It is very rare that I run half marathons. In fact, the last time I ran one was not even on purpose. It’s not that I don’t like half marathons so much as it is that I spend enough money on race fees for marathons as it is. It doesn’t really make sense to me to pay to sign up for a distance that I regularly eclipse on your average Saturday morning. That being said, I am a sucker for a good deal and the Folly Beach Half Marathon seemed like one. The registration fee is only $36, even at the last minute. Can’t beat that! So I agreed, after some gentle cajoling from Amanda, to drive my happy ass to Charleston at the crack of dawn on Saturday morning and run the half marathon with her. It should be noted that Amanda is very sneaky and has managed to convince me to do many things against my will, including but not limited to Ironman training, a sprint triathlon, and long bike rides that require me to wake up very early on the weekends.
I met Amanda at her house, where we promptly agonized over what clothes to wear and then headed off to Folly Beach, which was another 30 minutes away. We got there in plenty of time to walk around and hit the bathrooms, at which time I realized that I had forgotten the granola bar I was planning on eating. I couldn’t decide if this was a blessing or a curse, since sometimes eating makes my stomach upset and sometimes not eating makes my stomach upset, but it clearly no longer mattered at this point. Side note: how annoying is that? Both eating and not eating make my stomach angry. I mean, really.
There seemed to be some general confusion regarding the location of the start line, presumably because there was no actual start line. There was just a cone randomly off on the shoulder of the road that could have been there for any number of reasons. As such, there was no chip timing either. While walking around in our confusion, we ended up running into one of our friends from work who was there to do the 5k! When Amy realized it was us, she said, “Ugh, I was literally just reading your shirts and thinking to myself ‘Look at those skinny bitches. I bet they are doing the half. Engineer for Congress? What the hell does that mean?”
Once Amy realized she actually knew the skinny bitches in question, she was much more amenable. I found out that she is planning to train for a marathon soon, so I obviously got super obnoxiously excited and talked her ear off about it, presumably traumatizing her in the process. She asked us about our shirts, which Amanda had had made especially for the event. Amanda’s uncle, Ric Bryant, is running for the open seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in South Carolina’s first congressional district. As you may have surmised, he is an engineer, so we decided to run a race and advertise for him. Not sure if profuse sweating and profanity is a very good advertisement, but you get what you pay for.
We said goodbye to Amy and headed off to the starting
line cone and got ready to run. When I woke up that morning, I didn’t feel like running fast, and I told Amanda I didn’t. She agreed that she didn’t either, so we tried to just enjoy the day and set off at an easy pace. Somewhere along the way, though, I kind of changed my mind. It didn’t really make sense to me to run a half marathon in 2:30 just because that’s marathon pace. I mean, it’s half the distance, right? So doesn’t that mean we should run a little faster, knowing that we don’t go as far? I’ve been running with my friend Chuck lately, and he’s considerably faster than me. Even though our runs are 4-7 miles, I’m exhausted at the end from trying to run faster than normal and tell riveting stories at the same time. I was curious to see if any of that training had paid off at all, so when I looked down at my watch and noticed that our pace was consistently at 9:00 minutes per mile or slightly under, I was pleased. Although we were having a harder time than usual talking, it wasn’t murderous, so we trudged along. The course was very odd, but I guess that’s what you get when you try and organize a half marathon on a tiny island. We did all sorts of crazy loops, long out and backs, and just weird stuff trying to get the miles in. We made two bathroom stops along the way, which ate up a good chunk of time, but on the miles we ran straight through, our pace was pretty much exactly 9:00.
