I woke up at 5:00 this morning feeling great! I had laid out all my gear for the Run for Missions Half Marathon last night, so I didn't have to go hunting for anything. I went through my normal pre-race rituals, ate my gotta-have-it peanut butter, banana and honey sandwich and a big glass of Gatorade, then packed everything in the car and headed to Haviland.
I drove into town around 6:30 and parked outside the Barclay College gym, grabbed my bag and went in. I picked up my packet, pinned on my bib number and tied my chip onto my shoe. After that, I walked around and talked with people until around 7:30.
A little after 7:30, I went out on a short warm up lap covering the entire length of Haviland. It's not a big one, so I was done nine minutes later. My pace was around 8:00. Crazy stuff! I was feeling good. My secondary purpose for this jaunt was to see if my clothing choices were good for the cold. I decided everything except the gloves were good. The lightweight things I had on were letting too much of the chill get through to my fingers. I decided to take them to the first aid station and wear my warmer gloves at the beginning of the race and switch them if they were too warm later on.
I got back to the start line just as they were beginning to give last minute instructions to the half marathoners. I stepped into the of the pack and sort of listened as I chatted quietly with friends. Right at 8:00, the gun sounded and we were off.
I didn't try to keep up with the faster guys like I did last year. I found my own pace and stayed there. My average was around 8:45. I ran around the first corner, ran the two blocks to the next turn, then zigged and zagged till I was running south past the schools.
It was somewhere along this stretch that my running partner for the day caught up with me and settled in beside me. Angela was from Goddard and runs cross country. Her longest run before today's half was ten miles.
We ran around the 5K course, passed a couple of people, then turned off onto the half route with Angela's mom screaming encouragement. At the aid station, I traded off gloves, drank some water and ran out into the country. The section out by the sewer pond was nicer this year than it was last year. The grass was much shorter, making the ruts easier to see. Angela and I ran on opposite sides of the raised middle of the lane and made it through to the dirt road without incident.
At the six mile mark, we were right at 8:48 pace. I only know this because the math is pretty easy at six and ten miles. I can divide and subtract correctly when the math is simple enough.
The run out to the turn around at mile eight was much nicer than it was last year. This year's wind was probably ten to fifteen miles per hour less. Angela's mom was at the final aid station. She was cheering again. Loudly! We could hear her from 100 meters away. Continuing on, we encouraged each runner ahead of us as they ran passed us headed home. I counted them. We were in fourteenth and fifteenth place when we hit the turn around.
The runner ahead of us wasn't far off at this point. Slowly, but surely we reeled him in. We passed him just before we heard Angela's mom yelling encouragement again. He mumbled, "I must be falling off my pace." I tried to pick him up. "You're still ahead of 9:00 pace," I shouted. It wasn't until we reached mile ten and I did the math again that I realized how much speed we had gained. I have since forgotten exactly what pace I figured, but it was under 8:40. I dreamed of finishing in an hour fifty.
Taking in the hills one at a time, we eventually made it to the turn west. At this point, we were clipping along following a few of the 10K runners as they passed the five and six mile marks. We, of course, were clicking off mile twelve and thirteen. Our pace was greatly increased as we flew south on the Haviland blacktop into town.
We rounded the corner and ran the last few meters at full speed. Angela crossed the line a second before me. Her mom was there screaming again. I stopped my stopwatch at 1:51:11, a brand new PR. I wasn't sure by how much, but I knew I'd finished faster than ever before. I received my finisher's medal, grabbed a water bottle, talked a bit with Angela and her mom, then went inside.
Inside the building, the results were being posted. Angela finished in thirteenth place. I was in fourteenth. My gun time was 1:51:15, chip time 1:51:11. Our overall average came out to 8:29. I was more than pleased with that.
For I don't know how long after than, I enjoyed talking with other runners. I met up with a couple of fellow Idiots Running Club members. One of them finished second and the other third in the 10K. I talked with friends and complete strangers. Several people from our church had finished their first 5K. They were pretty happy. One half marathoner came up to me and gave me a big compliment. He said he was really impressed with Angela's and my running. "You were like machines," he said. "Your rhythm never changed." I thanked him.
Finally, it was time for awards. They started with the top three female half marathoners, then announced the top three males. They did the same for the 10K and the 5K, then then they started giving out the goodies by raffle. They called out fifteen or twenty numbers, then they called out mine. I raced to the table and scored a big box of frosted brownies. Yum!
When the treats were all gone, I talked briefly with a few more friends before picking up all my gear and heading home.