Race for the Green Half Marathon, Seneca, South Carolina
March 11, 2023 - Wasn't too sure what to expect with this one. Had not trained for a sustained road run, except for one recent 20-mile run in 4:15. Everything else has been trails. It has felt of late like I have lost considerable muscle mass; there is no speed because there is nothing to draw from. Then again, my age-related capacity to get oxygen to the mitochondria is relentlessly creeping downward. I am not the runner I used to be - I have to come to grips with that some times.
It was a nice crisp sunny morning at 36 degrees at sunup. With the late start near 0830 the temps were beginning to creep up, but never topped 54 during the race with a slight head wind at times. I was comfortable... perhaps overdressed, but glad of it when the wind chilled the air. The object was not to go fast. The object was to see if I could hold an increased tempo and sustain it throughout. In that regard, I came away satisfied that I am regaining some of the ground I have lost the past two years with injuries and time off for surgery.
It was delightful to see so many local people - hundreds, from quite old to very young - turn out to participate in the 5K walk/run. Most hiked the distance, and it seemed like this was an event that some looked forward to enjoying each and every year. Very nice. The half marathon had perhaps 150 runners toe the line and head off through suburban and downtown streets with several out and backs.
Without a warmup I headed out feeling wobbly and weak, but tried to keep some composure without losing ground to the majority of the field too soon. It surprised me to reach the 2-mile mark in 20 minutes, averaging a 6 mph tempo to start on the undulating course. I never run at that pace for very long in training. Feeling I might be overdoing it, I purposefully dropped my tempo to slightly faster than 5 mph in the third mile to reach mile 3 in 32 minutes.
Sixty percent of the field raced ahead of me and were pulling away. It didn't matter; I was running faster than I probably should have and still losing ground. I held even, averaging about 5.5 mph to cover about 6 and a half miles in the first hour. For me, that's a big WOW. I kept going and felt that old race feeling rise within so that I couldn't slow down, even if I chose to. It is still not in my nature to give up during a road race. While I was running beyond my trained ability, I seemed able to maintain my cadence through two hours, getting beyond 11 miles. Without a reason to run faster, old habits kicked in the last two miles, as I picked up my leg turnover and crossed the finish line in 2 hours and 22 minutes and change.
The runners were not overly engaging during the race, but the spectators and people driving by in cars were extremely supportive. I enjoyed being out there... but it was hard to race again on the roads now that I am older and not fleet of feet anymore. 2:22 is a target I had in my mind throughout the morning and corresponds to exactly twice my PR at the half marathon distance - 1:11. My best now is only half as fast as my best ever. It was a beautiful day. I exceeded expectations and was glad I signed up for this hometown event.