On Saturday, September 17, 2011, eighteen members of Team G(race) joined 13,000 other runners and walkers at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio for the Air Force Marathon. Our journey began in June when we started to meet every Saturday morning for 13 weeks to get ready for the half marathon. The summer season started with many familiar faces from our winter/spring session, but we also welcomed several new members, and picked up others throughout the summer.
We endured one of the hottest July’s on record in the Miami Valley, and August was hot as always but fortunately not as bad as July. We made it to September and experienced some cooler temps in the final couple of weeks of training. Finally, race week was upon us. There were the normal butterflies, and a few concerns over some nagging injuries with hopes they wouldn’t flare up during the race, but all in all everybody was in good spirits, optimistic, and looking forward to the race.
On race morning, we all met early in Troy to caravan down to the race. (The full marathon and 10k started an hour before the half marathon, so we had a few people who went early because they were in one of those races.) It was suggested by race officials to get to the race an hour and a half to two hours before the race, and you should heed that advice if you ever do this race. With the route we took, we avoided a lot of the traffic, and we made it to the start area in plenty of time. A couple of the positives about the race that we experienced before the start: lots of porta-johns, there were no lines so no wait; a flyover by the B-1 Bomber before the full and two F-15s before the half.
Ever since the start of Team G(race) last February, we have been taking pictures at our group training and other events, and race day is no exception. We took a couple of serious pictures before the start, but my favorite is the “silly” picture:
As you can tell, the team was loose and ready to go. With about 15 minutes before the start, I decided to take advantage of the no-wait porta-johns to go one more time. When I returned, everybody had made their way to the starting area, near the pace groups that they intended to follow. I waited near the back of the pack with three from the team until the start, and then I took off. It took me about three miles of a 9:15’ish pace to catch up to two of our team members. I stayed with them for a few minutes, asked them who they thought would be next in front of them, and then picked up my pace again. Between miles 4 and 5, I caught up with the next team member, Megan. At this point, I didn’t think I could continue this pattern of trying to catch the runners who started ahead of me. During the Flying Pig half in May, I made it a point to try to run with as many runners as I could. Since I started near the back this time around, it was more challenging to try the same approach. I found out from Megan that she had a goal, in this her second half marathon, to finish around 2:10, which would be a PR for her. I decided I would run with her to make sure she reached that goal. Here we are after a quick stretch break somewhere between miles 5 and 6:
So what’s with the eye black? Although I could say it was to help with the glare from the sun, in actuality a few of us on the team decided to accessorize our running outfits. I had “Passion” and “Purpose” written on my eye black.
Megan and I maintained a consistent pace for many miles. There were a couple of serious hills that forced us to walk for a minute or two, but we made up for it on the downhill side. In the last couple of miles, we expressed similar feelings of tired legs but we pressed on. We turned into the Air Force Museum with less than a mile to go, and then with the finish line in sight, Megan stopped to walk. This was just a quick break to re-charge for the final push, and as we hit the final stretch, she went into an all out sprint. I had trouble keeping up with her, but we crossed the line together.
Megan finished in 2:11:35, which was a new PR. My time was 2:07:50, my second best half marathon time. I know I wouldn’t have been able to achieve this without Megan. We counted on each other to keep us moving and on pace. I didn’t want to let up because I wanted to make sure she got her PR. The rest of the team did great too. We had three first time half marathoners, and all three had great finishing times. What’s more amazin is that we had 7 PR’s among the team. And although he didn’t hit his goal, our full marathoner still finished in under four hours (and he’ll be able to try again at the Marine Corps Marathon.)
This is a representation of the race from my perspective. I wish I could encapsulate each person’s experiences and present the compilation here. Perhaps some of the members would like to share more from their own perspectives. I can tell you after reading Facebook and DailyMile updates from the team members that day, everybody had an awesome experience. I’m already looking forward to our next training season, and to run another race with Team G(race).