Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Country Music Half Marathon - The Race!

As our corale prepared to be released, I gave teammate and fellow cancer survivor Kristi a hug and wished her luck. She will be walking the entire race and is hoping for a PR, despite the heat ahead. I know I will get a PR, assumng I finish, because this is my first half marathon. At 7:57AM, I crossed the starting point. The first part of the route headed towards downtown, and I kept in the shade as much as possible. It already felt hot. Here is a view of the downtown from the race course:
There were pretty good crowds appreciating the racers. There were not as many bands as I had hoped for. Maybe the marathoners would have more on the second part of the course. Both races ran the same route for the first 11.25 miles. Any time a spectator or cheer squad would call out your name, it gives a little jolt of adrenalin! One time a young woman called out "Art, I love you!" I never had that happen in a race before! Another time, I passed an official TNT cheer and one of them yelled "I've been to your museum!" I realized that she was someone I met in the elevator the other day, and when when were exchanging names I told her "Art, there's a museum named after me." Sometimes people think I am saying my name is Mark or even Hart. I was impressed with her memory.

The race course went down Broadway and looped away from downtown. At one point, it doubled back on itself, and I was able to see several Virginia teammates going the opposite way. That was really great! This continued for several miles - people running back in the opposite direction like a mighty river flowing to the sea. I ran into Coach Chuck during this part of the race. We were running through neighborhoods and people were out in force with a really festive atmosphere. There were so many racers that it meant constantly being alert to pass people - I passed a ton of people out there for the first 10 miles - and to be passed. It would be so easy to trip over someone.
At about mile seven, I had a tough time. My non-run sports sunscreen sweated into my eyes. It burned like hell! I stopped running and went to a slow (for me) walk, barely able to see. My eyes were practically whelled shut, and tears were pouring down my face. My nose started running like a fountain from the irritation. I am sure people were thinking "That poor man is in so much pain that he is crying!" This went on for about three-fourths of a mile, then all the tears started to clear my eyes. At about that point, a family had a little water table set up in their yard and I took a cup and flushed my eyes out and was fine from that point.
At about mile 8, we passed Belmont University on the return route, specifically the Presidential debate site. That was so cool! If you followed my fund-raising campaign, you know I taylored it after the McCain - Obama race, and this was such a cool tie-in on the actual race day!
I was a little dissapointed at the small number of bands, but this one was GREAT! I could have stayed and watched them for a while, drinking a cold beer. But I kept running.
Speaking of music, these guitars were pretty cool, so I had to stop and snap a photo:
At about 8.5 miles, the route was finally reaching a point where we were no longer repeating itself. I really liked this statue, which was one of the things that I saw at the start of the section where the route doubled back:
By this point, I knew my pace was slower than I had hoped for. The incident with the sunscreen and my eyes had knocked a couple of minutes off, but I was walking more and more. I ran about 80% of the first 6 miles, but was now walking about 50% - not counting mile 7 where I walked most of it in my near blindness. It was just so hot! We had been training, with a few exceptions, in fairly cold weather. I felt like I would just move as much as I could and enjoy the experience, so that is what I continued to do. At about mile 10.5, I was snapping a photo and a lady asked if I wanted my photo taken:
AT mile 11.25, the King himself was directing traffic! The King lives! "Marathoners to the left, half-marathoners to the right! Thank you, thank you very much!"
For a couple of months, I had wondered what I would feel when I reached this point. Would I regret my decision to only run the half? Would I be tempted to run the full marathon for a split second? Would I get wild and crazy and actually take the left hand split? What I felt was relief! I was so hot and so glad that I was not doing 15 more miles. At mile 12 or so, we crossed the Cumberland River and could see the stadium where the race was ending, and it was a welcome sight:
Just before the finish line, I ran into our great coach, Chuck, again and he took these pictures of me running along. They are a little blurry because we were both running, but I rarely have photos of me actually moving in a race. In the first one, you can see my "Virginia Rock Star" shirt covered with names and the finish line just ahead:
In this one, you can see a sign over my shoulder that says "Go Grampy!" I am sure that is not for me, even though I am a grandpa:
Chuck and I parted at this point after he handed me my camera back, and I picked up my pace to run to the finish line and complete my first half marathon! This is my fourth long distance race as a cancer survivor, and I feel pretty proud of that! I got my medal, grabbed something to drink, and hung out to wait for Krisiti to finish. As fast as she walks and as much walking I did, I knew that it would be a short wait.

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