Monday, February 11, 2008
Cold, rain and snow. That's what I'll probably remember most about my second half marathon, which I ran yesterday at Hampton Beach.
Generally, a run along the beach would sound like a treat. But when it's February in New Hampshire, a 13-mile run can seem like it goes on forever. And that was certainly the case yesterday.
When I opened my front door to let Rebel out Saturday night, I saw a steady stream of snow coming down. The roads were covered and most certainly un-runnable. Maybe I wouldn't be running, I thought.
But when I woke up Sunday morning, despite the fresh layer of snow and a steady wind, I decided to go for it. It would make for a good experience, would keep my training up and fulfill another race in the series I signed up for earlier this year. (Two down, three to go....The things we do for a jacket!)
The Hampton Half was the Anti-Disney. For starters, there was no build up and well wishes. I only told a few people that I might run it... certainly didn't send out an email to let everyone know I'd be running.
Unlike the night before my Disney run, I didn't lay out my clothes ahead of time. I got a good night's sleep and was surprisingly relaxed.
Then there was the start time -- 11 a.m. -- a far cry from Disney's 6 a.m. start, which required me to wake up at 1:45 a.m. to make the the team meeting, a 3 a.m. bus and the requirement to be at the start area by 4 a.m.
Everything about the Hampton Half was different. The runners there seemed like serious runners. I can't even count the number of marathon jackets and shirts I saw. A 13.1 mile run was just part of the training for these folks. Unlike the Disney runners, they weren't there for the experience. No one carried cameras or wore crazy costumes.
There were few signs and supporters on the sides of the roads. No marching bands, DJs, cheerleaders.
The run was actually kind of lonely. I missed those purple shirts. It may have been the first time that I wanted my iPod with me.
I chatted with a few people that ran my pace along the way. It wasn't like Disney where people on the sidelines kept your attention (and distracted your mind from the fact that you were running so far).
I did my best to keep up with the pacer I selected at the start of the race. I fell back a little at Mile 5, but stayed far enough ahead of the group to avoid the pacer behind me. I shaved 7 minutes off my first half marathon, which I was proud of , especially considering the weather conditions.
Plus, I had done this one on my own. I took what I learned in TnT training and kept it up.
I won't say that the last three miles weren't tough. At several points along the way, I asked myself why I showed up for this race. The snow came down at a good clip in abnormally large flakes -- which somehow kept finding their way to my eyelashes -- somewhere around Mile 7.
Then, as the route made its way along the New Hampshire coast, the rain came. It was a cold, cold rain. My feet were soaked, making me glad that I chose to wear my old sneakers. That coastline route lasted five miles -- five cold, wet miles.
Normally, the beach is one of my favorite places. I love the smell of the salt air, the sand on my feet and the sounds of seagulls, waves and families playing along the water.
But this beach wasn't inviting. I couldn't see the sand from where I was, but I'm sure there was no one sitting on the beach. I saw one surfer -- the one person that might have been crazier than the 800+ people that ventured out for the Hampton Half Marathon.
The ocean had a green hue to it. It churned and crashed against the rocks. I think it was telling us to go home.
I struggled for the last mile. My body told me to stop, but I made myself keep going. The struggle must have been evident to passersby. At one point, an older gentleman dressed head to toe in royal blue spandex, gave me some encouragement.
"C'mon, kid, just another mile," he said, as he jogged past me.
Believe it or not, just those simple words were enough to keep me going. As the obviously seasoned runner kept pace in front of me, I studied his calf muscles, which looked like mangoes stuffed in the legs of his running tights. How many miles has this guy run in his lifetime, I wondered.
I never thought I'd want the legs of a 60-something-year-old man. But, boy, he looked much better in tights than I do. (Yes, these are the things that I think about while running.)
I never knew .1 miles could seem to far, but as I passed the 13-mile mark I couldn't believe the race wasn't over yet. It probably didn't help that my feet were sloshing through puddles, I was freezing and soaked through to my underwear. At points, we were dodging waves that crashed up over the walls of the beach.
Finally, I saw the Finish Line. A few supporters braved the weather and offered some applause as runners made their way across the finish.
It certainly was the Anti-Disney -- no fanfare, huge crowds or perfect Florida weather. Instead of a victory party with thousands of people the next day, a day full of work and meetings is on tap for me.
But, to add another Half Marathon to my list of races (and to get that stupid race series jacket), I'd do it all over again.