In March, I ran the LA Marathon without a watch or music... naked if you will.
On Sunday, I decided to do it again.
Now, I'd just run 20 miles on Tuesday so I wasn't quite sure how I would do in terms of time. So instead of worrying about keeping a pace or whether I was running too slow or perhaps too fast, I just tossed my watch aside and just ran. Now, unlike LA I chose to run with music. I was by myself this time so music was pretty much a necessity.
At about 7:30, when the 10K began, the sun was already bright and shining up above. This was no surprise - I'd braced myself for a warm run, and combined with the hills I knew this would be a challenge. I waited near the spot where the 10K began for the half to start when a group of runners took off. I wondered 'Oh, what race is this? Oh, this is the half marathon. I guess I'd better go start.'
I wasn't any worse off for the wear since my time didn't begin until I crossed the start line. I was composed though, not freaking out or anything. Right away I saw one of the runners from my pace group who was unable to do the LA Marathon because of a knee injury. She said she was going to have surgery on her knee in two weeks and would be out for three months, so why not get in a half marathon before then? Spoke like a true runner.
I bade her farewell and continued on my way forward. Since I'd started pretty much behind everyone else, I figured I'd be passing people here and there and that was certainly the case. I passed two good friends, including Angie, whom I'd seen before the race began. Then I saw another Loper, who had been in my pace group until she opted to run with the 12s to better suit her needs. She finished LA and was running Redlands and will be running the OC Half Marathon in two weeks. I told her how excited I was that she'd caught the bug and wished her luck.
The course was hilly and right away I remembered how challenging this race had been for me in 2009 and 2010. The sun was also warm and I made sure to drink water and Gatorade early on.
Up ahead I saw yet another from my pace group, Chris, one of the three runners whom I'd run LA with. Actually, Chris fell behind in Mile 21 so I didn't get to run all of LA with him. I was excited to run into him. He said he'd not been running lately, had taken two weeks off from running and had only returned on Friday. He said the 10K sounded better then (we were at about Mile 4) and told me to not stay with him because he was going to be taking it easy. Again, I wished him luck and off I went.
I ran up another hill. The course was mostly uphill at this point, a few flat parts and no downhills. Another runner approached me and said he'd recognized me from the Lopers. We chatted briefly about the course and the Bears. He said he'd noticed me wearing Bears gear once and then told me he was from Chicago, so we talked about Walter Payton as well as our high hopes for next season. He dropped off and wished me luck.
The course wound up through some neighborhoods, carving a wicked uphill path. I trudged along, at times shooting up, other times slogging up. My pace seemed steady for the most part but my legs would lose their steam every now and again.
We were at mile... hmmm... I wasn't sure. I hadn't noticed mile markers very much (I'd seen only Mile 3 and Mile 5 signs at this point) but I thought we were around Mile 8. I saw another Loper ahead, greeted him and asked him what mile we were at. He couldn't quite tell on his watch but we were at either 8.2 or 8.8. I thanked him and went ahead. Soon I saw the Mile 9 sign and was encouraged. I was running downhill at this point and certainly taking advantage. There was a lady running in front of me, in a blue top, and we were trading jabs. I'd surge ahead, she'd surge ahead, I'd go in front, she'd go in front. I blitzed downhill at one point and got ahead of her but when the course straightened out, she went ahead and stayed there, getting smaller and smaller with each step.
I was gassed. I'd seen the Mile 10 and Mile 11 markers and that's when I felt Tuesday's 20-mile run the most. My legs were shot. I was still encouraged though and figured that I had enough in me to give it a good one-mile kick. I alternated between slow and slower at this point and kept an eye out for the penultimate mile marker but never saw it. I knew because of the songs playing through my phone that I was already on the last mile and a kind stranger confirmed for me that I had about a half-kilometer remaining.
I felt an instant bounce in my step. Far up ahead I could see the final turn. This street I'd been on had been a neverending one, much longer than I'd remembered it from 2009 or 2010. Now, though, there was a light at the end of the tunnel.
Someone shouted at me "seven more blocks" and I gave them a thumbs up. I must have looked exhausted or something, but I welcomed the news. Then, I saw one of my Loper buddies who had been a pace leader of mine from the first year. He did not run the race but was there to pace people in. He hit my pace pretty quickly and helped guide me along until the final turn. He said to run it in strong from there, so I did.
I had also caught back up to the blue-clad runner from earlier. I was on at this point, running with everything I had. I passed up Mrs. Blue but she was not about to let me get past her. She took off and hit an even faster gear than I had. She was a few steps in front of me, getting further ahead, while I was stalled behind. I had a smile on my face, though. If I helped her shave a few seconds off her time, then I was happy.
I crossed the finish line still with a smile on my face.
Later, I'd find out my time - 2:00:23. I had wanted a sub-2, had thought I was in good shape considering the downhills and my strong finish but knew that Mile 10-11.5ish had done me in.
What probably had also affected my time was having slowed to chat with all of my Loper friends. And if that's the case, then I will keep my time because having crossed so many paths and having talked to so many other runners and friends was far more worthwhile than getting a sub-2 was that day.