For about 6 weeks leading up to the March 23 L’Arche Half Marathon, I had been working up to 25 km on my long runs (in training for a May marathon), but the training runs were very slow compared to the race pace that found me that day.
It was a chilly March morning at near-freezing, but I was dressed for it, and we didn’t have to wait outside long at the start. Our very cool Mayor Nenshi gave us and the volunteers a great pep talk, and sent us on our way.
At about the 1 km mark my Garmin told me I’d gone out way too fast in the excitement of starting (about 6 minute kilometers). Going out too fast is normal for me. As usual, I planned to slow it down to something more reasonable once I got further along, but for now this felt good, so I thought I’d see how long it would last.
At around 3 km I started chatting with M, a total stranger running her first half marathon. It didn’t matter that she had earbuds in and seemed very focused on listening to them. She had a steady pace and I thought maybe I could hang on to it with her for a while. I volleyed a comment her way and she politely replied. By the fourth km we were chums.
We ran 6:06 ish kms together for about an hour after that. We talked about our families and our reasons for running – how it gives us the personal space in our lives that we need, and how it rejuvenates us for the demands on our lives.
My running buddy and his dog came out and ran parts of the race with us. We talked about running clubs and how cool it is to have running buddies. We greeted friends I knew who were volunteering, and other friends racing back from the turnaround on the out-and-back course ahead of us.
I’m not sure how I was able to keep such a brisk pace going while conversing, except that maybe our connection was motivating and distracting from my effort at the same time. I would look at my Garmin at km markers, and exclaim that I was going unsustainably fast, and then blithely carry on.
There were many, many cheering volunteers along the course. They had noisemakers and great signs and costumes, and they were wonderfully loud. They were awesome.
Somewhere between 17 and 18 km when I was on my own again, I realized that my wheels were not going to fall off at that pace after all. I tried to keep my stride smooth, and focused on reeling in a couple racers ahead of me.
I finished in under 2:10, a 15 minute personal record (PR) over the Calgary Half (my first) in 2005. My training and last year’s weight loss are working out better than I thought. Either that or my sunglasses (a new addition to the gear that day) made me faster.
After the race we cheered in other runners and ate a hot, fresh pancake. Then we trotted 7 km back to the truck for extra marathon training mileage. That last part was really, really hard as my legs were very tired by then. It was good to get the mileage on the books, though, and I had the warm afterglow of a good race to keep me smiling.