This was the first race that my wife and I have ever done!  To think not long ago we would have laughed at the thought of it.  In fact, just a few months ago the thought of running 3 miles was unfathomable.  A couple of years ago I started working out and trying to get into shape.  I thought running was something I would do for some aerobic workout.  I got out at night and ran a two mile loop.  I had to stop to walk 3 times over that loop.  It took me nearly as long to do that loop as it takes me to run 3 miles now, and it turns out that the 2 mile loop was only about 1.7 miles.  Now here we were, registered and ready to run 3.1 miles through the streets of Hartford with over a thousand other people.


Nothing to tell here really.  The race was a late start 1:00PM w0ot!  So life was normal until about noon when we drove over.  The weather forecast wasn’t great.  Upper 40’s and a high chance of rain.  We packed some clothes in case we needed to dry off after the race.  The race was right by my office so we dropped our stuff there and headed down to warm up and stretch a little.  We watched some kids run the wee-mile, and decided that our kids would do it next year.  Then we warmed up in a nearby building waiting for our race to start.  It was amazing how many people were out there.  The race had a best costume contest and a lot of people wore lots of green outfits.  The one that stood out most to me was the Jolly Green Giant.  Very funny.

The Race

As the start time got closer we got into the street and waited for the start.  The street was packed with racers and everyone was pretty close together.  As the seconds stretched on towards the start of the race I could feel the energy coming over me.  There was electricity in the air and the closer we got to the start, the more fidgety everyone seemed to get.  I looked over the crowd with my virgin eyes, not knowing what expect, but excited at the prospect.  The race announcer’s voice boomed in the air, and the front of the pack was off and running.  A collective yell came out from the runners and the crowd…but despite the excitement, the racers in front of me started in fits.  A few steps forward, and stop, a few steps forward and stop.  I kissed my wife, who was standing there sharing the energy of the crowd, and then slowly, mercifully, we were off.

The Long Mile

The first several hundred feet were slow going.  The road was clogged with runners and there was no way to make headway.  As we made the first turn, the road opened up and I slipped to the left into a relatively open pocket and picked up my pace.  The second turn onto Main Street followed shortly thereafter and the road opened wider.  It was a sight to behold.  The city seemed to pause just for us.  Roads closed, police officers holding off the impending flow of traffic as we ran along the streets like a mob.

People were working through the crowd as the giant race sifter shook the slow people to the back and the fast people to the front.  Time and time again blurs passed by me as if they were egging me on to chase them.  At one point a young girl cut out in front of me and slowed to a crawl.  I worked my way around her thinking to myself how careless some people were to not even look behind them when the moved around and slowed down.  As I shot past her I thought of all the blog entries I’ve read from various women racers who complain about over taking a man only to have him pass them in a fit of machismo.  I contemplated for a second if I would end up a footnote on her blog post, or a weirdo on her Twitter feed.  I didn’t care, I just wanted to go.  It wasn’t long before we were off of Main Street.  I continued my run.  At this point I noticed that, although the road looked the same, it was getting considerably harder to keep running.  I couldn’t place it, but I was tired.

I wondered  if I was running too fast.  What was my pace?  How would I know?  I regretted not laying out the race better so that I would be able to tell where each mile was.  I was sure we were past the mile mark at that point.  My calves and shins started to get sore.   I shook it off and pressed on.  The thoughts kept coming.  Was I burning myself out?  What is going on here?  As I ran I looked at the area around me.  It was very familiar to me.  I used to hang out in this area of Park Street as a kid.  I ran past the barbershop a high school friend’s dad owned.  I ran past the apartment of the dream girl in my high school, who was at one time unattainable, and who not long after, I threw out of my car for paying attention to my belongings instead of paying attention to me–I can’t stand materialistic people.  I ran past the street where I almost lost my life when a friend of mine and I were chased down by a gang.  The street was full of memories of where I was from, where I had been, and now, a new memory of where I am going.

Mile Two

Within a few minutes, I passed the mile marker…wait…that was only a mile?  What on earth is going on?  To make matters worse, I looked at my watch and noticed that I was running slower, not faster than usual at a 10:20 pace.  The race sifter had finished its sifting and now I was running with people who were slower than I wanted to be, I had been sifted out!  I then came to the next realization.  I had been running on a false flat for nearly half a mile.  That explained it.  I picked up the pace as soon as the road flattened out.  It wasn’t long, however, before I saw a monster hill looming in front of me.  I had driven on this road countless times, I had never ever noticed the hill.  How could it be?

