As I’ve said many times, I’m not a fast runner. It takes me more than 3:30 to complete a half marathon. In fact, the times for my first five were:
3:40:24 (Country Music, April 2008)
3:42:32 (Saint Jude, December 2009)
3:38:40 (Country Music, April 2010)
3:40:10 (Women’s Half, Nashville. September 2010)
3:35:55 (Upper Cumberland Haunted Half, October 2010)
Because I delight in small successes, my goal for yesterday’s Tom King Classic Half Marathon was to simply break 3:30, my glass wall. The race course is flat, a rarity in hilly Nashville. So this is the course for setting and achieving goals.
The Tom King Classic Half Marathon is an annual fundraiser for the Nashville Striders. Not being a Strider member, I was unfamiliar with Tom King. I’d assumed he was someone who must have died and the race was subsequently named after him in memorial. Turns out, he was one of the Striders’ founders, the club’s first president, and…alive and well. Lynn and I met him at the Friday night pre-race pasta dinner. The race was named for him in appreciation of all he’s done for the club.
The weather yesterday was perfect for a half marathon. I was able to wear short sleeves and no jacket. Sunglasses were a requirement. Love!
This race has a 3:30 cut off requirement. There was an early start time for those expecting to finish between 3:00 and 3:30. Given the times I posted above, I knew I needed the half hour head start. As the early starters lined up, it was announced that anyone who started in this group and finished in under three hours would have their time disqualified. About a third of those lined up stepped out of line. The rest of us were given red stickers for our race bibs and our bib numbers were recorded. This was to ensure that only those who really needed the head start got it. I joked to those around me that we needed to control our fury and make sure we finished in OVER three hours. All agreed to do their best to comply.
Then the gun sounded and I was off. I checked my Garmin GPS watch and it showed I was running the first quarter-mile much faster than my 5K pace. Not good. I slowed down a bit and caught my breath. With each mile I ran I hit the “lap” button on my watch so I would have a record of my one mile “split times.” To my astonishment I was running each mile faster than the pace I needed to complete the half marathon in 3:29:59.
I knew my friends Don, Mike and Lynn were starting their race at 8:30. I decided to make a game of things and guess how many miles I could run before they caught up to me and passed me. I’d hope to run six before the boys caught me and I’d hoped to run eight before Lynn blew by. At one point in the race I felt a hand on my shoulder. It was Don wishing me well. As soon as he removed his hand I checked my watch. Would you believe it had clicked over to EXACTLY six miles? I’m not kidding.
The race course was and out and back. When I got to the turnaround point I had not yet seen Lynn. Then we saw each other as she was approaching the turnaround and I was running away from it. I was still hopeful I could get to mile eight before she caught me. A few minutes later she pulled up beside me and in typical coach fashion asked how I was doing and whether I was remembering to take my energy gels at correct intervals (yes, I was fine and yes, I was gelling). I checked my watch and I had run 8.3 miles by this point.
Once I got to mile 10 I was beginning to fade and fell off my pace a bit. I only had three miles left, but I couldn’t will myself to run faster. I was doing all sorts of math in my head and even with a slower pace for the final 5k, I thought I would achieve my goal of the sub 3:30.
And then at long last I saw it, the entrance to LP field. The race finished inside the stadium where my beloved Tennessee Titans play. Yes, my feet would touch the same turf that Cortland Finnegan trods. As I ran the final yards to the finish line my name was called…”and here comes Pam Brown…Down Town Pam Brown.” I crossed the finish line and immediately looked at my watch.
Update: On Friday I ran into Don at the gym. I told him about my goal to cover six miles before he and Mike passed me. He fessed up that he and Mike had set a goal to pass me at five miles. I was delighted to foil their plans!