A few months ago, my ever-supportive-but-skeptical-of-running husband, AJ, agreed to train for his first half marathon. I suggested it, figuring he would shoot me down like he always does, but he said “Ok” and I quickly whipped up a training plan before he could change his mind. We were aiming for a half marathon at the end of February, so the MGC Long Run 15k, which takes place about 1.5 hours away in Columbia, would be a good test a few weeks out before the race. Now, we have since changed AJ’s goal to a half marathon in May for a variety of reasons, but we were nonetheless signed up for the 15k so it was happening one way or another. As I noted in my last post, I was not totally sure he knew how far a 15k was but he informed me that he did in fact know because the race had been sending him emails reminding him that he had signed up for the 15k, and he looked up how far that was. Well, there goes my plan of just not telling him and hoping he didn’t notice when we were running for longer than usual.
The race required a 5:15 am wake up call so we could drive to Columbia in time, and between that and the temperatures in the 20s and the fact that we were about to run over 9 miles, AJ was…not that enthusiastic at the race start.
In his defense, it was really cold. The race got underway and we took off, though. I immediately felt…crappy. I felt like I couldn’t take a full breath, and my stomach was upset. The beginning part of the course has a few hills, but nothing too crazy, but I was struggling to keep up with AJ. I suppose this is what I get for hoping to trick him into running a 15k, right? He seemed to be feeling pretty good, but as we passed the one mile marker, he said “THAT’S mile one? Oh, this is not good.” Oh dear, my sentiments exactly. Nonetheless, he skipped the first water stop, which surprised me, because he’s not one to miss out on an opportunity to take a walk break. I just sucked it up and kept going, staying a few steps behind him because I literally could not run any faster. I told him to run his own race and if he wanted to go faster, he should, and I’d be ok.
Fortunately, I started feeling better a few miles in. I noticed how strong AJ was on the hills – he never lost his stride and we were passing people left and right on them. Hills are not his strong suit at home, so I made sure to tell him what a great job he was doing and note that he was passing people. “These aren’t even hills compared to home,” he said. “This is easy.” EXCELLENT.
The race heads downhill from Columbia and across the river over into West Columbia and Cayce. It’s a lonnnng downhill stretch, and AJ realized we would have to run back up to get back to the finish line, which he was less than thrilled about. Still, he kept a really consistent pace and we only walked at the water stops. Each time we saw a race clock, we were right at 10 minute pace, which was great! He said he was feeling good, and he pushed hard up all of the hills. By the time we got to mile 7, we were now in new territory – that’s the farthest he has even run continuously! Still, he said he was feeling good. We were about to begin the final uphill portion of the race heading back into downtown, and there are some really steep hills. I told him to keep his eye focused on the top of the hill, shorten his stride, and pump his arms. As people all around us started walking, he kept going strong! I was so proud!!
He never lost his positive attitude, and he really got the eye of the tiger as we closed in on the finish. As soon as we turned the final corner, he said “WHAT DOES THE CLOCK SAY?” and then asked me how that translated to pace since we had been on track for 10 minute miles but had slowed a bit on the final hills. We were on track to finish right around 1:33, putting him at perfect 10 minute pace! I told him he had to hold my hand as we ran across the finish line, so we grabbed hands and kept running. I told him to wave for the photographers, but he was super focused on the finish line, resulting in my new favorite race photo of all time!
AJ’s not one to make a big deal out of something like this, but I told him about a thousand times how proud he should be of himself. I caught him almost smiling a few times as we ran to the finish line, so he can keep pretending to be a run-hater, but I think I know the truth now! He thought the medal was cool, but mostly he was excited about all of the free food and random things there are at the finish line for runners! This particular race gives hot donuts to the runners, and he was all over that.
So all in all, it was a very successful 15k – AJ’s longest run by about 2.3 miles! I did try and convince him to let me roll out his legs before we went to bed last night, but he declined. Suffice to say he’s feeling the burn today! But I think he’s excited about (or more realistically, not completely dreading) running a half marathon in the spring. He says it will be a one-and-done thing, but I think as long as I keep finding races with a good selection of free food at the end, I’ll be able to keep his interest. One thing’s for sure – running is even more fun when you get to share it with the person you love!