Race day temps were perfect. Cool enough for a long sleeve but warm enough to run without gloves. I think the threat of rain was there, but it never showed up. A few days prior at the race expo, I signed up for the 1:45 pace group. I was really wanting to shoot for 1:40 but I thought that would be a stretch for me. I figured with my two 10K times I should be able to get in under 1:45. So as I made my way to the start line I gathered around the pacers that would have to hold the pace flags for the entire race. I met a few other runners that were in the same group and tried to get a few stretches in.
After the national anthem, I was nervous and excited at the same time. With the final countdown (du na na naa naaa. Sorry…) we were off. I think the rush even got to the pacers. A half mile into it they said we were going a little too fast and we could slow up a bit. I was feeling great and relaxed. At the first miler marker we settled in. It was a great pace but I was already wondering if I could hold it the whole time.
The pacers kept the conversation going and tried to entertain us. Actually they were already annoying me. I love to run by myself. I don’t mind running with others and sometimes enjoy the company of others, but these two guys that were pacing the group were the cheesiest people. They were trying to tell us some really lame jokes and quickly it was just getting under my skin. Mile 2 went well, then we came up to the first water station. The pacers yelled “water!” I never tried drinking water training for this, so I didn’t want any. And I remember reading somewhere that if you’re properly hydrated, you should be able to run 13 miles without water. But both pacers stopped at the water station and about half the group did. I kept jogging, but really slow waiting for them to catch back up. After a few seconds everyone was back together.
The course took a nice downhill and I cruised down it. A little faster than the pace group but I didn’t feel like waiting for them. I was ready to leave Burt and Ernie and I could tell a few others were too. So they came along with me. We chatted it up a little but mostly we just tried to keep each other running on the same pace.
The next miles went by like a breeze. Eventually it was me and one other guy from the original pace group. A few people had taken off ahead of us and a few others hung back. The guy I was running with was big on hydrating and eating Shot Bloks. Each aid station we passed I kept running while he stopped for some water then would catch back up with me.
Just as we approached mile 10, we entered Piedmont Park of Atlanta and this is where it started to get tough for me. I don’t think I would have been doing this well without the guy I was running with, but I was beginning to think I pulled the trigger too soon. Leaving the park we went up a few hills and we were both hurting. My lunges and throat were starting to burn at this point. I made it a few more miles with him.
At mile 12, I told him to go on without me and that I couldn’t hang on to this pace. He tried throwing words of encouragement at me and getting me to stay with him, but I just couldn’t do it. He told me we were on pace to do 1:42. That was killer news but my pace just went south. So he went on without me. The last mile was a huge mental battle. My feet were starting to really hurt and my mind was telling me to stop. But I knew I was so close and that I couldn’t give up. “Almost there, you got this” I kept telling myself. I couldn’t wait to finish and get it over with.
I tried running hard once I saw the finish line, well it felt like I was running hard to the finish. I crossed the line at 1:43 and a few seconds of change. A volunteer put a medal around my neck, which I thought was weird. I didn’t win or anything. And I was given a huge piece of thin foil… I had no idea what this was. Haha. I started to notice people wrapping it around themselves, but still didn’t understand it. Walking towards the long tables filled with food, I saw the guy that I ran with. He hit 1:42 perfectly and we both congratulated each other. I grabbed a bunch of food, (bananas, bagels, M&Ms) sat down and chowed down. It wasn’t a few minutes until I started to shiver. Then I finally realized why people were wrapped up in those things…haha!
There was no better feeling than finishing that race, enjoying a beer and a big Thanksgiving meal that day.