First of all, please allow me to introduce myself. I am a man of little wealth and questionable taste. May 1st marked my first race as an official Roadkill Racing team member, albeit with a borrowed singlet. I am training for a trail marathon on May 14th, so my running over the past few months has obviously been focused on lots and lots of miles, long runs, and some tempo-based work. Because of that, I knew I would fare better at a half marathon than a 5K or 5-miler. I actually ran a 5-mile PR at Johnny’s this year, however, and came within a few seconds of a PR for 15K at Spring Forward (which is anything but a PR course) so I knew I was practically guaranteed a PR at the half marathon, which was 1:17:07.
However, my training had been spotty throughout April. I actually took a day off of running a few weeks prior, which was my first zero logged since December. I had been feeling fatigued and out of it for nearly the whole month, but was starting to come around leading up to the race, so I stuck to my plan of trying to run 5:45-5:50 pace. As Josh noted, the two of us met up before the start and we realized we had similar goals so I decided to try to stick with him as long as I could.
As soon as the gun went off, the lead pack shot ahead. Both Josh and I knew better than to try and hang with them, so it turned out that we were leading the chase pack. There were a number of pretty good runners tailing us, including Charlie Andrews and Tim Dwyer, so I knew we couldn’t let the pace lag at all. We came through the first mile in 5:52, which felt very comfortable for me. Apparently Josh wasn’t too thrilled with it, though, as he immediately dropped the pace by about 20 seconds as soon as he saw that. I went with him for a few steps before realizing that I would be redlining very shortly, so I let him gain a few seconds on me while I ran my own pace for a while. My 2nd mile was 5:32, which is my 5-mile PR pace. I was really hoping that mile was short but now I’m not so sure. After a few miles, I caught back up to Josh and we took turns blocking the wind for each other. We settled into a 5:45 pace which felt good, but I could tell I was just barely under redline. Had I gone even a few seconds per mile faster, I would have crashed. I was definitely running at the limit.
Around mile 6 or so, we turned into Highland park, where the hills start. I have been running a lot of hills, so I thought I could take them without any problem, but it turns out there is a huge discrepancy between running hills at 7:00 pace and running them at 5:45 pace. I knew if I kept pace, that I would pay for it later, so I kept an even effort and watched my next few miles drop to 6:10.
Now, I want to tell you all something about Josh. When I first raced against him, at the Freezeroo finale back in February, the main thing I noticed about him is that his form is incredibly smooth. There is no wasted movement; his arms barely move, and there is no real heel kick or leg lift, even when he’s running almost all-out. He almost looks like he’s gliding. I had a prime opportunity to witness this as I tried to catch him in that race, and every time I caught to him enough to think that I could catch him, he effortlessly cruised away from me. The same thing happened on these hills in Flower City. With no discernible increase in effort, Josh just glided away from me up those hills. Here I am, practically gasping for breath and trying to plod my way up these hills, and Josh is pulling away from me looking like he’s out for a easy recovery jog. It was actually quite impressive.
Over the next few miles, Josh put about a minute on me. I could still see him up ahead, and I could also see a guy from the lead pack who was falling back. Even though I knew my chances of catching either of them were slim, I hoped that Josh would catch that guy. I could also hear footsteps behind me, though, which lit a fire under my ass and I tried to regain my earlier pace once the hills were over. I was able to, and split a PR for 10 miles of 58:45. I did slow down a little bit after that and logged a 5:56 on the bike path, but as we turned onto Exchange street for the finishing stretch, I poured everything I had into my final kick, and was able to log a 5:40 last mile to finish with a 26-second PR of 1:16:41. Seeing James Davenport, a friend of mine from college, riding his bike alongside me towards the end helped a lot too.
So while I couldn’t keep up with Josh, I still ran a PR on a tougher course, and did so despite not having a very good month of training. Now I just have to recover, relax, and hope my marathon goes as well!