Janet with her relay and individual race bibs on.Go St. Louis Half Marathon 2012

For the Go St Louis Half Marathon my friend Janet again invited me to share her hotel room downtown the night before the race. As a Team in Training coach she manned the registration table at the hotel and later I tagged along with her to the inspiring pasta dinner the night before the marathon. This event always causes me to refocus and consider what is really important.

On Saturday after I checked into the hotel I walked a couple miles to the race expo. Walking down Market Street back to the hotel I met three people who would be race pacers. They were carrying the pace sign flags and we struck up a conversation. All three were from different upper Midwest states. Two of the three had a dozen marathons scheduled for the year and one fellow planned to do 36. This fellow would be leading the 5 hour pace group.  At the bigger races there are runners who carry a sign with a pace time listed held up on a stick. They lead what is called a pace group. At the race expo you can sign up to run with a pace group and wear a number proclaiming the pace you are trying to achieve on your back or you can just find the runner with the flag and stick close by.  The two pacers who had 12 marathons planned for the year were triathletes. I asked one of them how they trained.  Amazingly this fellow told me that he would run up to six miles at the most and primarily cross trained.  What I found interesting in talking to the pacers was the satisfaction and gratitude they felt when they helped people to achieve their goals. In fact the 5:00 pacer said that he might have the opportunity to help someone over 80 qualify for Boston. He told me that his best marathon experience was the first time he helped a woman to qualify for Boston.

Hanging in there through the rough miles with Gene.Sunday morning my roommate Janet left to meet her Team in Training runners in the lobby at 5:30am. This gave me some time on my own before I needed to walk over to the starting line. Once I finished getting ready I waited and found myself afraid. This was somewhat baffling because it wasn’t my first half marathon, it wasn’t even an “A” race for me, but suddenly I had the urge to pack up and head out. I wanted to go home and have Maurice put his arms around me and say “It’s alright, I love you.”

Facing this unwarranted fear I did the only thing that works and that was to pray.  I can tell you that prayer works. Me and God walked out the door to the starting line.  Janet and I planned to meet by the 1:50 pace group and there she was ready to go along with Aaron a team in training runner who also ran with us. As the race started another friend Gordon who I had done a marathon relay with showed up and our little foursome was on its way. Janet is amazing, she was talking and running comfortably meanwhile I was working a little harder than I could sustain for 13.1 miles.  I guess a bit after 2 miles I told the threesome that I was peeling off and I dropped from the group. Running longer races is always a guessing game, can I go faster? How long can I go this fast? Will I crash and burn or will I have energy left over and wish I had pushed harder?  Early on its best to be conservative and later I was glad that I had made this choice.

Crossing the line...About to cross the finish line.Around the third mile I heard a fellow say “Next neutral bathroom break I see I am going to take it.” I couldn’t help but smile and wonder where was this magical porta potty where race time stopped while you did your thing?

I have a few snapshots of memories in my mind, one of girls wearing bright tutu skirts over their running shorts, one day I would like to wear a tutu in a race.  Another was when we hit a crosswind and everyone’s race bib was flopping creating an orchestrated clap, clap, clap of the paper race number’s pinned on our shirts. Another great memory was of the few miles I ran with my friend Gene.  We had the opportunity to talk and catch up. I recall at one point as we ran uphill I asked Gene if this was our last hill and he said no. I then told him to just lie to me.

Speaking of hills it seemed like we were always running up a long steady climb. One was over a mile long and it was during this incline that I reevaluated my goal for the race. Funny thing about racing is that you start out wanting to break a particular time barrier or perhaps hoping for a podium finish, but there comes a time in every race where you toss all that aside and simply  hope to survive to the finish. Just get it done, go to the finish line was all that my brain could handle.  So you run from one mile marker to the next, one aid station to the next, playing little mental games in your head until you are close enough to feel that you will finish.  Around mile 11 the 1:55 pacer came alongside and he was a cheerful chap. He was shouting out encouragement and he revitalized me. I picked up my pace and stuck by this fellow. Then I decided to go a little faster and passed him running to the finish.

All done!Quivering Quads half marathon was my “A” race this winter and I was thrilled when I won my age group. This race I came in 7th of 306 in my age group.  I’ve been running and racing for a while and have been blessed with some success but regardless of improvements and wins, fear always makes an appearance. Doubts and fear show up every time, only now I expect to have these moments. Every race is an opportunity to grow and learn.  Most recently I have noticed that when I am exhausted and struggling so is everyone else.  Every time I received an encouraging word this has helped push me along. Now when I feel myself struggling, I know that everyone around me is having a hard time and that’s when I have the opportunity to cheer on others.  Next time you are struggling, look around because if you suffering so is someone else, and who better to push them along than you.