Sunday, October 07, 2012
One of the two clocks went off at 4:00. Lucky for me I set two because the second was set at 4:00 PM. I got dressed and out the door at 4:40. A non-eventful drive to Alexandria on the Baltimore Washington Parkway across the Wilson Bridge and I was there in less than an hour.
I was tasked with rounding up the National Institute of the Blind (NIB) runners and their guides and helping them to find their way to the buses. Unfortunately, the DASH buses were not parked near the Hotel, but nearly a half mile away. It's dark, it's cold, it's drizzling and I am leading twenty blind runners across a half mile of unfamiliar city streets. Fortunately, it was uneventful except for the guy who didn't seem to know his left from his right when I told him there was a fire hydrant ahead on his left and he, of course steered right into it. (No pity. He hit it with his cane and kept walking. And he was an unpleasant person that even the other vision impaired runners didn't like much.)
I was pressed into service to hold up the Flag with a former Marine for the National Anthem because I am a veteran.
I had no specific runner to guide on the race, but I was asked to run behind the last NIB runner. They took off before the National Anthem so as soon as that was over, I hit the road. But, the timers told me that they had reset the mats after the NIBs left and wouldn't use them again until the Elites took off. "Just keep your time on your watch and tell the timer at the finish." Good enough.
So off I ran. About one minute down the road, I heard the horn behind me and suddenly a pack of people running at 5:30/mi blew past little old me at 9:00/mi. I felt their breeze, saw their dust. I tried to see if I could keep up, but that was just sad, even comical.
As it happened, we had more behind runners start with the regular runners and they were pretty fast. Knowing that my time was not important, I slowed to a 10:30. It was funny because as a guide I was wearing a shirt that read "Visually Impaired Runner" in large letters on the back. Many people would run past me and ask if I was OK. "I'm Just Bringing up the rear."
I finally slowed enough to be passed by the runners I expected to be the last: the guide had joked to me last night at the dinner that she was a "fat slow runner" and her husband, whom she was guiding, would just have to adapt. "Tim! You can follow us."
And that's what I did until about mile 9 when she told me that it would be fine with them if I ran ahead. So that I did for the last 4 miles at a 9 minute pace. I was able to finish in a nice neat 2:24:30 or just over 11:00/mi.
The weather was cold and wet. The race was well organized, especially for only it's third year. The start was at Mount Vernon, though, frankly, in the dark it was hard to see the mansion ... or maybe I did, but I was too busy to be impressed by it; the building I did see wasn't very big. I ran up along the George Washing Parkway, a divided highway with at grade crossing along the Potomac River. In better weather and light, I am sure it's quite scenic. But today, not so much. We turned onto the bridge which has a bicycle/walking path along the North Span. It's relatively flat, though of course it is an arch. There is a twisty ramp wup to a bridge across I95/495 then another such ramp on the other side. We ran through the artificial town of National Harbor (don't let the name fool you, it's a glorified Big Box Mall with a Marina and some hotels and condos) then across an ugly gravel lot ... the only part of the route I hated ... along a promenade around to the finish line.
I feel like If I had run *my* race. I would have had a PR. Not complaining. Absolutely NOT complaining. Just saying how good a run it was. I was happy and honored to run with these differently-abled athletes.
I have another shot at a PR on Saturday much closer to home in the Baltimore Running Festival Half Marathon. One can only hope the weather is as favorably cool.
As special guests, the NIB runners and their guides were treated to a post race brunch. When it was time to go home, once again we had to walk more than a half mile to the buses. This time, we had full light and we were able to stop traffic. After all, drivers must stop for pedestrians with a blind cane and we took full advantage.