What a difference a year can make. Last spring, in my first attempt at running the half marathon in Buffalo, I did not have a good experience. By not good, I mean I almost passed out, had to stop running a few times and wondered why I ever thought I was capable of running 13.1 miles on demand. The lesson I learned that day is that running 15 miles some morning before you go to work because it feels good is much different than getting up at 5:30 in the morning knowing you have to run 13 miles w about 5,000 other people.
This past Sunday couldn't have been more different. Greg Bauch and I ran virtually the entire race together until with about a mile and a half to go, he just took off. I was still feeling really good at that point but did not have enough left to keep up with him. Greg running away from me aside, the experience of running with a friend helped me. I think last year I made the mistake of starting way too fast and passing people over the course of the first few miles. This year, armed with the knowledge of mistakes made last year, we were more ready to just run our race and pay less attention to everyone else.
Using the word race is almost comical, really. Our race is trying to pile up 10-minute-miles. Get to 13 of them and we're done. The thing is, running with so many other people can get you off your game. I have found this to be true in the 5K's I've run and even in the Turkey Trot, which is an 8K run. Those runs are short enough that going faster than my normal pace never really catches up to me. A half marathon is not as forgiving and I paid a steep price.
The weather also cooperated this year. Overcast skies, no wind and moderate temperatures made for ideal conditions. Last year, not only was it really hot, it was one of the first really hot days we'd had all spring. Being kind of an idiot, I made the conditions last year even more taxing by wearing a black cotton t-shirt and a black bandana. Brilliant. Absorb as much sun as you can. This year, I had one of those dry-fit running goober shirts that was white and a white bandana. Considering the conditions I'm not sure how much benefit there really was but I know there was at least one.
Being prepared for any heat that might have come had me feeling more confident, as did the packet of energy boost gummie chewy things I had in my pocket. I knew better this year than to blow past water stops because I rarely drink while training. These are all things I learned the hard way a year ago. There is no substitute for experience.
So it was a nice easy Sunday run with my friend Greg. I managed to shave more than 7-minutes off my time from last year, finishing in 2:12:18 for a pace of just a shade over 10-minutes per mile. I never felt the least amount of fatigue and actually felt like I could keep going. What does that mean?
Well, last year it was me that pushed Greg to do this. Now he's starting to make noise about running the full marathon next year. Not being tired after running 13-miles is one thing. Running 26-miles? Just writing that made me throw up in my mouth a little.
We'll see. Today I start running again. I need a new goal and have to admit, I've always hated the sound of the words "half marathon" coming out of my mouth.