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Air Force Half Marathon – The race that shouldn’t have been…

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Seems like it’s been quite some time since I’ve wrote anything, so I figured I’d give my
recap of the race.

It’s been 4 weeks since my big bike ride (Pelotonia) of the summer and I’ve done little
running. Due to weather and schedule this wouldn’t change much. I did a 7 mile long run
2 weeks prior to race day, but tweaked a hammie (gardening of all things) kept me down
since that. I knew this race was going to me more about pushing through and finishing
than a PR race.

It’d been a few weeks since I had a day off and with the crazy schedule of this race I
decide to take the day off and explore where the after race party was going to be; The
Greene in Dayton. While there I saw DRIVE and highly recommend this movie, but not
for the squeamish. After the movie I call my hotel to see about an early check in; denied.
So, a quick lunch at Cracker Barrel, check in and then head to the expo. A group of us
Sparks planned to meet up there at least by the time the 5K starts because our beloved
Laurie’s husband, Jim, was running and Tracy’s father and son were walking. Post race
majority of the group heads to Bob Evans for a quick bite; it wasn’t. Back to the hotel to
prepare everything for the next morning and lights out.

Saturday - Race
Alarm goes off at 4:45, but I’m already awake. I grab a quick shower and get dressed.
Breakfast in hand and gear bag over shoulder (for this event you have to use their clear
gear check bag, security reasons) I head to the car. This year they offer shuttles to the
start line, but none back. No big deal as we’ve got local Sparks who can return people to
their cars. Once at the starting area it’s a sea of people; about 14,000 runners and more
spectators. The national anthem is sung by a young woman who brings a tear to my eye
each of the 4 times she sang that weekend, nice to hear the song done so perfectly with
out all the embellishments. The group (mostly) meets up and we all talk strategy and joke
around. Soon it’s time for the 10K and marathon folks to take off, but not first without a
fly over (this is the Air Force after all) by a B-1B bomber. The crowd cheers as the jet
thunders off into the distance. The crowd cheers as the jet
thunders off into the distance. Soon a cannon goes off, BOOM!, and the marathon/10K
people depart. As the half-marathon people begin to stage we all start wishing luck and
warming up. Just before the half marathon takes off we’re treated to 2 F-15 Eagles doing
a fly over, but what gathers a bigger responses; geese following the same flight path in a
missing man formation! The cannon goes off and we all start to move forward. I planned
to try doing 5/1 run/walk intervals; I miss the first walk while talking to a friend from
MIT. At 10 minutes I take a walk break for the minute and then take off again, but only
to find a slight hill coming up; I walk that also. I pick my spot to begin running again and
take off making pretty good time as my legs feed the pace. I stick with this practice until
about mile 5 and then it’s time to start walking more; run less. Also, thanks to an
electronic gremlin I’m doing this sans music and there isn’t any along the course either.
Me being the introvert that I am, I start chatting up people as I go by them or they go by
me. There were some cute costumes and as always, the wheelchair division is an awe-

inspiring thing to witness. Soon I’m walking more; no training is really rearing its ugly
head. I hit every water station and thank all the volunteers I see; the day is warming up
and becoming sunny, I wish I’d listened to that inner voice to use sunscreen. Somewhere
around mile 8 I feel the slight twinge of a cramp in my right shin muscle, not uncommon
for me. I stop to stretch it, but EVERY OTHER muscle in my leg seizes! I decide to start
walking and see how it goes; not well. Now I’m faced with walking the last 4+ miles of
this race at a slow pace; sure wish I had music at this point. At a point around mile 10
both my calves tighten and I stop to massage them, but it’s of little use; keep moving
forwards. Somewhere in this timeframe, I’m also moving so slow that my Garmin auto-
pauses due to going under an 18-minute mile; I lose about ½ mile to this. I continue to
inch forward at a snails pace while I watch a great many of the people I passed earlier
move past me. I’m drinking 2-3 glasses of water and/or Gatorade per rest stop and using
some yoga breathing to keep the cramps at bay, but I’m still just barely moving. As we
near the finish line people are cheering and calling by name, but I barely acknowledge
them; my face twisted in pain. Coming into the finishing chute people are yelling louder
and I hear my name called from some friends. I give a wave, but that’s all the energy I
have left. 25 YARDS from the timing chip, next to a photographer, my right calf seizes
to the point where I’m paralyzed in that spot. Everyone is yelling “GO, GO,” but my calf
is yelling back “NO, NO.” I’m able to relax the cramp and finally stumble across the line
with a 3:15 and change; almost an hour later than either of my other halfs. BUT, for the
first time I felt accomplished. There was no “shoulda, coulda or if’s.” For a change I felt
pride in my accomplishment and as I stood in shock and awe, eyes misty, I collect my
proudest medal yet. After making it through the food/drink line I meet up with some of
the other Sparks who’ve had great days (PR’s) and others, like me, just happy to have
finished. Because any number on the clock beats a DNF or a DNS which both trump
didn’t even attempt.

Saturday – Post race party
All of us Sparks (minus 2) decide to meet up at the race sponsored party at the local
open-air mall; The Greene. After watching the American flag be parachuted into the
middle of the crowd (really cool!) we all head to a restaurant for some eats, libations and
stories. Soon after we all part ways due to exhaustion from the day. I actually pass out
while watching TV and awaken with lights and TV still all on.

Sunday – Breakfast and Goodbyes
We all get to meet up for breakfast at Bob Evans (much better service this time) before
most of us head home; some are staying around to tour the Air Force museum. We
exchange more stories and laughs. We eat like we’ll never eat again and photos are
snapped. Once again it’s another successful Spark meet-up!

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