It had been nearly two years since I last ran the Pasco Challenge half-marathon and given my latest slow and steady average pace of 11:00, there was no way I was even going to come close to finishing like I did two years ago.
It had also been nearly two years since I ran on the Starkey Trail and I had forgotten how lonely that trail can be. Don’t get me wrong. If you love nature and being outdoors, it’s a gorgeous trail to hike, bike or run. But for a people person like me, it was a long lonely 13.1 miles and the deer were not interested in any chat-chit. There were long stretches were I didn’t see another soul for miles.
Although I spent most of the race isolated from the world surrounded by flatwoods and swamp, the start of the race was quite congested. All races (5K, 10K, half-marathon, Bicycle Tour, 50K Bicycle Tour, 100K Bicycle) started at the same time. Pacing and chatting my friends, Chrissy and Faith, distracted me from crowd of people at the start.
Once Faith and Chrissy hit their turn around point, I picked up my pace a bit and began running about 9:30 for the next few miles as I held on tight to my water bottle. I worried that water stations would run out of water like they did two years ago. Plus, I wasn’t sure about the distance between the water stations. My water bottle became my Wilson. I felt safe and just holding it in my hand kept me hydrated.
Like billboards along the highway, I began noticing other half-marathoners heading back to the finish line and I knew the turnaround for the half marathon was near. Tim of Suncoast Running and Victoria of the Suncoast Striders were in the lead. I smiled and cheered on each athlete as they passed, but I envied their speed as I trotted along at my tortoise pace. Someday I’ll be somewhat fast again.
After another long lonely haul, I finally reached the half marathon turnaround at the end of the trail.
This year, the race organizers didn’t have us run a short distance on the Suncoast Trail. At the time, I didn’t think much of it because I was glad to be halfway through the race. I was also too consumed with taking photographs and sucking down a vanilla Cliff shot.
At that point, I finished off the last drop of my water bottle and at the mile 8 water station, I said good-bye to Sam (my Wilson I cleverly named after his Sams Choice water bottle label). I traded my trash (Sam and a Cliff Shot) for two cups of water.
Close to the 11 mile mark, I realized why the race route didn’t include the Suncoast Trail. The organizers selected a quarter mile path adjacent to the trail which led to a maintenance shed. Along that quarter path, I felt part of a race again as I spotted runners ahead of me and behind me. Smiles tried to mask our tired and frustrated faces. So grateful to see other human beings and to keep our spirits up, we tried to engage in short cheerful casual conversations as we passed each other.
Only 2 more miles became my motivation to get through the rest of the race. I was DONE. My legs, hamstrings and quads were sore. I started chaffing on the inside of my arms. Why did I think running two half marathons two weeks apart was a good idea? I’m not doing this race by myself again. Maybe I’ll do the 10K by myself but that’s it!
And for the rest of the race, I started to sing like Donkey from Shrek to keep my spirits up and to scare away the gators and snakes. ‘Cause I’m all alooooone. There’s no one here beside me.
As approached the finish line, I spotted my family and I felt such elation to be finished and in the company of people again. At that moment, I also realized the importance of spectators at a race and how they motivate me to keep moving.
But for me, it’s really all about the cowbells. I gotta have more cowbell in a race. I gotta a fever and the only prescription is more cowbell.
And of course, you gotta have frieeeeends.
Moral of the story: Avoid running two half marathons so close together and don’t run the Pasco Challenge half marathon unless someone runs it with you.
March 12, 2011
Bib # 606
Clock Time 2:40:19
Chip Time 2:39:08
Female Age Div 6/7
OA Place 69/77