Running a half marathon is not like running an ultra. For one thing (at least for me), it’s not the pinnacle of an entire season of training, emotional and physical preparation, and logistical ponderment. I’d registered for the Black Squirrel Half Marathon on a whim, so it’s supposed to be whimsical. After a summer of much bigger adventures, I should be able to toss off a quick 13.1 miles with no trouble at all. Completely casual, right?
Apparently, even with this knowledge, still took it way too seriously. Once I realized that arriving at the starting line 90 minutes early was about 60 minutes earlier than most everyone else in the race, I began to calm down. Once I calmed down (and warmed up), it was definitely a new kind of fun. Instead of a endurance-minded, all-day affair full of a myriad strategic worries over pacing, nutrition, and hydration, I simply went out like a bat outa hell and ran pretty hard the whole time.
The first third of the race is a long climb up the Timbers Trail and I spent a lot of time passing people who weren’t used to the rocky bits. Sweating profusely from redlining on the climb, we soon transitioned to a steep, rocky descent which was accomplished like a black mogul ski run (lots of jumping and yelling). The final third was a long, flat loop on smooth trails through a rapidly-getting-hot meadow. I put down the hammer here and, tired as I was, figured it was only a few more miles to the finish line.
It was weird to be running sub-8 miles at all, never mind at the end of a race (I’m lucky to be running at all at the end of my usual endeavors) but felt pretty good… until it didn’t anymore. I’d mis-calculated a little bit and went hard about half a mile too early. Rounding the corner at mile 12.9, running on fumes and desperately looking forward to the finish line I finally saw the finish… waaaaay over there! Still, I finished in good time and rubber side down. The finish area was a great party with food, beer (at 9:30 in the morning!), and the usual post-race joviality.
What a fun race! It was great to go all-out for a reasonably short time (2:15). The trail is scenic and varied and offers a little bit of everything. Pete and Nick put on, as usual, a really great, run race and everyone had a good time. A “mere half marathon” is not something I’d usually get excited about, but this one was really quite excellent fun and I’d recommend it to anyone… even cynical old ultra-runners like me.