Saturday, March 15, 2008


The Good Lord and Dori were with me this morning. I ran a personal record half marathon, breaking the two hour barrier. My final time was right at 1:58 or maybe even a little faster ... I'm awaiting official results, which will be online later today, courtesy of the Tom King Half Marathon officials.

I woke up this morning wondering if I would even race. The weather looked dicey at best ... thunder, occasional lightning and a steady rain. After a good oatmeal and raisin breakfast with Gatorade and a banana, I headed to the course. I was stunned to see a near-full parking lot at Titans Stadium. It looked like I would be part of the Nut Brigade. I called Dori at the hospital to tell her I was probably going to run.

As officials called us out of the stadium to the starting line, the rain seemed to pick up. Right before the gun, we were greeted with loud thunder and lightning. I had joked earlier to a friend, in the voice of Lt. Dan atop the shrimp boat in Forrest Gump , "You call this a [blanking] storm!" Off we went, adrenaline pumping.

Before the one-mile marker, Kent, a friend, said hello ... we determined we both had a two-hour goal, so we partnered. We realized our pace was a bit fast at Mile One (8:40), so we dialed down slightly. At Miles Two, Three and Four, we were right on a 9:00/mile pace. We were soaked, but not cold ... I had a vest and technical running shirt with my Virginia Beach hat, so I was fine. Kent removed his jacket, in fact, and I tuned in to Dori's iPod.

I stayed with my plan to do GU gels at 3.0, 6.0, 8.5 and 11.0, and also to drink water at every station. I felt very good, recognizing an oncoming runner's high at about 6.0. This is a spot that's been problematic in the past. Runner's highs in half marathons are not good early or in the middle of races. Kent and I plodded on, dodging occasional deep puddles and yelling "whoa!" whenever we heard thunder or saw lightning. Many people were on our pace, so we drafted off them, and people behind us drafted off us.

After Mile Eight, I heard Kent begin to breathe heavier, so I encouraged him to draft off me. He did for a spell, but then dropped. We were probably running 8:50s in the middle of the race. At Mile Nine, I checked in at just over 1:21:00 ... again, right on a 9:00/mile pace. Mile 10 was the first part of the race I began feeling some effects, but not enough to slow down. I hit that mark at 1:30:15 and Mile 11 at 1:39:20. A PR was now within sight. I was passing more people than were passing me.

A lot can happen in two miles, as I learned at Virginia Beach, where I limped home. My 2:01 in September was a PR, but the last two miles then were a mess because of my calf injuries. At Mile 12 today, I checked in at 1:48 something, and a nice woman about my age smiled when I passed her and said, "Good work." I said, "We're going to do this." Still feeling good, I thought about Dori for about the 10th time during the race. I knew unless I collapsed, I was going to PR. At 12.5, I began to feel more discomfort. I countered that signal by thinking about how close I was to finishing a great race, that the next five minutes would be like unloading the dishwasher, and that I could not wait to enter Titans Stadium, where the race finishes. I thought, too, that Dori is the real tiger in the family, and I would not back down one iota.

Entering the stadium was invigorating. My watch said 1:57 something, and I knew I was about 30-40 seconds better than the official race time. I sprinted the last 100 yards, pumping my fist in jubilation. I looked for Kathryn, Will and Anne, who I found along the rail looking at the stadium tunnel. They had no idea I was already done. I said, "Hey, how about a little love for that run!" The kids smiled, and Anne looked at the official clock and said, "Oh, my God!" I walked to an empty spot on the field and let out a guttural yell that echoed in the near-empty stadium, probably scaring a few people.

Outside the stadium, Will found me first and gave me a bear hug. Kathryn followed, and Anne just snapped photos (thank you, girl, for capturing the moment). I saw my step-brother, Wade, who congratulated me. Kent and I caught up later, and he said he saw my finish on the jumbotron from outside the stadium. I called Dori, who I could tell still wasn't feeling great. When I made it to her hospital room, where I am now, I found her feeling much better. I gave her the half marathon medal, telling her she's the real inspiration for fighting so hard. I mean every damn bit of that.

I have learned a lot about myself the last few years, and particularly, this past year. I've learned that racing effectively requires preparation, confidence and toughness. So does life. It is very fulfilling to see good results from training ... those 4:45 a.m. runs in the cold, the hilly Warner Park runs and the long weekend sessions. It's also nice to build confidence from experience. I raced well today, in part, because I knew better what to do and what not to do. My toughness is better, frankly, because of Dori's example. Her unwillingness to quit this summer, and especially this fall during the transplant, is a beacon for how to endure.

Dori is sleeping now. She may get to go home tomorrow if she stays on the current track. That would be the icing on some very sweet cake this weekend.


Summer said...

Congratulations on a GREAT run!!! Inspiration comes from so many directions when I read your posts: your runs, Dori's fights, and the kids cheering you both on.

What a great read on a Sunday morning!!! :-)

Jim said...

Super Summer,

You are so good to us. Thank you for your encouragement and support (and the card to Dori!). Keep up your awesome training. Jim

Lisa said...

Glad you survived a tough day for a 1/2 marathon. Dori must be so proud of you. :)

Anonymous said...

Jim, enjoy a few days off. Back to the roads you go now that the "M word" (marathon) has been uttered. Please send my best to Dori and the kids. Many runners you met are impressed by your half-marathon PR.