Sunday, February 1, 2009

London's Run Half Marathon

For two hundred yards we ran. Faster than we ran all day. We could see the finish line and as I ran faster, so did she. With a smile, I said to this stranger, "Are we racing?"

"Yes", was the only thing she said. We were moving fast, but it seemed as if time had stopped. I was now looking at her feet. Our legs in sync. With about 100 yards to go, I decided to go a little faster and with that I was gone. Crowds yelling for us. A run that had been going on for 2 hours and 26 odd minutes, boiled down to a 'duel in the desert'. This was how I finished a wonderful day of running in Queen Creek, Arizona.

This is a charity run to raise money for kids battling cancer. London was such a kid. There was a table (pictured) with pictures of all the kids. The race was held at Schnepf's Farm, an agritainment farm southeast of Phoenix proper. About 50 minutes from my home. I felt like I was going to the county fair as my car was in line to park in the field with less than 30 minutes until race time.

I had to make a decision. Run the 10k or run the half. I decided 13 miles would be good distance today and I had reason to run it anyway.

As you might know, I visit the Runner's World forum and leave posts and comments. There's a few of us Arizonans that do. One guy is AZ Nick in Queen Creek. We've discussed meeting at a race, but our race schedule never lined up. Lately, I and a few others convinced Nick he was ready to run a HM. He picked this race to run with a relative. Then, that relative bailed on him and he was preparing to run it alone.

Now Nick seemed like a nice guy, but I only knew him from RW and facebook. Do I want to run for over 2 hours with a stranger? What happens if we can't stand each other? One of us would have to suck it up and run away.

Nick called right as I was entering the porta potty. I told him I'd call him back. We finally met. I got to meet his wife and BIL. They ran the 10k. I told Nick I'd run with him and we decided to do his 4 minutes of running and 40 seconds of walking pattern for an 11 mpm pace. Nick's 4 minutes were long. And his 40 seconds were short. Seriously, we did skip some of the walk breaks and we settled into doing sub 11 mpm miles for the first 4 and then 11 to 11:35 miles the rest of the way.

The course was beautiful. Queen Creek is pretty flat. We had mountains to look at, but for the most part we were running in between farm fields. Lots of dirt roads and a few closed country roads. All straight aways, but lots of turns and in one section you go back and forth three times. The race started with us running past about 5 horses that were running in the pasture.

Nick and I talked the whole way. Kinda like when Karen and Lisa run. But, not about pedicures or tissue paper. We talked running. Jobs. Men stuff. After about 2 miles, I knew we would be running the whole race together and that it would be a pleasure.

I started running with my Phoenix Coyotes sweatshirt. Nick's a big time Coyotes fan, so he was alarmed that I was going to leave it road side. I did at the four mile point. Never to see it again. But, after the race as I was watching them award medals to the 10k winners, I looked down and saw a Coyotes sweatshirt. It was old and beat up and I'm thinking, "oh, someone has a sweatshirt just like mine. Wait, it is mine." The volunteers picked it up and my sweatshirt beat me to the finish line.

The last three miles Nick and I were trying to figure out if we could a) finish under 2:30, b) finish under 2:27:09 (my PR). I kept doing the math, looking at my garmin and telling Nick what we needed to do. Our start was 15-20 seconds late and we did a short stop so I could refill my water bottle. With half a mile left we knew that 2:30 was in the bag, but could I get a PR? As a side note, I wear my garmin really tight. The picture below is what my wrist looked like after the race. I mean 30 minutes after. I guess I plumped up during the race.

Back to the race, Nick and I had a final turn to make and then it was about 200 yards to the finish. I said let's go and started running hard. That's when I caught up to the 'lady in black' that was a willing racer.

In I came at 2:27:15 or 6 seconds over my best time. No PR today. But, a great run anyway.

It was great weather (60's), a great location, a great time and a great volunteer group. But, what made it best was running with Nick in his first half. It's the first half marathon I've run with someone. From start to finish. We are close to the same speed and we enjoyed each other's company. I know that if I ran this today, by myself I would have been 2:34 or more. Easy. Nick and I paced each other well.

So, there it is. London's Run Half Marathon is HM #10 and the second one this month. It's the second fastest HM I've run.

At lunch I saw this license plate:

Back in the day, when Steve Prefontaine was running for Oregon and was one of the best runners in America, a rival school had t-shirts made. They simply said, "Stop PRE".

Curtis Design Studios was a sponsor of this race. Please support the sponsors that support your sport.

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