Tomorrow morning at 7:30 sharp 1,500 or so runners will squeeze together on O’Henry Street to begin shuffling along until the crowd spreads and the real running begins. I’ve started to think about my strategy to achieve two goals: enjoy myself and finish with a time I’ll be happy with.
This will be my 17th half marathon and my 5th Citizen-Times half marathon. I ran my first (the Citizen-Times) in 2005. Before that, I was an on and off occasional runner doing no more than three or four 5k races per year. I started many years ago when I was in the Army, running along in military formation on the streets of Fort Bragg, singing cadence …
C-130 rolling down the strip
Airborne daddy gonna take a little trip
Stand up, hook up, shuffle to the door
Jump right out and count to four
If my main don’t open wide
I’ve got another one by my side
If that one should fail me too
Look out below I’m a coming through
I had never considered running a half marathon until I picked up a brochure for the ACT in 2005 and brought it home. My sister-in-law saw the brochure and asked me if I ever considered running a half marathon. No way! The seed was planted and I started running some distance in August 2005 and signed up for the race.
My goal then was to finish and enjoy myself. I did both, in 2:05. I ran the Bethel half marathon that same year and finished in 1:59. The following spring I ran the Charlottesville, Virginia half marathon with my son and finished in 2:02. Coincidentally, I didn’t know him at the time but Aaron Saft, co-owner and “shuru” at FootRx Asheville was the winner of the Charlottesville half marathon that year.
September 2006 rolled around and it was time for me to get ready for my 2nd ACT half marathon. I had no formal training plan but had been consistently running 15 or so miles per week. The Saturday before the ACT I ran 14 miles on the rural roads near my home and proclaimed myself ready. My goal was a 9 minute pace and a finishing time of about 1:57.
Race day rolled along and I just ran at a pace I found comfortable. I felt great and didn’t look at my watch until I passed the 7 mile sign on the shore of Beaver Lake.
56 minutes. Hmmm. 8 minute pace.
1:57 looked like a “gimme” at this point and I just kept going. I finished with a 1:48 and was thrilled. I enjoyed myself, ran my own race without trying to watch mile by mile pace and finished with a time I was very happy with.
That’s my philosophy for tomorrow. Run my own race and don’t look at any early mile by mile times. I’m going out easy. The first two miles are mostly flat. Cherokee is the first challenging (but short) hill. It’s OK to walk for 10 or 15 yards here because the extra exertion won’t do much good. I’ll use the flat and downhill sections (such as Canterbury, just after Cherokee) to make good time (rather than just recover from working too hard going uphill). I’ll use the downhill stretch on Kimberly to Beaverdam the same way, along with the downhill section on Windsor and Wembley after cresting the mean hill on Inglenook at the golf course. There’s another nice downhill stretch toward the river on Weaverville Road before starting the winding ascent up Lookout Road. The last long glide is from Barnard to Edgewood to University Heights down to W.T. Weaver Boulevard Trail.
All that remains is Broadway and the final downtown bits. Broadway is more psychologically than physically tough. It’s long and straight, boring, sunny and warm. Lexington Avenue is welcome after crossing under 240 and the last tough little hill is Walnut – an 11th hour slap in the face before the home stretch on Haywood and O’Henry.