The Martian Half Marathon, April 22, 2017
It has been a struggle all winter and early spring to get “into the flow” of a decent training period. Many items combined to interfere with training, getting over a late season injury, weight gain, work schedule, becoming a certified running coach, the flu bug, being a wimp with our weather, and most recently a bout with poison ivy, all contributed to a minimalist approach to competing in this year’s Martian Half Marathon.
My goal was to simply finish at a decent pace, run an evenly paced race, or in the best of all worlds, perhaps a slight negative split. I only had one long run of 13 miles, 3 at 10 miles, and the rest of my weekend runs were at 8 miles or less. Rarely did I ever hit the 25 mile per week mark. To add to this misery, my average training pace of about 9:00 to 9:30 per mile was nearly a full minute slower than I have been accustomed to in recent years.
I could not have asked for more perfect race conditions. The temp was about 42 deg and rising with the morning sun. The breeze was so slight that I never noticed it, until it became a head wind at mile 3 or so. With these conditions I made a last minute decision to race in my Brooks singlet, shorts, hat, and shades. If I wasn’t going to run fast at least I could look like I could!
There were about 1,000 runners in this race and I felt like nearly all of them were passing me in the first mile or so. I started what felt like a very slow pace for me. After a few blocks into the scenic residential neighborhood I check my Garmin and it indicated that I was running at 8:40 pace! It felt very easy and I thought I would be quite happy to maintain this pace as an average for the entire 13.1 distance, especially given my lack of training to now. So that’s exactly what I did for the next 5 or 6 miles. So splits a bit faster, some much slower when hitting the hills, but generally I felt relaxed and very comfortable.
I did notice that I was in a very small minority wearing only a thin singlet. Most runners wore at least long sleeves, tights, and some even with jackets! Obvious much less experienced runners in my part of the race. Many of these people were passing me too. I felt a bit chilled but knew I would be rewarded in the later miles.
Then at about the 6 mile mark, a group of chatty runners who obviously knew one another came upon me. One of them was even pushing a baby stroller! (Not a good thing to do in a race!). Among this pack of 5-6 runners were at least 2 guys that were in my (new) Age Group! Dang, I had sort of hoped that I could keep my streak alive of placing in the top 3 of my AG category (65-69 this year) for the past 10 years. Even with awards going 5 deep I did not like the idea of letting someone beat me! Nonetheless, I was committed to my race plan, hold my pace, run my race, and be happy to finish. So I let this pack including my two competitors not only pass but eventually get to at least a 300 yard lead on me after the 6 mile mark.
The next milestone in this race was exiting another residential subdivision and returning to the main drag along Hines Drive. I knew I could run well along Hines and I was determined to do so. At this point the route turned North along Hines for nearly another mile. Other runners were returning along the opposite side of the road. This can be a very dreadful mental part of the race. But I drew on my past experience of running this part of Hines and began to run stronger. I still felt relaxed and was surprised to see that my Garmin was reporting my current pace to be about 8:20. Oh, my competitors that were ahead of me, not so much anymore!
I was beginning to pass runners. Mostly those runners who were overdressed early in the race. I did not focus on picking runners off but rather focused on how I was running. I tried to pay attention to form, keep my head up, my foot strikes proper etc. I made the turn at Hines and began the path back. Despite feeling strong, I forced myself not to increase my pace too much too soon, continue to hold back, just a bit. Before I knew it I had caught up to that group of chatty 5-6 runners that included a baby stroller and my competition! I did notice that my competitors were not the ones chatting. I felt a bit of angry adrenaline in me as I attempted to pass the baby stroller. There is NO WAY that device should be on this course! I made my pass with the goal of never seeing them again!
I was on my part of the course, before I knew it I had passed under an overpass and looking forward to maintaining this pace. At this point there are several long curves in the road. I was very aware to run the best tangent (shortest route) to tangent that I could, hoping also that my competition behind me was taking the longer path.
While the line of runners ahead of me was thin, I was still picking off runners ahead of me. I had just finished an 8:16 mile when I noticed that the Ford Road overpass was just about a half mile ahead! I knew I could hang on for the last 4 miles or so. I knew this next part of the course very well. A few more runners passed and I was onto the scenic paved path in the U-M Dearborn campus. More tangents to pay attention to and I was now feeling very warm. Off came my cap for a cooling breeze. This was the refreshment I need. As I entered onto a wooden bridge over a stream there was a slower moving runner about 50 ft. ahead of me. There was also a race photographer at the other end of the bridge. So what else could I do but of course speed up a bit so that this runner would not be ahead of me in the pic! 🙂
I had just run an 8 minute mile. My negative split for this race was “in the bag” but I was not going to settle for that. I wanted to get to the 12 mile mark and see how fast my last mile split could be! I mentally chanted “keep it strong, keep it strong” as I lengthened my stride along the road in front of the Ford Family Estate home wishing the finish line was closer than it was. There were less runners ahead of me but I was still managing to pick them off one by one as we ran along the paved path in the woods. The 12 mile mark!
OK Lee, you asked for it, the 12 mile mark is here, I also forgot that there was a nasty little hill just ahead too! Despite this challenge, I was determined to continue to improve my pace and see how fast I could close on this half marathon! Out of the woods, along Michigan Ave, and a new but very nice twist as the route ran along the boardwalk behind Andiamo’s Restaurant. I knew this would be a slight downhill, no excuses.
There was a very young lady who raced by my side for miles 2 through 4 until she passed me who was now just ahead. Her friends were cheering her on as we transitioned to the last roadway and of course, I passed her too. I saw another lady in bright orange only a few hundred feet ahead of me. I remember her orange jacket being so so far ahead of me way back along Hines Drive. I focused on the orange and caught her on the final turn to the finish. She shouted “good job” and I ran as fast as I could the final few hundred yards to the finish. Done! Later my Garmin would report my final half mile was at 3 minutes.
I was quite happy to finish so strong and so much faster than I had ever anticipated for this day. Waiting for me in the finish chute was one of my running proteges, Alicia. Alicia and I exchanged mojo as runners passed twice in opposite directions. She proudly displayed her 2nd (AG) award! I also had an opportunity to spot the Head Martian himself race founder Randy Step and exchanged greetings with him too.
My final time was 1:50:44, good for a second place finish in my AG. I think if I had another half mile to the course I would have caught the first place finisher. Oh, also, while after celebrating in the finish chute, I spotted my earlier competitors finishing. Definitely not my fastest half marathon, but certainly among the best tactical races and very pleased with the effort.
The moral of the story, Run Happy.
Thanks for taking your time to read my
is race? Run Happy :)race experience.
PS: Next race, The Dexter to Ann Arbor Half Marathon June 4.