The night before this race I had pre-race insomnia. I hate it when that happens – I had it before the Pittsburgh Marathon as well. I’ve been told that insomnia before a race is common for runners. I had two, maybe three hours of sleep total. I turned off my alarm shortly before 4:00 a.m. and had a light breakfast. I drove to meet my friend John Young who would also be running the race in Parkersburg with me. We left Cross Lanes together at 5:00 a.m., and arrived in Parkersburg with half an hour to spare before the 7:00 a.m. cutoff time for picking up race packets. Once we had our packets, we were blessed to find a parking lot beside the starting line.
The gun sounded at 8:00 a.m. on a beautiful sunny morning. The temperature was in the low 60s, which was wonderful for mid-August. Unfortunately I got mixed up in the starting line crowd and managed to get behind a group of walkers. So for the first quarter mile or so, I was weaving around walkers trying to find some open road. My first mile pace was a little slower than what I would have liked, but it is better to start too slow than too fast. Around mile two I hit “the hill,” which really wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be. All the hill work I had done on Shrewsbury Drive paid off. I geared down a bit, slowing my pace slightly and changing my stride to more of a marching form, and reached the top of the hill with relative ease. My goal was to keep my heart rate at 80% of max through the first several miles of the race. It rose above 80% on the hills, but then settled back down when I was on the level and the downhill portions. When I noticed the heart rate dropping below 80%, I picked up my pace. That kind of system worked well for me.
Perhaps the best part of this race, even better than the medal at the finish line, was a conversation I couldn’t help but overhear between two other runners. A man was running with a female companion, apparently trying to teach her more about running and how to do it properly. As I was getting ready to pass them, he was telling her that it was important to keep her head up and her posture straight, for if she slumped it would make it harder for her to breathe. Once I passed them, he pointed to me and said, “See his posture? That’s the way it is supposed to be. His back is straight, his head is up. His legs are underneath him, not ahead of him. See the smaller strides he is taking? With his long legs he could have a stride twice as long, but he’s running efficiently. There’s little wasted energy in what he is doing.” It was very gratifying to hear that the things I had learned from my coach I was able to implement, and that they were noticed by at least two other runners.
Around mile eleven I picked up the pace and allowed my heart rate to rise to 85% of max. I had plenty of energy to finish strong. From mile three onward, I had been passing people one after another, with no one passing me. During the last few blocks before the finish line however, a woman 10 years or so younger came surging on my left side. I didn’t like the idea of being passed that close to the finish line, so I surged as well. For those last few blocks it was a “horse race,” yet she managed to cross the finish line just before me. While catching our breath on the other side we gave one another a high-five and said, “Great finish!” Thinking back, her goal probably wasn’t to pass me, but to break a two-hour finish time. My official time was 2:00:33. Even though my personal record for a half marathon was 1:55 at the University of Charleston race, I feel very good about this result given the hilly course. The UC course was very flat in comparison.
Past the finish line there was a large tent where free massages were being offered to all the runners. I stood in line for several minutes, and thoroughly enjoyed the attention when it came my turn. After the massage John and I met, went to the car, called family, changed clothes, and began the trip back home.
This event was a great time for me – I loved running the race, and I enjoyed the conversation with John on the trip up and back. On the trip up the road we both shared our testimonies as to how we got into our ministries. On the return trip we shared our thoughts on running and trying to stay healthy. For a smaller town race, this event was extremely well organized. I recommend it as an excellent half marathon within the State of West Virginia, and wouldn’t mind at all doing it again.