Tuesday, March 29, 2011
In the blink of an eye.....tick.....a fingersnap......tick.....a breath.....tick...a life saved...tick....an accident averted.....tick.....a foot strike....
Life happens a second at a time. I know it can be broken down into even smaller increments, but for this second, that is smallest I need to go.
Have you ever watched a track race on TV? Perhaps the 100 metre race. The finishers are separated in 1/100 of a second to determine their placement. Fractions of time that are like splinters deciding who gets a first place gold and who goes home with a nothing 4th, 5th or lesser. Perhaps not even qualifying for the next level of competition.
On Sunday, I returned to the same Half Marathon course I started 2010 with, Liverpool. The conditions were perfect, overcast skies, 40sF, very slight wind. It was a crowded and now very popular race with 7,000 entries. Perhaps it's place on the running calendar of only a month from the London Marathon spiked attendance by over 2,000 more than last year!
The course is good with a mix of uphills, road running, scenic parks, and the 3 mile finish along the River Mersey to where the race started. I was apprehensive about this race, as I am with just about every one I do. I hadn't run a half for 5 months and my last race was the Philadelphia Marathon. I had been keeping my training to plan, but could I perform as I was hoping, could I run the speed I wanted, and could I do a new Personal Best? Questions that filled my mind as hubs and I drove the hour south.
All the usual pre race rituals were carried out and I kissed hubs and wished him a great race as I made one last wait in the porta-loo line and left him to finish his own preparations. I told him I would see him at the finish!
It took me nearly 14 minutes to cross the start line and once underway the familiarity of the route came rushing back. The first mile was a quick out to the main road and the long flat towards the long uphill towards the first park. All was going well until nearing mile 2 I felt my left Quad muscle start to ache! Mile TWO and this is happening??!! Not a good sign as this kind of stuff if it is going to happen occurs during a marathon at about mile 18, not in a half at two miles!!
I was NOT going to panic, I decided that I would take a short walk to relieve the ache as I approached the top of the hill. I resumed running and kept a good pace.
It was around mile 5 that the ache started again. Ok..short quick walk for no more than 2 minutes.. and then off again.
Through the streets, down some hills, up some hills, and the next park...walk breaks of no more than 1-2 minutes and then run. I could see the faster racers going in the opposite direction towards the park exit.. the 1hr 50 min group...the guy who was in the car opposite hubs and I while we were getting ready....running club vests that I recognized went racing past.
My quad was holding together, my breathing was good, my watch showed my time to be on target. I took energy gels at 4 miles and then again at 8 miles. I had been counting down the miles and with less to run then I had completed something happened...I started passing people and they weren't catching back up to me even during my walk breaks. At nine miles I went speeding passed people half my age walking and not having the energy to run at all.
I now was approaching the edge of the last park and the lane to the River Mersey riverside walk. I remembered the previous year's headwinds and how it held me back. This year...with my 5 minute running bursts followed by 1-2 min walks to ease my quad I kept passing other participants. No headwind, no excessive fatigue...just a continual surge with each footstrike. I marked runners ahead of me to catch up to and then pass. Mile 10, mile 11...mile 12....the cobbles, the weaving around townhouses and riverfront buildings until at last the final stretch appeared.
I had saved up enough energy to push passed additional runners....I could see those who had finished proudly wearing their medals and heard their encouraging "almost there!!"through my concentration on the finish line just less than 1/4 mile away.
I caught sight of my husband, camera in hand, to my left! He shouted to me and urged me onward. Mile 13....and I could see the blue FINISH banner over the road! Passing two more women I increased my speed one last time and with a smile finally on my face my foot touched the timing mat...and tick...my race was completed.
I took a few more steps and then turned off my watch, thanked the finish line marshall for a great race, collected my medal, my water, my T shirt and then my goodie bag. Hubs was there to take more photos and we exchanged race stories.
He had finished in a fantastic time of 1:31:24! I wasn't sure exactly of my time as I knew I was out a couple of seconds. I would wait until the official results were posted on the website.
It wasn't until later that night that hubs found out that he had won his age group! Top of the table of 63 in his group! So proud of him! My time???? a new personal best of 2:42:54....that was ONE second quicker than my previous best in 2007 at Blackpool.....tick...just ONE second....faster! The time of a fingersnap.....a blink of an eye...or a footstrike!