Last week I ran in my second half marathon - the Country Music Half Marathon in Nashville, TN. This one was a bit different from my first half marathon, as I was running:
a) by myself
b) the course was very hilly
c) I was running for my friends mustache
In preparation for the Nashville race, I spent some of my time training on the treadmill at the gym to simulate some of those Nashville hills by putting it on an incline. Yes, for those of you who have not experienced New Orleans before, the only place to find hills is at the gym....on the treadmill.
My training went very well and I remained cautiously optimistic that I might be able to run the race in the same time that I ran the ultra-flat NOLA race, which was 1 hour 49 minutes. If nothing else, I just wanted to finish before the 1:55 mark.
One week before the race, I was drinking coffee with a buddy of mine and I asked him if he cared to make a little wager. If I run the half in less than 1:40 then he shaves his mustache that he’s been sporting for the last 20 years. I’ve been trying to get this friend to lose the stache for years in a number of ways including countless poker hands together where I try to win it off of him, but he NEVER takes the bet. On this particular day, he did. The reason: he knew there was no way I’d be able to do it.
The week before the race, was my last 12 mile training run, which I ran it in 1:42. I immediately texted him letting him know that his stache was safe.
The morning of the race was incredibly exciting. I positioned myself in corral #2 at 6:55 a.m. and surveyed the landscape. Corral #2 was positioned on top of a hill so I could see down forever. As I stood in a sea of people, over 31,000 runners, I could feel the adrenaline pumping through my veins and I had a crazy thought that I just might be able to run this race very well.
As the gun was about to sound, I placed my earbuds in, took a couple of deep breaths and we were off. The first mile was downhill and my confidence was sky high. At mile marker #1 I felt great and knew this race was going to be a fun run. There were certain marks along the course that when I passed them, my friends would receive a text message letting them know what my times were. I was looking forward to these marks because it made me feel like my friends were actually a part of the race with me even though they weren’t doing anything (except enjoying coffee on their sofas). I actually felt great at each marker.
5K Marker: I hit it at under 24 minutes
10 Marker: I hit it at 47 minutes
10 Mile Marker: I hit it at 1 hour 16 minutes
I was moving right along, feeling great! I knew if I just kept my pace I would actually finish under 1:40 and that stache would be history.
And then the wheels fell off....kind of.
At mile marker 11 I began to realize that the hills were taking their toll on my body. My calves were aching. My butt was sore. My quads were burning. I finally determined in my mind that these weren’t actually hills but they were mountains....and I was starting to hate them.
The end was so near, though. So, I pushed. I knew I’d be just fine if the course didn’t throw any more of these ridiculous mountains my way. So many people were counting on me. I had to win the stache.
And then I saw it. Mile marker 12. I could see it from a distance and I realized that my shot at beating 1:40 was within reach, but it would take everything I had. I hit the marker at 1 hour 33 minutes. This was it! I had to run the final 1.1 miles in less than 7 minutes and knowing that I am capable of that (on a good day) I said, “Legs! Let’s go!” To which my legs replied, “Hell, no! We’re staying right here.”
It was at this moment that I realized that mile 13 was upmountain. And I don’t mean just the first part of mile 13. I’m talking about the whole mile. If you have ever wondered what your natural vocabulary really is, I would suggest either:
a) accidentally miss the nail and hit your thumb with a hammer when no else is around
b) run a half marathon only to realize that mile 13 is upmountain
When I finally finished dialoguing with my legs, we decided to compromise - I would not make them go faster if they promised not to actually walk.
All this to say, that I ran that 13th mile in a little over 8 minutes and finished the race with a personal best of 1:41:47. Crossing that finish line was absolutely exhilarating and made all the better when I saw my bride and my 4 boys standing at the finish line with hugs and kisses. Honestly, I was upset that I missed my goal by 1 minute 47 seconds, but the truth is, I never thought I’d even get close to finishing under 1 hour 50 minutes.
Later that day, my buddy text messaged me and informed me that in celebration, of my new personal record he was going to shave off the stache even though he won the bet. The ‘Dash for the Stache’ was a great experience and was made all the more fun because of the great community of friends that participated in it with me in heart and mind. You guys know who you are and you were awesome. Thanks.
*Special Note: Someone asked me if this is a good time. For me, yes! But to put it in perspective, the guy who won the Boston Marathon (26.2 miles) this year, finished in 2 hours 3 minutes.