Running up, over and through the cogs

The 2011 Schaumburg Half Marathon Race Report

Thanksgiving and running go together like baseball and hot dogs.  And while most people enjoy the casual Turkey Trot 5K as a way to compensate for the inevitable overeating, my own brand of gluttony requires a much longer distance.  Enter the Schaumburg Half Marathon — a fun (and growing) event out in the ‘burbs that makes it okay to eat an entire pie (or two) and not feel guilty about it.

I ran this race last year and had a fantastic time.  I even set what was then a P.R., so I was hoping I might be able to run my way to another speedy finish, if the setting was right.

The morning was chilly (low 40s) and overcast with a chance of rain, that would later come about halfway through my race in the form of a heavy, annoying mist.  Besides having logged a 50K fun run just seven days before, I thought my legs could still get me a sub 1:34 time, which would be a personal best.  All through this latest training cycle, I have been routinely plugging away 6:50 to 7:15 miles, so I thought doing something special was not outside reality.

In fact, prior to the start, I forced the issue by lining up with the 1:30 pace group, intent on hanging with them as long as I could.  A quick look around the group and it was obvious I was the odd man out.  Sure I had on all the right gear and the demeanor of one sure-as-hell determined son of a bitch, but my 5’8 frame — which is somewhat hobbled by a muscular build (something I’ve been unwilling to abandon thus far) — wasn’t nearly as lean and speedy looking as all the rest.

I didn’t care.  Just stick with the group.  For as long as you can.  That’s what I told myself.

And then we were off…

Mile 1.  Check.  Mile 2.  Awesome.  Mile 3.  Damn!  We’re running a 6:15 pace!  Mile 4.  Look, Mom!  I’m hangin’ with the big boys!  Mile 5.  Oh shit.

That’s all it took.  Five miles and I was blowing up.

How do I describe the feeling?  For me, it was sorta like back in my partying days, where I’d be straddling the line of being super drunk and having a blast to being super drunk and feeling like death.  Without much warning, I went from great to awful.

I had to pull up.  I kept running, but it turned into a slog.  I looked down at my Garmin:

8:45 pace… 8:55 pace… 9:20 pace…

Bleh.  Well, now you know what that feels like, Jeff.  Let’s just finish the run.  You only have 8 miles to go (HAHA!) and feeling bad isn’t the end of the world.

And suddenly, I didn’t feel that bad anymore.  I took a gel, cranked the legs back up to a comfortable 7:30 pace and moved on, reflecting on how my body felt despite what I had just put it through.

Mile 6.  Mile 7.  Mile 8.  I was smiling again and high fiving folks on the out-and-back sections.

Mile 9.  Mile 10.  Mile 11.  I’m gonna finish this in 1:36 and change.

Mile 12.  Mile 13.  And we’re done.  And I’m freezing!!!

I finished in 1:36:30, a pretty decent time for me but not close to what I’m capable of.  Doesn’t matter though, because for me, running isn’t always about the time on the clock at the end; it’s about what it does to me as a human being — how it makes me feel, how it makes me a part of something, how it makes me grow.

The people who organize this race are extremely friendly and accommodating, the aid stations were well placed, and the medal/schwag were all worth the entry fee.  But for some reason they changed the course from last year’s and the last five miles put runners through one hell of a clusterfuck as the walking 5k’ers got in the way of the finishing half-marathoners (I can only imagine the traffic horrors the elite runners faced as they were trying to run the gauntlet of 5K participants in their way), but I’m sure race management will fix that for future events.

Barring any turkey over-consumption issues, I will be back in 2012.

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