Brett was running the marathon, so Alan gave both of us a ride down to the start (otherwise I would have run). I did a one-mile warmup on the course, not wanting to do too much since 13 miles is a long way. I was happy to find a row of 50 port-a-potties near the start, but was shocked to find that each one had a line of 10 people for it! So I gave up on that idea; you can use your imagination about that. I saw my photographer friend George at the start and he asked if he could take some pictures of me. Here is the nice result (from this slideshow):
However, I also found someone else on the starting line, a fast-looking woman in BAA gear. Never one to beat around the bush, I introduced myself, shook her hand and asked what she was planning to run. She told me her name, and I immediately knew that my chances of winning the race were now slim to none -- this was someone who had won Penn Relays, and who had beaten me by at least a minute in all the cross country races last fall. She said she was planning to do a 10-mile workout with some miles at 6:15 pace, and then see how she felt for the last couple of miles. I was pretty sure that anyone with times like hers would feel just fine for the last few miles! At that moment, I would have put my chances of winning at under 5%. I vowed to just run my own race and try to run a big PR (my previous best was 1:30:47). Trish came to the line and we shook hands. I also ran into a couple of other friends on the starting line, Jim (from other Providence races) and Katie (one of my captains in college).
The gun went off and I was mostly worried about the huge video camera arm that was across half of the road. However, it swept away just before I got there. Alan said I could run 6:20 pace (1:23), so I positioned myself behind Mariko, who had said she would run 6:15s. I went through the mile in 6:12 and realized why Trish was not beside me; she was running a more intelligent pace! I tried to back off a little for the second mile and ran 6:16. However, I apparently had no trouble backing off in the third mile, when I split 6:40. I was concerned about this, but Alan was right there on the bicycle saying "nice job, right on pace." We both knew that 6:40 was not "right on pace," but no matter. My friend David caught up at this point and slowly increased his gap on me as we ran up Blackstone. I was pleasantly surprised to hear several people cheer for me by name, including a college teammate I haven't talked to since I graduated!
Here is a picture from the first mile.
Alan was riding ahead on the bike and timing the gap for me. I had given up on my short-lived attempt to maintain contact with Mariko, and she quickly put a 30-second gap between us. I went through five miles in about 32:30, and it occurred to me that this is about what I've been running at the Red Rooster Ramble recently, so that was good practice.
I was running with a tall guy in a black and yellow singlet (in the results as Isaac; see photo below) and this woman wearing a Team in Training outfit kept coming by on a bike saying things like "two minutes back from the leaders." I assumed that Isaac must be running for Team in Training, and this woman was giving him updates. However, Alan later told me that Isaac was wearing headphones so he couldn't hear anything, and the woman was actually MY escort, and was giving ME updates on my position! Crazy. I wish I had known at the time, so I could have used the information or at least thanked the woman for riding along with me the whole way. I'm confused, though, because at 7 miles or so she was saying the gap was 3 minutes, which is too much gap for the lead female (who was maybe 1-2 minutes ahead of me) but not enough for the lead male (who was at least 10 minutes ahead by then).
Alan had stopped giving me time updates about Mariko, either because it took too long to ride all the way up there and then wait for me, or because she was so far ahead that I was never going to catch her and so it was uselessly depressing information. He was timing the gap between me and Trish, though, which was about 35 seconds. This gap was pretty constant for the middle of the race, I think. My theory is that I went out too fast and put a 35-second gap between us in the first two miles, and then we both basically ran the same speed for the remainder of the race.
I went through 10 miles in about 65.5 minutes, a long way from the 63:20 that Alan had suggested I try to run. I like to think of the half marathon as 10 miles plus a 5k, so I decided I had to run the last 5k in 19:30 in order to run under 1:26. Now that I have typed that, I realize that it is wrong -- 19:30 would have put me at 1:25. Ha! (Just remember, I'm a mathematician, not an arithmetician, and I'm neither one during a race when my higher faculties are just in survival mode.) I did manage to pass some people in this mile, a body-builder looking guy whom Alan had told me to reel in and pass starting at mile 6, and my friend Jim who was walking every so often.
Does this look like a fast runner? No! It looks like a slow runner! Looking slow is good camouflage.
It was around this time that Alan started giving updates on Mariko again. "She's only 35 seconds ahead of you! You can catch her!" I was thinking that in this case A certainly did not imply B, because 35 seconds is a lot, and we're talking about someone fast here. I would have to run 10 seconds per mile faster than her, and she was fast, so it was probably not going to happen. I could not see her ahead of me and I had no indication that she was coming back.
Mile 11 was up the Pitman Street hill, and I ran it in 7 minutes. 7 minutes! In that one mile alone, the distance between Trish and me went from 45 seconds down to 30. Alan was telling me that Mariko was only 25 seconds ahead now and I could catch her, but 25 was still a big number! I ran down Gano Street to India Point Park and Michaela was at the water stop, telling me that the leader was only 10-20 seconds ahead and I could catch her. I was disoriented because the course map had said that the first two miles were the same as the last two miles, but we were diverted onto the path rather than the road. No matter; the yellow singlet had appeared in front of me. All odds to the contrary, she had actually slowed down enough that I was once again close enough to see her! In short order I passed her, said "good job" incredulously, and ran on towards downtown Providence. This was just about at the 12-mile mark.
