Can’t believe this was my sixth time running this race! It’s just a Fourth of July tradition for us now so we make sure to never miss it! Typically, it’s hot as all hell for this race and a real struggle, but this year was nice and cool! I think it was just a hair below 70º, but it was humid as all heck (94% when we woke up). Either way, I had planned to race it this year, unlike last year, and shoot for a sub-30 time.
We got to the park early to pick up our packets and do a little two-mile warmup. I wasn’t thrilled with how I was feeling. I felt sluggish and tired, but I didn’t let that deter me from going at it hard for race time. After the warmup, it was time to line up and get the race started. Because the race is reasonably big at just over 1,000 runners, I lined up a couple rows back from the front and felt like I was in a good position to not be in anyone’s way, but also not have to dodge too many people. The wife lined up a row of people ahead of me, which was the last I saw her until after the race.
The race started rather abruptly, as it always does, and we were off. Things were a little tight for the first quarter of a mile before starting to thin out a bit. I tucked in right behind two other women who were running right around where I wanted to be. As we came up to the first mile marker, I found myself needing to pass a middle-school-aged kid so I swung to the outside to go around him. Of course, he didn’t like being passed, especially by a girl, and picked it up to stay next to me. While my watch said I was running slightly faster than planned, my legs were telling me they were at a pace that was doable for four miles. I didn’t want to mess with anything so I just held steady and let the kid think he could keep up with me, rather than pick it up to get around him. Though, I did laugh to myself a bit when I thought of how funny it would be to just turn to him and say “hey kid, I used to run marathons faster than this when I was boy. Just let it go!” I refrained though. As we passed the first mile, I saw 7:32 on the clock. Just a hair over where I needed to be, but I wasn’t too worried. I just held strong. After a couple minutes, I dropped the kid behind, never to be seen again. The two women I was running behind before also dropped back slightly so I was on my own.
The second mile stayed uneventful. I kept a steady pace and planned my attack for the rest of the race. Coming around the second turn of the day, we came onto a very pothole-ridden road. I knew from past experience that running right in the middle of the road, on the double yellow line, was the best strategy here so as soon as I cleared the turn, I moved over and watched as the other runners fought through the potholes. We came up to the second mile marker and the clock was showing that I was now almost ten seconds under where I needed to be for my goal time. Not bad, I thought, but still only halfway.
A half mile or so up the road, we took a right turn before coming up to a left turn. Right at the turn, which is a very narrow one that puts runners on a path only wide enough for two people at a time, there was a giant puddle (it had rained pretty heavily the night before). A volunteer was standing there warning runners and everyone seemed to be afraid of getting wet so they were going wide around it. Since I thought this was rather silly, I took the turn just like I would if the puddle wasn’t there. Great plan until my left foot slipped in some mud and I was practically sideways for a moment. I thought I might end up going down, but I got lucky thanks to a well-placed post that I was able to push off real quick to right myself back up and continue on my way. Less than 100 feet up was another giant puddle which I again plowed through, this time without slipping in any mud. By this point, I was getting pretty tired and wasn’t sure that I’d be able to keep my pace for the rest of the race, but I had zero intention of not finding out the hard way. I did my best to stay steady and crossed the third mile marker with another few seconds worth of cushion tacked onto my time.
With just a mile to go, I knew all I had to do was hold on for seven and a half minutes. My pace got a little more inconsistent through this last mile, but I kept pushing it. As we got to the last third of a mile or so and were getting ready to enter the park where the finish was, I started slowing slightly. At this point, a guy came up on my left and told me I wasn’t allowed to slow down because I was his motivation to keep his pace. I said that was all I had to give, but then I found a way to push a little more and pick it back up. The last bit of the race was tough and all I wanted was to pull over and puke on the side of the path, but, as I watched the finish line coming around the lake, I powered on. When I got close enough to see the clock, I knew I had hit my goal and congratulated myself in my head before even finishing. As I crossed the finish, I quickly bent over and dry-heaved like I do at the end of most races, but I was pretty pumped for my time.
Realistically, 29:43 (7:26 pace) isn’t all that fast of a time, but I haven’t exactly been running great over the last few months so I was happy with it and it put me in at 4th in my age group. While I’ve mostly accepted the level I run at now, as opposed to before transition, I was still taken back slightly by the realization that I was thrilled with a four mile time 14 seconds/mile slower than I used to be able to run a marathon. Still, I was just happy to hit my goal.
Of course, the wife won her age group and snagged a new PR by minutes. MINUTES!
Afterwards, we celebrated with bagels and ice coffees in a different park and it was glorious!
Did you race on the Fourth of July? How’d it go?