down past the capitol building here in Springfield, but I also ran hills near Siloam Springs at the in-laws and through the country on our old basketball training route near my old home town of Findlay.
The 500 Festival Mini-Marathon in Indianapolis was an easy choice. Indy is only a couple of hours away and is home to Beemsville allies, Kevin (and family), and Jim (and family). This provided a fine bonus of being able to visit old friends, let the kids play together, and generally catch up on life. A couple of months ago Jim agreed to run also – despite coming of back surgery in the last year – so there was no backing out short of an injury.
The 500 Festival also takes you through the Speedway on over the Brickyard, which is pretty cool. It’s the biggest half in the country this year, which meant somewhere around 40,000 participants. To me it seemed exceedingly well-organized. Registration and packet pick-up were a breeze. The sorting into corrals seemed logical: you were either seeded based on prior results or you took a corral based on your estimated pace time. It was slightly annoying to be dodging walkers and slow-pokes the first couple of miles, but that’s what you get if you’re not seeded.
The weather cooperated for the most part with cloudy skies for over half the race (for me). The stretch of the race on the Brickyard was in just at the right point to pick you up and they had cheerleaders and local youth groups there providing encouragement. It was approaching 80 and humid by the time I reached the end of the course, but could have been worse. They must have had dozens of bands out there playing at points on the course, and that kept you going. A lot of these were high school/middle school kids jamming and grooving, mostly playing punk rock. Guess some things don’t go out of style. The course did take us through some pretty rough neighborhoods, but ain’t that America for you and me?
While one friend (a veteran marathoner) chased the Kenyans at a fast pace, another had problems with a recurring knotted calf muscle but still managed to finish. Jim and I ran a pretty steady 10 minute pace throughout. I never felt sick or awful and even managed to pick it up a little the last two miles. All in all, a fine morning run and a good experience.
Of course the guy who won the race ran it in roughly half my posted time, which seems a little ridiculous to me. I couldn’t run one mile as fast as that guy (a Kenyan, natch) averaged his splits over 13.1. Unreal. This race also let me know I have no desire to push on and attempt a full marathon. But I’ll probably run a 10K or two later this year and if my knees and ankles cooperate I may train for halfs in the future. It would also be cool to get the kids involved when they get a little older.