Well, now I was really running scared, because I was the pursued -- two fast women were behind me and I couldn't see them at all. I ran under a bridge with a bunch of police officers under it and I heard one say "just stick with our original plan!" Then there were motorcycles passing me and converging in front of me. The motorcycle escort was so exciting at last year's Rhode Races 5k, and at the St. Pats 5k, but this year I was just concerned about getting myself to the finish line as soon as possible. I ran under another bridge and another friend was there on a bike. He told me I was 100 meters ahead of the next woman. That did not seem very far to me and so I was very worried as I ran.
Apparently Alan was not worried, because with half a mile to go, he told me where he had hidden the house key and rode off to go cheer for Brett out on the bike path! (He changed his mind and followed me to the end, I guess to see if I broke 1:26.)
Finally, I managed to make the final turn towards the finish line. I glimpsed the time clock and I saw it said "55" at the end, and my instincts said "speed up and you can beat the next minute" (whatever that might be). I vaguely perceived that something was blocking the way on the right side of the finish line, so I aimed towards the left side. Then I realized that people were pointing me over towards the right, and the thing that was blocking the way was the tape. Again, I was so excited to break the tape at St. Pats, and this day it hadn't even crossed my mind to think about it!
This video includes a clip of me breaking the tape (please excuse the 10-second ad before the video clip):
I had gotten a lot of crap for raising my arms over the tape at St. Pats, so this time I just ran through the thing. However, the following picture, which appeared on coolrunning, gives the impression that I ran into the tape with my face and choked myself with it (you can see a guy in a Team in Training shirt on the bike behind me, apparently my bike escort -- they are also visible in the video above):
They gave me a minute to catch my breath and then called me over for the live TV interview. I called Trish over because I thought she deserved to be interviewed just as much as I did. Here we are:
George Ross took closeups of us being interviewed. Here is mine:
We were interviewed on TV for a few minutes and then I was led away to do the microphone interview with the announcer guy. I tried to speak slowly and enunciate, because I know you can rarely understand what people are saying when they get interviewed at the end of their race. The guy asked me, "you won the 5k last year and the half marathon this year; are you going to win the marathon next year?" I said "we'll see." Here is the microphone interview:
Then a woman led me away to do a third (!) interview, this time with three people at once and for print. They held up pocket microphones and asked questions. After that was finished, I asked the woman who those reporters were and she said they were the ProJo and the New England Runner! I don't know if they weren't able to have extended interviews with other runners or what, but half of the ProJo article ended up being about the women's half marathon:
PROVIDENCE — She’d already run a lot of 5K races this season and hadn’t run a half-marathon since March of last year. So Diana Davis decided it was time to bump up the distance.
It proved to be a very good decision, as the 24-year-old Brown University grad student won the women’s title at Sunday’s Shape Up RI Half Marathon. Clocking a winning time of 1 hour, 25 minutes and 59 seconds, Davis joined 31-year-old Phil Reutlinger on the medals podium. The attorney with the U.S. Navy stationed in New London, Conn., won the men’s half-marathon title in 1:12:36.
Davis, who trains with the Brown University Running Club while she pursues her Ph.D. in mathematics, describes Sunday’s victory as the biggest of her young running career.
“I love this course,” she said. “It’s basically all the runs that I do stitched together. … I really love the course, and that we didn’t have to go over College Hill. That was perfect.”
Initially, Davis thought the best she could hope for was second place, given the sizeable lead that 28-year-old physician’s assistant Mariko Holbrook of Somerville, Mass., established early on. But Davis began steadily closing the gap over the last four miles or so, and by mile 12 she overtook Holbrook, then held on for the win.
In third place most of the way, defending champion Trish Hillery also passed Holbrook and finished second with a time of 1:26:34.
Because the race started at 8:00, I was done by 9:30 am. I hung around the finishing area for half an hour or so, and was happy to see basically everyone I knew who was in the race. Everyone I talked to had run a PR! I think the running club had 100% PRs in the half marathon, with the exception of someone who's been injured and just ran it for fun. Sarah and I waited for the awards ceremony for about an hour, and then I went back to the finish line to ask them when the awards was going to be, and while I was up there they did the awards! So I missed them. I fished around in the box later, though, and took my plaque. Then I waited around for another three hours for the marathon/5k awards ceremony to see if there was any sort of gift certificate that went with the plaque, but there wasn't. I did get to chat with just about everyone I knew there, including my friend from college who had cheered for me on the course, and my friend Jim whom I had passed around mile 11 when he had to stop and walk.
I still haven't said "I won a half marathon" out loud. What a crazy thought. When people asked me how my race went, I said, "it went fine," or "I ran 1:26," and only told them my place when asked directly (I'm working on humility). I've been running 6 miles a day at 8-minute pace and my legs have been sore. I also ended up with a blister under my toenail (which I could feel during the race), the same toenail that acted up for the first time during the last leg of 100 on 100.
We got Chinese food after the Turtles and Alan picked up the ProJo sports section lying on the table, and it turns out they had a race preview article on Sunday, which was mostly about cancer but also mentioned me.
If any number of things had gone differently, I wouldn't have won this race. I am happy with it, and I am looking forward to running faster in the future. Marathon? Maybe!
Photos taken from Digital Photo Concept and Capstone Photo.