Half-Marathon triumph – a great day

24 May

Sunday was one of those days where I appreciated the expression “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”. Or in my case, the journey of 21.1km begins with a single step (we’re very protective over that final 0.1km, we half-marathoners – after running for such a long way, we want every single step to count).

I had reservations going into Sunday’s half-marathon. The race was organized by the same guy who organized a ten-miler I ran back in November; the marshalling on that race had been so bad that runners found themselves not knowing which way to go. Then, leading up to Sunday’s half-marathon, the course was completely changed – not welcome news for runners, who train for the terrain they’re expecting on race day. Truth be told, I almost decided not to participate. Everything seemed to be pointing to this being a larger-scale repeat of the disastrous ten-miler.

Now, with the half-marathon one day in the past, I can say that if I had not taken part, I would have missed out on a great race. I would have read rave race reports on runners’ forums and bitterly regretted not being there. The race organization way surpassed all expectations. There were water stations every three kilometres; they were well-provisioned and staffed by enthusiastic volunteers. There was a gel station four kilometres from the end, just when runners needed a boost. The course was well-marked and easy to follow, and as an added bonus, it offered up some scenic views of Lake Ontario.

As is my habit, I started out slow. There was a long gentle uphill near the start, and I handled it well enough, despite having done no hill training. After the first 5km or so, I picked up my pace and ran strong for the next 10km or so. With 5km to go, my energy started to flag and I had to adjust my pacing. With 4km to go, I had to ditch my headband; it was drenched with sweat and dripping salt into my eyes.

After three or so very tough kilometres, I had the finish line within my sights. Having run the race up until now without music, I put on my headphones, and set my BlackBerry to play “Come With Me” by Phil Collins – a song that makes me think of George. After all, if it wasn’t for George, I wouldn’t be doing this. With music in my ears and thoughts of my son filling my head, I sprinted to the finish line.

With a finisher’s medal around my neck, and a finisher’s T-shirt in my hand (a nice unexpected touch), I was greeted and hugged enthusiastically by my entourage. Gerard was there with the two boys, as well as Matt, Gerard’s step-son from a previous relationship. Matt’s wife Jen was also there, along with their three young daughters. To have people I love dearly so happy about my success truly meant a lot.

My official time for the race was 2:25:06. I beat my previous half-marathon time by over three minutes. A day later, my legs are aching, my sense of achievement is soaring, and I am looking forward to my next race (a ten-miler sometime in July).

I love to run!

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