Long distance runner? Yes, I am.

Update (10/3/2008): The official race results were posted yesterday. Even more surprising is the time below of 1:58:30 was my “gun time” not my finish time. Gun time is the time from the point the gun fires to start the race until I cross the finish. I am a rookie. Veteran runners know what matters is “chip time” or the amount of time from the point I cross the start until I cross the finish. Gun time and chip time are the same for those runners who start the race at the very front of the pack. I was near the back. This is a long-winded way of saying, as incredible as it seems, I ran faster than 1:58:30. My chip time was 1:56:56! That means I ran a sub nine minute mile pace. Sweet!

A picture is worth a thousand words and, in this instance, 13.1 miles.

Keith's first half-marathon time

I had 3 goals when I set out to run my first half-marathon. In priority order they were:

  1. Have fun
  2. Finish
  3. Finish under 2 hours

Goals one and two were required. Why subject myself to the hours of training, a $55 entry fee and pricey running supplies if I wasn’t going to have fun or finish once I started? I didn’t take finishing for granted. In fact, goal three was a pipe dream as far as I was concerned since I planned to run the first six miles at 10’00” per to warm up and average 9’30” per for the last seven and change to make sure I could finish. That would put me at one hour for the first six miles and 1:07:27 for the remainder, meaning I would finish in 2:07:27—perfectly respectable for my first race.

So, what happened? I received a package from BALCO on Friday. Just playing. 😀

Actually, I felt great, the weather was great, I was surrounded by faster runners and I had TB there cheering me along at the start, 7.5 mile mark, 9.5 mile mark and finish. Everything came together better than I imagined and I surprised myself with how fast I ran both halves of the race.

I ran the first four miles at 10’00” per mile, as planned, but demolished miles 5 through 7 which were either downhill or flat and in the shade. Just before the 7.5 mile mark there was a brutally steep hill, but once I made it to the top I saw my girl cheering which made everything better. Miles 7 through 10 I ran like a man on fire compared to my normal pace. There were hills but nothing terrible. I think all the runners around me kicked it up a notch and I felt good enough to stay with them. Miles 10-12 were tough, I can’t lie. One thing that saved me was jettisoning my CamelBak at the 9.5 mile mark by passing it to TB. That probably cut 2 pounds (including the liquid inside) which is very noticeable when you’ve been running 90 minutes.

The mile points weren’t posted clearly over the course and my Nike+ sensor was way off (for example, it thinks I only ran 11.22 miles instead of 13.2) and I started regretting my “man on fire” moment when I began sucking wind somewhere around the 11.5 mile point. I knew I had enough in the tank to finish but I wondered if I could push myself to finish under 2 hours. There was a guy about 15 feet in front of me who seemed to be running a flat 2:00:00 pace so I figured I would just make sure he didn’t get too far ahead and rely on my Lagat-esque kick at the end. (Ha!)

Then something magical happened. I saw a sign that indicated we had reached the 12 mile mark. What!? For real? It was on.

I turned on the afterburners and began pumping my arms hell-bent on finishing strong. I quickly overtook my unofficial pacesetter thinking to myself, “You’re almost there. You’re almost there.” I turned a corner and saw the finish about 1/4 mile in the distance. I was running hard but not in an all-out sprint…maybe I was sprinting since it’s doubtful I could have run much faster. I saw TB there cheering as I approached the finish chute and almost passed out when I saw the time posted on the official clock flashed 1:58:30. I had done it.

It’s always fun to see different perspectives of the same event. So, as a special treat, I convinced TB to write about her experience as a first-time spectator for my first-time race. Continue reading below.

In TB’s words:

As a runner it’s always hard to stand on the sidelines of a race and not be part of the action. Being there for Keith as a cheerleader for his first big race made it a bit easier. I was really nervous for Keith. And I was even more nervous about getting around Bellingham to cheer for him at different parts of the course. Luckily he did the leg work to provide a more detailed course map than what was provided by race organizers. We decided ahead of time where I’d be so he could keep a lookout. I decided to be at the start, ~7.5 miles, ~10.5 miles, and the finish.

Prior to the start I got a pre-race interview with Keith. He was very excited, anxious, and nervous, but I could tell he was ready. With the sound of the gun, off he went with the back of the crowd (which I was happy about because I worried he’d start too fast). After 66 minutes (which went by surprisingly fast) I saw Keith coming down the street. I was shocked because that was earlier than I expected him, but excited because that meant his race was going well. He looked strong and as he ran by and gave me a smile. I realized at that point how hard it is to cheer (i.e. scream :smile:), take pictures, and give a high-five. As soon as he passed, off I went to the next point. Luckily we drove part of the course beforehand so I felt comfortable getting there. I got to the next cheering spot in no time and decided to call my sister to kill time. I totally misjudged where I was on the course and thought Keith would be coming by around 96 minutes into the race. As I’m jabbing away, I see Keith running towards me for the handoff we had planned. (He was swapping out his cap for a visor and giving me his CamelBak.) I looked at my watch and it was 86 minutes. I had to quickly hang up on my sister and wound up running alongside him a few strides to ask how he was doing. Luckily he didn’t seem annoyed by the mishap. But I couldn’t figure out how that happened. I ran to the car and realized I was probably closer to 9.5 miles and not 10.5 miles, plus he was running faster than I anticipated. I decided to stay in that vicinity and wait for him to loop around (he’d be close to the 11 mile mark). Although he passed within 5 feet of me, he didn’t see or hear me because he wasn’t expecting me. (Not sure how me missed me given there were only 3 other people at that point cheering, but that’s Keith for you. :eyeroll:) After that I zipped back to the finish and waited for Keith. When I saw him coming it was the greatest feeling knowing he was going to break 2 hours and he still seemed strong.

Overall, I think I did ok as the one-woman cheering squad. Rest assured I won’t make the same mistake again and be on the phone. That was definitely a newbie mistake. I’m really proud of Keith. And even more excited that he’s found a love of the sport that I’ve enjoyed for 20+ years.

And there you have it. Fun times were had by all. Now it’s off to watch my Cowboys beat up on the Redskins while resting my aching joints and sore muscles.

10 Replies to “Long distance runner? Yes, I am.”

  1. Congrats. I still don’t understand why you’d want to run that far without somebody chasing you, but if you like it, hey, knock yourself out 🙂

  2. “Go Speed Racer, go Speed Racer! Go Speed Racer, go-ooo!”
    I miss the bliss and satisfaction of running and finishing a long race. I’m glad for you and I wish you continued enjoyment and success.

  3. Contrats Keith, I am also really proud of you. Knowing you there was no question that you would finish the race, even if you had to crawl across the finish line. Let me know the next time you decide to do another race I will fly in and run with you. (like i can keep up)

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