I came into this whole thing with the goal of knocking 13 minutes off my PR – set this past spring — to reach a new goal of a sub-2:00 half marathon. It was going to be a tall task, no doubt.
If you’ve read my blogs through the summer, then you know I’ve had my ups and downs throughout my training, but this last month has been fantastic. Randy “Bones” Benedict and the team at Second Sole had my long and mid-range runs structured to build speed and to build my mental confidence so I would have some kick left in my legs after running several miles at race pace. During my most recent long runs I was able to stay ahead of race pace, even on the morning where the hail – I swear to God – was blowing up from the ground. I didn’t know it was possible to inhale hail through my nose when my head was bowed in search of protection.
I made it to race day ready to go. I was healthy. I was driven. I was hungry. I was ready to run a 1:59:59. Here’s my race day story… All times are my watch time splits and may not correspond 100% with my official splits since my GPS watch says I ran 13.23 miles instead of a tangent-perfect 13.1.
Pre-race – It was a balmy 45 degrees when I got out of my car at t 6:35 am. Once I found the B corral, I bumped into my cousin, Tim Miller, wished him luck for his race, then found the 4:00 marathon pace team, which included my friend and Chairman of the Columbus Marathon Board of Trustees Bill Burns. My strategy was to keep Bill within sight for the first 11 miles, pull even with him at mile 12, and then finish strong. I just needed to keep a 9:08 pace to hit my goal.
When the starting gun sounded, everyone started throwing their warm weather clothes up in the air in a scene reminiscent of what supermodels do every time they see Randy on the sidewalk.
Mile 1 – 9:20 – I started too far behind Bill. By the time I reached the starting line, the 20 yards of distance between us had ballooned to about 75 yards. I hit the one mile marker a little bit off pace, but still in decent shape.
Mile 2 – 9:01 – Back on pace, and I got a lift by seeing my wife at the 2-mile mark.
Mile 3 – 8:59 – Perfect, and I was about 50 yards behind Bill.
Mile 4 – 8:59 – Still perfect.
Mile 5 – 9:01 – Perfect again, and I got waves and screams of encouragement when I saw my parents just before the corner of Drexel and Main. The crowd in Bexley was as amazing as it has been every other year I’ve run the race. At this point my watch distance was about 50 yards off the course measured distance, so I was doing the mental math to make sure I was still on pace.
Mile 6 – 9:05 – Wow! I just ran my last five miles within 6 seconds of each other. I was feeling great, and wasn’t seesawing my pace, which had been a problem during training.
Mile 7 – 9:24 – A combination of the narrowing of Nelson Rd, a mistake I made at the water station, and heading back uphill on Broad slowed me down a bit, but I was still ahead of my target pace.
Mile 8 – 9:09 – Back on pace and feeling strong, especially with the encouragement of the crowd in front of Nationwide Children’s Hospital, but Bill had put some distance between us.
Mile 9 – 9:05 – Still feeling strong heading into German Village.
Mile 10 – 9:02 –I ran into my friend (“actually, we’re just good friends”) Kevin Ryan right before the 10 mile mark, where his “Yeah Eric!!! Keep it going!!!” and a fist bump punctuated by a “BAM” was like eating two energy shots. Holy cow, I think I’m gonna make it.
Mile 11 – 9:25 – Perhaps due to my foolish exuberance, my eleventh mile started well, but there were signs of bonkage in the last couple hundred yards. What was happening to my legs?
Mile 12 – 10:06 – Here’s where things fell apart for me. I had to slow down coming back up High Street into downtown, finish the last drop of energy gel that I had and try to get my stuff back together.
Mile 13 – 9:03 – 9:03? On my thirteenth mile? My stuff was officially back together, but it was too late. The damage in mile 12 was too much to overcome.
Last 0.23 miles – 1:51 – I finished like a freight train, crossing the finish line in an official 2:01:30.
My goal was 1:59:59, and I finished in 2:01:30, but the title of this blog is Success. So what gives? Yes, I missed my goal, but I consider the last several months – and my race –successful for several reasons:
- I got to connect and hang out with my old friend Randy Benedict. When we were kids he was the Goose to my Maverick. Now our roles have reversed. I’m the Garfunkel to his Simon.
- I got to be trained by the best of the best. See the bullet point above.
- Nike sponsored me, and the team at Second Sole made me a custom shirt for the race.
- I knocked 11:25 off my previous PR, which was set only a few months ago. 11:25. Seriously, 11:25. After the race I was so disappointed that I fell short of my 1:59:59 goal that the magnitude of 11:25 didn’t immediately sink in. I ran this race 52 seconds/mile faster than the race I ran in May.
- Finally, falling short of my goal means I’m going to be working my butt off over the winter to break 2 hours next year. After coming so close, I’m even more motivated.
I want to thank everyone for reading about my trials and tribulations, my friends for putting up with my excuses for why I can’t have a beer the night before a run, and my wife for picking up the slack at home created by me carving out time for my runs. I especially want to thank Randy Benedict and the team at Second Sole for taking me on as a project. I learned a lot from you guys and am motivated to turn the corner next year and go low…