Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Race Report: More Marathon, Half -- wait. More Half-Marath -- wait, the More 13.1 Mile Fun Run

This past Sunday was the More Marathon/Half Marathon/Health Walk. Sort of.

My training has not been consistent the past couple of weeks. I went into this a little concerned about being undertrained. But I was only doing the half, and had managed to get a 10 and 11 miler in the weeks prior, so I figured it would be okay, as long as I went slow (um, no problems there) and didn't try to set any records.

A few words about this race. This is a woman-only race sponsored by More Magazine, which is geared towards women over 40. Therefore, the marathon was only open to women over 40. The way it USED to be, you could only run the half marathon if you were either over 40, or paired with one. So all my young whippersnapper Teammates wanted to be Grandma's best friend, to get that coveted entry. Alas, this year they opened the half up to all age groups, so my fleeting popularity, well, fleeted.

The course: Marathon -- 4+ clockwise loops of Central Park (the original NYC marathon route), Half Marathon and Health Walk -- 2+ loops.

The expo was nice. A little cramped, but all the products were women-oriented, and you know, I NEEDED that pair of MBT shoes -- those are the ones that mimic the Add ImageMasai, with a curved sole. They're odd, but comfortable, and they purport to help the wearer stand in alignment (they also say they'll tone you up, but I'm not buying that.) I must say, having worn them a few days now, they do help with the posture.

I also got to meet Kathrine Switzer, who was there with copies of her book, "Marathon Woman." For those who don't know, Kathrine is the first woman to semi-officially run the Boston Marathon -- she entered as "K. Switzer" in 1967, when it was still a men's only race. The race director, Jock Semple, discovered her four miles in and, as you can see here in this photo, tried to physically throw her out of the race. Her boyfriend Tom, who ran with her, pushed Jock Semple off her, and she finished the race with an unofficial time of 4:20. Her effort inspired other women, who began running the course unofficially, and by 1972, the first women were welcomed to participate as athletes. In many ways, Kathrine's the First Lady of female marathoners. It was great to meet her. She told us that she does the television commentaries for the major marathons -- NY, Boston, etc. -- but nobody knows it, because we're all out running the races and never hear that it's her!

Sunday morning, 6 a.m. Woke up, ate, got dressed. A little stomach distress -- there are some foods one should avoid even looking at the night before a long run or race, and I fear I may have looked at some of them. Used the bathroom three times before heading out at 7:15. The race started at 8:00, and I'm not far from the start line.

Used the Hecksher playground bathroom on my way to the start line. It's going to be one of those days.

Did I mention it was 90 degrees?

As I'm walking to the half marathon starting corrals, I see three women with marathon bibs pass me. Hmm. The marathon doesn't start for another ten minutes, and surely they're not trying to get more miles in. Even if they were, for some reason, they would've had too many miles to go to get back to the start line in time for the marathon to begin.

Find my corral and hop in. Start chatting with the women around me, who've come in from Connecticut. This is their first half marathon. They tell me that NYRR just cancelled the marathon, halved the distance of the health walk, and weren't going to time the half marathon. Wow. NYRR has turned winter races into fun runs when the roads were too icy to safely race, but I don't recall them ever actually cancelling a race.

I will go on record to say it was the right call to make. Better to deal with pissed-off runners than dead ones. Four loops of the Park is brutal under ideal weather conditions. To do a race that long in this heat practically begs for disaster to happen. NYRR has held races in this degree of heat before -- I know, I ran a lot of them -- but not at marathon distance. Even with the two spray stations and extra water and Gatorade on the course, it would have been too dangerous. So kudos to NYRR for making the tough, yet right call.

So now I'm doing a 13.1 mile "fun run." Someone needs to define "fun" in this context a little better.

The run begins. And, of course, the minute we start, I have to use the bathroom.

Pass Teammate Lynn around mile 1. She's got a Gatorade/water/sunscreen station set out for runners. She ran Boston last week, finished in well under four hours. Kiss her, and head forward.

As we hit the first set of porta-potties, I think -- why not? No one's timing it. All the women in line, me included, went through the same thing -- momentary anxiety from waiting to use a bathroom mid-race, and realizing that there was, in fact, no race.

Much better. Onwards. Pass Teammate David at some point on the East Side, and Teammate Yan is volunteering during this race, handing out water at the 72nd Street Transverse.

Complete the first loop feeling relatively okay. I think I have another loop in me. Teammates Erica, Ashley and Leanne are at Tavern on the Green, the halfway point/ finish line.

Stop at Lynn's homemade water station for water, and take a gel and an electrolyte capsule. Onwards.

At the water stations along the course, I drink 2/3 of the cup and pour the last third on my head. It steams.

At the water station at the top of the North Hill, there are salt packets. I am feeling a little over-Gatoraded, so I take one. Gives me the boost I need. I've taken salt during a race before, but never actually felt it working the way I did there. It's like I could actually feel it hit my bloodstream.

They've even removed the clocks at the mile markers, so unless you're personally timing yourself, there's no way to know your time until you hit the end. Without that reminder of time, I was definitely pacing myself properly for the heat. I felt leaden-legged from being undertrained, but otherwise physically fine.

Around the East Side of the reservoir is when I started running past the health walkers, and it got a little crowded. I don't mean this to sound awful, but it seemed like everyone doing the health walk was clinically obese. I've never seen so many big women in a race before. I am hoping that this race was their first step towards a healthier lifestyle. Everyone's got to start somewhere.

At long last, rounding the turn off Central Park South and heading up towards Tavern. I find myself with enough left for a finishing kick. Through the finish line, at a time of around 2:10. Definitely not my best, but that wasn't the goal.

Although I can't help thinking, if I can do that undertrained, what am I going to be like in a few months, with all that Fred's Team training under my belt? And you know, my half marathon PR was set in the heat...


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