Janet and Jessica at the expoJanet and I at the expoSt Louis Half Marathon 2010

This past weekend was the St. Louis marathon and half marathon. I ran the half which is 13.1 miles. My friend Janet Johnson was going to spend Saturday night at the Drury Inn with her daughter Jessica and she invited me to stay with them. We had a great time Saturday going to the expo and out to dinner. Actually it felt like we were on a vacation. If you have the opportunity to do this I recommend it because you can sleep later on race morning and you don’t have to worry about parking.

picking up my packet and race numberRace ExpoAround 17,000 people participated in the marathon, half or relay. Metal crowd barrier fences line the street and there are pace signs posted. You find your pace and position yourself in the crowd within the gated area. I was happy to find my friend Chris Taylor and we placed ourselves by the 9:00 minute mile sign and spent around 20 minutes chatting while waiting to start. A fellow sang the National Anthem and shortly after the crowd oozed forward. I never heard any sound signifying that the race started we simply moved. When I passed the starting line my watch said 7:08 but when I got the first mile marker I found that we were about 3 minutes behind the clock pace, so maybe the race actually started at 7:05, I have no idea.

Finished!The race startI saved a few memories to share with you. These races for many people are huge epic moments in their life, the “bucket list” challenge that they accomplish. Family members rally behind their loved one encouraging them along the way. Before the race I saw a woman taking a picture of a man and I had to smile when I heard her say “Ok act like you are crossing the finish line.” For the first time in a race I saw a robed Priest flinging holy water at the participants. As I went by a lady next me ran over and shouted “I’ll take some!” Another memory I will take with me was seeing Karl Gilpin the men’s marathon winner run to the finish. What a sight it was to see him running with his crisp cadence. And here’s a different race objective, as I was walking to the hotel I heard two people talking and one says “So you achieved your goal and none of the marathon runners finished before you?” Now that’s an interesting benchmark and I guess that means he finished faster than 2:25:41 this year.

Cool finishers medalRace shirt and bagThere’s a big difference between training to finish a race and training to PR. A PR is a personal record, or you could say it is your best time. My training for last weekend’s half marathon was in the “be happy you can finish” category. Now that didn’t stop me from wishing I were running faster and checking the pace clock. In fact for the first several miles I was obsessed with time. How fast can I go, what time will I finish, and am I going to be embarrassingly slow, were all the questions running through my mind. Finally around mile six I realized that this fixation with time was sucking the joy out of my run. Since I was doing the best I could, there was nothing I could do to make me run faster. In fact I had to take a moment and remind myself to be grateful that God had given me the ability to run and finish. When you participate in endurance events you spend a lot of time in your own head. There’s no teammate to pass the ball to, it’s you alone and you can be your biggest cheerleader or defeat yourself all in your mind. I reminded myself that I love to run, and that it was an absolutely beautiful day to be outside running.

half610.jpg (92039 bytes)Now here is my take away from the race. Accept your best. My half marathon PR is 1:50 and my finish time was 2:05. This put me at 86th out of 508 women in my age group. I did the best I could. I gave it everything I had and my legs will attest to this. Sometimes our best is disappointing, still if you do the best you can with what you have, then what more could you do? The key is to accept it, learn from it and still feel good about you in the process.

“The answer to the big questions in running is the same as the answer to the big questions in life: Do the best with what you’ve got.” – Dr. George Sheehan