Finish Time: 1:24:33
Average Pace: 6:27/mile
Final Place: 10 out of 719
This race took place a couple of hours south of my home on an early Saturday morning in frigid temps. I woke up at 3:30 am so that I could dress, eat, and get prepared to make the drive down to Columbus from Atlanta so that I could make the 7:30am start time.
Coming into the race, I was 99% certain that I would set a PR. I hadn't ran a half marathon in over two years, and I knew that my existing 1:28 PR was a bit stale - some of the half splits of my recent marathons have approaced this number. But aside from setting a PR, I really didn't have a specific plan or goal coming into the run. I figured I'd go out with some of the people up front, find a group that made sense to run with, and then make a play for the best overall position that I could at the end.
For those that read my Chicago recap, you know that I had a little restroom mishap during the race. So this time I made sure to use the restroom like three times in the final 30 minutes leading up to the race start. I saw a few of my Atlanta friends, said hello, did a bit of stretching and ran a couple of strides in the final minutes before the start.
The race started as many races of this sort do. I was in the second or third line of runners and when the horn went off the people directly in front of me started off at a crawl. So I spent my first 100 meters weaving through a bunch of people that insisted on lining up at the very front of the start despite the fact that they were taking off at 10 min pace. This used to bother me, but I've grown used to it overtime.
Very early on I was able to find a guy to latch onto once we cleared the initial pack. He was running at a 6:25 - 6:30 pace; that suited me just fine, so I stayed about 10 meters behind him and basically held on to whatever pace he ran for the first six miles. The course covered a few coned off roads but mostly took place along the river on a running/biking trail.
Somwhere around the six mile mark, I noticed two things - (1) there was a kid a head of us that appeared to be bonking, and me and the guy I was following would probably pass him soon; and (2) there was a group of people coming up behind me that were apparently feeling pretty good... they were laughing and cracking jokes and sounded like they were closing on us with every step.
But I never looked back. Because I don't beleive in looking back. I'd rather listen intently without the giveaway of checking behind me.
Right around mile 6.5, everything came together at once. The group behind us (four runners) caught up with me. At the same exact time, I caught up with the guy I was following and the kid that was bonking in front of him. Instantly, I went from running in my own space to now being part a momentary group of seven. But just was quickly as we came together, we broke apart. The kid that was bonking was passed immediately. Then the group of four that caught up with me passed both the guy I was following and myself. So it was decision time - do I stick with the first guy I was following or do I try to hang on to this pack of four.
Yea, of course I went with the pack. So now we were a pack of five running together and we were approaching the turn around point. I knew we were approaching the turnaround because I started seeing the race leaders pass us on the way back from the out-and-back. These guys were flying... one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.... and then us. Okay now I know what place I'm in we hit the turn around with our pack being in ninth place.
By the time we hit the turnaround, I realized that everyone in this pack knew each other (except me)... and they knew most of the guys ahead of us. I also knew that one of the guys in our pack was running under his ability. I knew this because a couple of the guys in the group said that he could "go on ahead if he wanted to." Shortly after that, he did - it wasn't a huge surge per say, more like an easy pull away from our group. He was now squarely in ninth place.
Judging by how easily he pulled away, I knew that I couldn't keep up with him for the six remaining miles in the race. I could go with him for sure, but it would likely end with him dropping me in a few miles and then I'd be stuck in no-man's land down the stretch. So I decided to stay with the pack (now down to five people).
Shortly after that one guy went ahead of the pack another fell off the back. The kid (he seemed to be a teenager) fell off and caught back up a couple of times. But eventually he fell all the way off and we were now a pack of three.
My pack of three stuck together until mile twelve. There was a 90 degree right turn followed by a sharp decline in elevation. The other two guys leaned back breaking as the decended the hill. I didn't break. I kept my full stride and flew by them on the downhill. Then once elevation leveled I kept my turnover and surged through the last mile. I never looked back but I could tell that I was putting a big gap between me and them by the ever-reducing sound of their footsteps.
After a wicked uphill series of switchbacks and another couple of turns, I could see the finish line. I knew I was in 10th place and I also knew I had put some serious distance between me and the guys behind me. I cruised across the finish line feeling good. I definitely had a bit more in the tank, but I was very happy with my performance.
New PR with a 1:24 finish!
GK was 1st in his Age Group