I am a HALF MARATHONER
Yesterday I officially became a half marathoner, having finished my first half, at age 64. A new SparkFriend had planted a seed some time ago, contacting me and asking if I planned on doing one near me. I had planned on doing a half at some point, but probably in 2011, not 7 weeks away! We exchanged some emails and decided to go for it and registered. Neither of us really trained for it, just our usual activities. We both walk as part of our regular routine, and she is on her feet for 12 hour shifts at work, plus we both hike and I bike also. Both of us over 60. She is quite a distance away, and was planning on spending the weekend at her son's home, about halfway between my house and the race, and we agreed to meet Friday to get acquainted and pick up our race packets and bibs.
To save parking space, we agreed to carpool on race day, and we set a time and place to meet in the morning. We said our goodbyes and headed our separate ways for some rest before the big day. The day was breathtakingly beautiful. clear blue sky, a bit cool, but the sun and the activity would quickly warm us. We arrived early, and managed to get a parking spot in the main lot.....they had 2 alternates, and were providing shuttle service back and forth. We checked everything out, got our chips and some massages, exchanged pleasantries with others there. I had my camera, and took some photos of the crowd.
I was still nervous, must have misplaced my keys at least 3 times. They were expecting over 1200 people, and were also doing a 5K and a kids fun run. I love the energy of the crowd at these things, and we found it funny that almost everyone we encountered thought we were there to do the 5K. Nope, we are doing the half, our FIRST half. The time finally came to assemble at the starting point. We took our jackets back to my car, and found a spot near the rear of the pack.
We talked to others, I remember one runner that had on the wildest hat, hand-crocheted by her mother in the loudest colors I had ever seen assembled in a skein of yarn. Hmmmm, I might have to knit me one of them! Another woman heard us talking of our intention to walk the 13.1, and said she was a walker also and was so afraid she would be the only one. We were off, and our new friend fell into pace with us.
I had some shin splints, had not been bothered with them in over a year, but I pressed on, I knew they would eventually go away, which they did around mile 2. Bev found her grove, and maintained a distance ahead of us, Donna and I jogged to catch up.
We kept that up for about 3-4 miles, then just let her go. I was so glad that she did not slow her pace to stay with me, but was equally happy I had a new friend to do this with me. There were water stops near almost every mile marker, offering water, punch and Gatorade, and every mile was clearly marked, as was every turn. We had some torrential rains 2 days previous, and they did need to use the alternate course. Donna and I were close to the turn-around, and I got my camera ready, sure we would soon see Bev, which we did.
After the turn-around, we saw those behind us, and offered encouragement to each and every one. Somewhere along the last half (the miles had become a blur, I just noticed that our pace had slowed, but we were still moving at a nice clip) we saw others not to far ahead of us. Gee, are we actually going to PASS them? Yup, we passed a half-dozen people, each of them younger than me, most younger than Donna who had just turned 50. We were speculating as to our finish time, I knew would complete this in under the 3:30 I had hoped for. Donna commented that we could take a rest and still finish in 3:30......but we did not want to do that! We were both getting tired, and the trotting intervals were less and less, but agreed to run the last tenth. Down the last stretch, and as soon as I saw the huge finish line, I broke into a run like I have never run before. I don't know where the energy came from, maybe the sounds of Bev (she had finished in 3:06:29) yelling or just the knowledge that I DID this, but I know I crossed the mat that was timing us like a true champion, in my own zone, feeling nothing but the rush. My official time was 3:23:13, averaging a mile in 15:31. A hug from Bev, and Donna and I got some snacks, and we re-joined Be at the finish line to get more pictures. One of the volunteers took some photos for us, he asked if we needed a photographer, as he saw 3 medals.
It was a fabulous experience and I was amazed at how good I still felt. I could have walked a few more miles at that point, probably at least a 5K! Donna and I exchanged information, emails and Facebook, I gave her Bev's and my screen names on Spark. Bev and I said our goodbyes to our new friend, she needed to catch the shuttle back to her car. Bev's husband and son had finally gotten there, and her and I headed back to my car to get her things and we said our goodbyes.
The official findings have been posted, and there were 14 people that crossed the finish line after me. I came in fifth of 5 women over 60 that completed the race. There were a total of 652 for the half, another 395 for the 5K. Many were from Pennsylvania, I see that they had people from Florida, Nebraska, even Oklahoma and California there for the half, and some from Maryland, New York, and New Jersey for the 5K. The course was beautiful The original course included a wooden bridge, but that was not on the alternate. Mostly gentle, rolling hills, perfect for an event such as this. Sit was filled with fantastic scenery through Lancaster County farm lands and wooded roads. In fact on section was that wooded that it reminded me of Old State Road in the Swatara Rail-Trail Park. I might add, that particular section had an awesome down-hill, allowing us to gain some time. The roads were open to motorists, and all intersections had volunteers or police to give us the right-of-way, but the last mile.........cones down the center, no shoulder, and we had those who insist on being jerks go past us like they were trying to break speed records and honking for us to get out of the way. What do they think the orange cones signify? No harm, though, just ticked me off a bit, and we were on the home stretch, less than a mile from the finish. Bottom line.....I am SO glad I did it, Would I do another half? In a heartbeat, just not today.