I leaned into the hill and slugged my way over it.  I was working hard now, and I could feel the burning in my calves and my shin.  I tried not to slow down.  It was at this point that I realized that I was really hot.  My hands were sweaty, and my upper body was drenched.  At the top of the hill I found the water station.  I contemplated not getting any water because I didn’t need it and I didn’t want to slow my pace.  As I approached the table the crowd of racers opened up and I was able to grab a cup without slowing down too much.  I tried to sip the water as I ran, however, that was not really happening.  I got a few sips then dumped the rest down my back.  Oh what a glorious feeling that was.  Totally amazing!

As I started the descent, the idea came over me that I should run faster.  I really wanted to beat my training pace of 10:00, but more importantly, I wanted to at least match it.  I figured that I would have plenty of time to catch my breath after the downhill.  That was until I turned the corner and found an even bigger hill to climb.  I just about gasped at the look of it.  If you had asked me a week ago if there were any hills in Hartford I would have said no.  In fact, I remember telling my wife that this was going to be a much flatter race than any of our training runs.  Oh how I was wrong.  I trudged along, however, and tried my best to keep my pace.  I passed the second mile marker and noted that I was now at a 10:09 pace.

Mile 3

I made the turn onto Capital Avenue, and there were two people there cheering us on.  I saw a woman on the sidewalk with her child looking into the crowd of runners with an eagle eye.  At that moment I knew that I would want…no need…to have my children there to guide me through the half marathon in October.  In my darkest moment they would lift me up and I would float to the finish, I just felt it.  As I made it up Capitol Avenue, I reviewed my race plan, or rather I should say the idea that I had about how to finish.  I had planned to turn the corner in front of the Bushnell Theater and sprint in to the finish.  I wanted to finish strong and leave it all out there on the streets of Hartford.  Even though I was tired and my sneakers were hurting the soles of my feet (again) I knew I had to do it.  As I approached the state capitol building, a barricade on the side of the road forced me to move right.  I was trapped among a group of runners so I had to either slow down, or speed up.  I chose to speed up and it felt good, really good, so I kept going.  I zigged and zagged through the crowd of runners.  I felt strong as I blasted past people, the race sifter be damned.  As I turned the corner I saw the arch.  The arch was not the end of the race, but it was pretty close to it.  As I looked down the road, my heart sank.  I can’t make it at this pace, I just can’t.  Then I said to myself, yes you can, you can try, you can make it as far as you can, and you can crawl the rest of the way if you have to.  So I ran, I ran down the hill and through the arch passing person after person.  As I turned the corner after the arch I couldn’t see the finish line yet.  I knew I was done, I had to stop now.  Just as that thought entered my head, I heard through the corner of my ear (do ears have corners?  maybe mine do) a man in his late 50’s say to his running partner, we can break 30.  Suddenly they were off.  I think they may have had rockets on their feet because humans can’t possibly run that fast.  I don’t know if it was animal instinct, or just stupidity, but as they passed me my legs just picked up the pace.  I was chasing them.  It was like my legs had taken off on their own and I couldn’t stop them.

The two runners pulled away, their rockets firing in perfect synchronicity, but I kept running as fast as I could.  Every time I thought I was out of gas, my eyes would lock onto someone in front of me and I would say, I am passing them.  I did that ‘terminator eye lock’ time and time again.  It fueled me and I started running faster.  As I barreled into the shoot I heard a blur on my left say “slow down, slow down,” and all I could think was, “yeah right, slow down my ass,” as I rocketed through the timing mats.

My heart was pounding out of my chest and I was gasping for air, but I was thrilled.  I couldn’t believe that I had found that energy, that reserve hiding in there.

My wife and sister-in-law did really well too, and they came in just after I did.  I’m not sure what happened though, because I didn’t see them come through the shoot, and they didn’t see me either.  I was kind of sad about that, I wanted to watch them run through the shoot, but we reconnected a few minutes later.  They were both as happy as I was with the event.  It was a great race, and I hope to do it again next year.

Once again I can see that this whole athletic thing is mental.  Your body has more to offer than most people realize.  If I can push myself this much now, what on earth is on tap for me as my conditioning improves?  I don’t know, by I can’t wait to find out.


5K  Timing Chip Time: 0:29:37 (Pace 9:33 yay!)

Place: 868/1545 overall (by timing chip not overall time)| 59/72 age group

Weather Clothes

Layer 8 long sleeve shirt, Layer 8 running pants.

Temperature: 50 degrees, overcast and windy

I felt a bit warm, however, once the race was over I was very cold.  I need to figure out a way to pack something that will keep me warm post race.