We still had no great intentions of maintaining that pace, so we stopped to take a picture while running along the ocean. I considered asking someone to take our picture, but literally everyone that ran by looked at us like we were from outer space. Apparently people do not run half marathons for fun. The unfortunate self portrait above is the result, but you get the idea. My stomach started acting up around mile 6 or so, which made Amanda very happy because as soon as I told her, she demanded that we walk for my own good to settle my stomach. I had been kind of pleased about our pace, but I decided that since we had declared that we would just run for fun, it wasn’t such a big deal if we walked for a bit. When we picked the pace back up, we went right back to the 9 minute pace. Along the way, I revised the goal from finishing under 2:15 (which was another arbitrary goal I had made in my mind) to finishing under 2:11, which would be faster than 10 minutes per mile pace. At each mile marker, I updated Amanda on how we were doing on this goal, as if she cared. Then it occurred to me to ask her what her half marathon PR was, and she said it was 2:09 and some change. Excellent! I silently revised my mental goal to sub-2:09.
As we ran, lots of the volunteers commented on our shirts, but we’re pretty sure they didn’t understand them. It seemed like everyone thought we were the engineers and we were in support of Congress or something. This makes no sense because I refuse to believe anyone could be in support of Congress in general right now, but whatever. I’m sure it made more sense once they read the back of our shirts. On the drive down that morning, Amanda and I suddenly panicked when we realized that someone might ask us about her uncle’s platform and where he stood on the issues! I had a general idea, having read his website, but we immediately pulled it up on her iPad and started reviewing the platform, just in case. As it turns out, everyone else was busy running and did not care. I can’t help but think it would have been different at a marathon – people are far more conversational over the longer distances.
Around mile 10, it became clear to me that we could get a new PR for Amanda if we kept pushing. The problem was that she clearly did not want to push. We had pretty much stopped talking because the pace was becoming more difficult to sustain as we ran on, but we found it was possible if we kept running. At mile 11, I told Amanda that a PR was definitely in reach and that we were going to do it. I’m pretty sure she did not want to. I told her that I was hurting too, but it would be worth it. I’d be lying if I said my intentions were completely altruistic, though. I haven’t run “fast” since Chicago, and with my stomach surgery on the immediate horizon, I kind of wanted to prove to myself that I could. Even though we were walking through water stops and talking the occasional short walk break, I felt good knowing that our pace was fast for me and that I was able to do it. I was feeling sick, but not sick enough to throw up, and these days, that’s quite the victory, so I felt like I had to take advantage of the opportunity while I had it.
As we approached mile 12, Amanda asked if we could walk for a bit before we reached the mile marker. I forgot all about doing a T-Rex, but in a half marathon, I guess it starts at mile 12! When we got to mile 12, I checked my watched, gave her a high five, and told her we were still in good shape. All she had to do was hold on for just 1.1 more miles, but she didn’t seem convinced. We started running and I compulsively checked my Garmin as I felt her slowing down behind me. “Come on, you can do it!” I shouted. “Just over half a mile to go!” I had had a second wind for the past few miles, and I had some extra speed left. I grabbed her hand as we got close to the finish line and told her that if we sprinted, we could get in under 2:08, so we took off. Although the clock said we came in at 2:08:01, I’m calling it 2:07 and some change since there was no chip timing and we started a good ways back. EPIC PR for Amanda, who then promptly turned green, sat down, and nearly threw up. I grabbed her some water and a cookie and went off in search of medals, only to find that there were none to be had! Very, very depressing since the race had given out medals the year before and apparently decided to do away with them this year. Oh well, you get what you pay for, I suppose.
Once Amanda stopped feeling like she was going to die, she was very excited about her new PR. It was a good feeling for both of us to know that we can run “fast” when required, and I know that without the bathroom stops, photo ops, etc, it would have been very close to a PR effort for me too (mine is 2:02 from the pre-blog days). We decided that when we are done with the 50 states, we will train someday to run a half marathon in under 2 hours. The training for marathons is very different from the shorter distances, but this was a reminder that those speed sessions I’ve been doing during training (even the unintentional ones) are paying off. That being said, with Myrtle Beach coming up this weekend, we both agreed that that one does not need to be a PR quest. Interesting fact – Myrtle Beach will be my 30th marathon and the last one before the epic stomach surgery royale. Seems like a great time to end one chapter and start another.