Saturday, December 22, 2012

My First Half (Marathon)

On December 2nd, 2012 I ran my first half marathon.  The experience was everything I hoped it would be--exciting and challenging!

The race was the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon and Half Marathon here in Las Vegas.  Entering the race came with a variety of pros and cons.  I knew several people who ran the Las Vegas event last year and most of the feedback (from half and full marathon runners) was negative.  In addition to the weather being squirrelly, the race wasn’t set up well and there were a number of issues related to the start, logistics for the aid stations, and the point in the course where the half and full marathon runners merged.

Weather problems can happen anywhere and it’s not the fault of the race organizers, so that didn’t bother me.  And since I’m not wired to race against other runners, I wasn’t necessarily concerned with the dynamics of how the course was constructed unless it caused safety issues.  My only goal, certainly for a first half-marathon, was to start and finish the race, without injury and preferably without walking: it’s me against the finish line, not the clock.  The issue of the merge caught my attention since I had heard the bottleneck caused racers to walk for quite a distance since the street where the merge happened couldn’t accommodate the volume of runners.  That troubled me a bit since I had heard there were injuries that resulted from the problem (runners tripping on other runners, etc.).  But between 2011 and this year’s event two things happened: Competitor bought the Rock ‘n’ Roll series and the folks from the Rock ‘n’ Roll series (corporate and local) made it clear they’d taken the negative feedback seriously and made a number of real changes in order to prevent the same problems from happening again.  They published the course for this year well in advance so folks could see the changes, it looked fine, and so I entered without any real concerns.

Not having run a half marathon before, I did what I presume many others have done:  I sought out a training plan from a credible source.  In my case I took one from a copy of Runner’s World magazine and set out to follow it.  Pretty straight forward: execute the plan and run the race.  Along the way I lost a full week of training, but pressed on, assuming this happens with everyone.  I adjusted the lengths slightly of some of my runs the next several weeks and trusted the plan.

Other than finishing, I didn’t really have expectations since I had never run this distance before.  This goes back to trusting my training plan.  Thousands of others finish half marathons all the time, so I wasn’t even nervous.  I was excited.  I didn’t know what else to expect: whether the race would be easy or hard, what my body would feel like, or even what my time would be.  My only goals were to finish and have fun and so off I went to run the race--me and tens of thousands of others!  The weather was perfect with the exception of gusty wind right at the start.   The route, the music, and the crowds along the route cheering and  encouraging all of us on were fantastic.  Water and Gatorade aid stations were plentiful and distributed by a cast of cheerful, smiling folks.   Also, this is one of only two times Las Vegas actually closes The Strip completely to traffic.  To get to run up, then down this famous (no, “fabulous”) iconic Las Vegas boulevard and see all the sights and sounds (rather than doing it in a car) was very cool!

So what’s next?  In addition to the usual bunch of 5 and 10Ks, I want to run at least two half marathons and hope to run a full marathon in 2013.  The full marathon will probably be the Rock ‘n’ Roll event here in Las Vegas again.  I had such a good time running the half, and it’s close.  Then, unless my body makes me do otherwise, I hope to train for and run a 50k for in 2014 to celebrate my 50th birthday.

By the way, as my son has watched me head out the door to run over the years, he’s started asking me if he can run with me.  This makes me happy and I’ll strive to only encourage him as he gives it a try.  We’ll run together, short distances at first, father and son.  And if it interests him, whether he continues to run or not, maybe he can come with me to my races and cheer me on.

It’s great to be a dad!