It’s time to run it again

Tomorrow morning, Lord willing, I’ll run in my third half-marathon. April 30 is the day of the annual Rock-and-Roll Marathon in Nashville. I have trained harder for this one than either of my previous two races, having averaged approximately 21 miles a week since March 1. It’s literally as much running as I can physically stand.

If for some reason I cannot finish, it won’t be from a lack of training. I never assume I am going to be able to finish. I’m 46 years old. You don’t take anything for granted at 46. Yes, there will be runners older than me who will finish ahead of me. But we’re all made different. It does not get easier as you get older, believe me.

I am very excited about the race tomorrow. I cannot describe what it’s like to be among the 24,000 or so runners packed onto Broadway Avenue early on the last Saturday morning of April. I’ve never experienced anything like it.

But there is also an element of fear. There always is. I am confident I can finish — and by finish, I mean run the entire 13.1 miles without having to stop or walk — but the fear of failure is always there.

I am concerned about the weather. There is a strong likelihood that it will rain during part or all of the race. That doesn’t bother me. In fact, I hope it does rain. What worries me is that the temperature is going to be in the low 60’s at the start of the race. Fortunately, it will at least be cloudy. Otherwise, I’d be in real trouble.

We have had a warm April. I have not adapted well to the heat this spring. It seems to affect me more than it used to. When I ran my first half-marathon two years ago we started off in the upper 40’s, which is close to my ideal running temperature. Last year it was 59 degrees and humid, but it was cloudy, and I was still able to finish, albeit three minutes slower than the year before. This year’s half-marathon will be my warmest one. That’s why I hope it rains. I sweat profusely, so being wet doesn’t bother me. The cooling effect of a constant shower would actually help me out.

I’ll probably set my alarm for 4:45 a.m. The race doesn’t start until 7:15 (fifteen minutes later than usual), but they offer parking at Nissan Stadium. It’s first come, first serve, so there will be a traffic jam even as early as 5:30. This will put me in downtown Nashville well before the start time, but downtown Nashville is an exciting place to be on race day. Plus, it will give me a lot of time to stretch out.

Normally, I like to snap a few photos before and during the race. If it’s raining, though, I’ll leave my iPhone in the car, so no photos. I won’t mind it too much. The half-marathon is literally the only time I don’t listen to music while running. Some do. I don’t because I’d miss a lot of what goes on around me: live bands along the way, runners chattering amongst each other, the sounds of the spectators. I feed off the energy of the race and I’d miss that if I were plugged in.

I can honestly say I don’t care what my finish time is. I do, but I don’t. As long as I can finish, I can say I accomplished my one goal, and my finish time is of secondary importance. My normal running pace is between 8:45 and 9 minutes per mile. But your typical half-marathoner will run 1 to 2 minutes per mile slower than his/her normal pace. So I shoot for 10 minutes per mile. Anything faster would put me at risk of flaming out too soon. I can’t imagine putting myself under the pressure of trying to finish within a certain time. So I only set one goal for myself: finish the race.

Running 13.1 miles has never come easy to me. No matter how much I train, it does not come easy. There are a few elite athletes out there for whom running long miles comes relatively easy. For most of us, it’s rather laborious. Some of the training leading up to the race, I have to admit, is not fun. As much as I am looking forward to tomorrow, I’m also looking forward to a brief respite from running after tomorrow, and then just running for the fun of it with no goal looming.

Tomorrow, I’ll become noticeably tired around mile 7 or 8, and maybe sooner. So I’ll have to run the last few miles while tired. That’s how it is. That’s why you train so hard — not so you won’t get tired, but so you can will yourself to run several miles while tired. At least once during the race, probably around that 7th or 8th mile, I’ll wonder if I’ll be able to finish. That’s when you tell yourself to just keep putting one foot in front of the other and enjoy the scenery. (The scenery along the course really is wonderful, as you run through several different parts of Nashville.)

My last run was Wednesday (a simple 5K). I always allow myself two days off before the half-marathon. Today is day two. I’ll head downtown this morning to the Expo to get my packet. Tomorrow I’ll get up before dawn and drive to Nissan Stadium. I’ll get this done. I just hope it rains.

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