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Monday, September 19, 2011

How I Overcame Lazy This Week: Oh, I Just Ran a Half-Marathon, That's All!

The following is my report on my first ever half-marathon race (which is a whopping 13.1 miles in case you didn’t know!):

Pre-race.  Fresh, smiling.... naive.

I think last night I ran more than I ever want to have to run again in my life. 

Okay, I’m gonna drop a bomb here:  Running a half-marathon is WORK!  Who’da thunk!?!

Especially on the Red Rock Canyon Scenic Byway, which has an elevation increase of 1031 feet within the first 5.3 miles.  There are some nice downhills after that but the terrain continues to roll and includes a few more good uphill climbs.

Though the first hilly miles were tough, what really got to me was the sheer distance.  Somewhere between mile 8 and 9 I was starting to get annoyed that I was still running.  I mean, come on, just end already!  The fact that it was very dark and I couldn’t see the course ahead of me at all probably didn’t help with my impatience.

It was an interesting experience to run at night.  This was a twilight run that started at 8pm on a road with no lights.  We were required to wear headlamps but other than the lanterns they had at the water stations, there was nothing lighting our way except the stars (the moon didn’t show up until about mile 11).

I’d done a night run before while running one of my Ragnar Relay legs but that was only about 4.5 miles and had streetlights along part of the course.  I have to say, this time it was a bit lonely running in the dark.  I could see headlamps bobbing from the runners ahead of me and then as we’d switchback, I would see the long trail of lights from those behind me, but it was a strangely anonymous race.  I didn’t really see anyone’s face.  Even the people I chatted with before and after the race were just shadowy strangers to me.

As strange as the darkness was, it was uniquely marvelous, as well.  When you’re that far from the city and Strip lights, you’re reminded how many stars there are in the sky!  The first 6 or so miles, I was running straight toward the big dipper, which was brilliant and low on the horizon – a perfect set of guiding stars for me.  When the trail finally had us switch back to head east, there was the unmistakable glow of the Las Vegas Strip in the distance with the Luxor beam serving as the new beacon for us to follow.

The first few miles, I listened to the constant whirring and chirping of the bugs and howling of the coyotes… (Okay, no coyotes, but that would’ve been cool!).  But once that become monotonous and I got tired of listening to my own gasping breaths, I was happy to stick my ear plugs in and listen to my music.

I was disappointed that the moon hadn’t been out there with us during the race, but somewhere around mile 11, I glanced up to see it starting to peek up behind the distant hills.  And what an entrance it made!  It was 2/3 of a harvest moon and I swear it cast my shadow onto the rocky calico hills behind me, it was so bright! 

At the finish line:  Stilling smiling, or is it grimacing!
That clock said 2:05 when I crossed the the tape.
Uh oh, I think I'm gonna have to see if I
can break 2 hours!

So I’ll drop another bomb on you:  Despite all my griping, I have to say that running a half marathon was a spectacular and satisfying accomplishment.  (I know, I know, you’ve never heard THAT before.)

But, if you’ve done one, you know what I mean.  If you haven’t, you should find out for yourself.

Oh, and, don’t worry:  no desert tortoises were harmed during the running of this race.

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