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St. Luke's Half Marathon

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The HM was held on April 29 in Allentown, PA. I arrived early Saturday for the expo--I wanted to go to the Garmin Pace Group workshop and, of course, do a little shopping. There were a fair number of vendors--I picked up a Spibelt/bib holder--no more pinning bibs onto my shirt or shorts.

There were kid races, too, on Saturday afternoon. These were so much fun to watch--wish I had had my camera. The kids were just beaming as they ran as fast as they could. Some weren't quite sure what they were supposed to do. Their parents were beaming, too.

Saturday night's pre-race dinner was phenomenal. It wasn't about the food--though it was fine. It was about the speaker and the stories of racing "stars." Entrants to the race were invited on the website to submit personal stories about how running has helped them overcome adversity.

There was the story of the young woman who was in an accident and lost her lower arm--the doctors reattached it. But in the course of doing everything possible to help the attachment stay viable, it caused nerve damage in her legs. Not only did she lose the lower arm in the end, but she was also told she would never walk again without braces or other support. But she didn't accept that and through rehab and incredibly hard work, she ran the half marathon.

Then there was the young man who had Type 1 diabetes and has an insulin pump. And despite the difficulty of maintaining his insulin levels and taking care of his feet, he is out there training and racing and motivating others.

Then there was the guest speaker--Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon. She had no idea the impact her one act would have--she simply wanted the same opportunity that men had. And as a result, women now have opportunities to test ourselves and to enjoy the camaraderie of team sports. She stressed that when you have an opportunity open up--take it! You never know where it will lead.

Which brings me back to the race and the Garmin Pace Group. Before dinner, I debated whether to follow the 2:10 or 2:20 pace group. 2:10 would have led to a PR, but I wasn't feeling very confident. After listening to the pace group leaders, I left the workshop planning to follow the 2:20 leader, and then at the end, if I was feeling strong, see if I could race ahead.

But I couldn't get Ms. Switzer's message of Opportunity out of my head. Here was an opportunity to push myself hard and try to set a new PR--I just had to follow the leader. I headed back to the hotel and got ready for the race. As I lay in bed, I kept thinking 2:10, 2:10, 2:10 until I finally fell asleep.

Sunday morning I had a light breakfast and caught the shuttle to the start. At the gym, I looked for MoxieinMotion, but couldn't find her group. I followed the 2:10 pace leader out the door to the start. It was a perfect day for racing. Cool, but sunny and no wind.

I decided to do 5:1 run/walk intervals. I wasn't quite sure how that was going to work while trying to keep up with the pace group, but it did. Many times I thought I had fallen too far behind while walking, but by the end of the 5 minute run, I'd have the leader in sight. The course had rolling hills on streets and through some beautiful parks.

Everything was going great until about 9.5 miles. I'd been running full out down the hills to make up time, and after one of those runs my legs began to cramp. I took some Endurolytes and kept walking. Within a few minutes, I could start running again. But I was losing more & more time. Eventually I admitted that I couldn't find my pace group and I knew I wasn't going to set a new PR. It was disappointing in that I had so much energy left. I crossed the finish line in 2:21 with a huge smile on my face--it was a wonderful race and I had a great time. I headed up the big hill to the top of the stadium and got in line for whole wheat couscous, pierogie vegetable soup, sausage sandwiches, and fruit.

Then it was off to find the shuttle back to the hotel. Sherry--a new friend I met on the shuttle to the race--and I headed back to the drop off point--that's where the bus driver told us he'd pick us up. But there was no one there. Two angels arrived as we were debating how to get back to the hotel. They asked if we needed help and went out of their way to take us back to our hotel. And Sherry proved to be an angel, too. She had a late check out and invited me up to her room to shower & change before I headed home.

This was one of the best racing weekends. I have next year's race already penciled on my calendar--with a little more training I'm sure I can set that new PR.

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