One Start, Two Finishes

A GORGEOUS DAY AND A LARGE, COLORFUL CROWD characterized Sunday’s 2011 Dexter-Ann Arbor half marathon. Sunny and warm, 3,000 people fired up to run, and the race started on time. Who could ask for more?

Tougher than me – the wheelers at the starting line.

My pacing plan was 8:00 for the first four miles, 7:45 for the next four, then 7:30 for the remaining 5.1 miles. Aggressive, as my average pace at the Martian half marathon in March was 8:03, but I felt ready to put my training since then to the test. Right away I noticed a difference from last year, where I’d struggled to find a groove even at an 8:20 pace. Today I had to slow down for the first several miles to hold to plan. Long race, warm day – don’t burn out.

At mile 4 I stepped it up, and was soon cruising at a 7:30 pace – ahead of plan, but I felt so good I couldn’t help it. It turned out I couldn’t hold that pace, but could hold a 7:45. This left enough in reserve for a push near the end, and miles 11 and 12 flew by.

Onto Main Street and up the long hill for the final mile to the finish. And there it was up ahead – a big arc of white, yellow, and green balloons like we’d run under at the start! I kicked it into overdrive and surged through it in 1:40:44 – a personal record by 5 minutes! I turned off my timer and began a cooldown jog. After a bit someone came up to me. “Sir,” she said, “did you think that was the finish? That’s farther up ahead!”

Damn! I should have figured that out from the lack of sensor belts and cones marking the finish chute. I restarted my timer and charged back onto the road. Sure enough, past the top of the rise was the big banner of the finish line. One final surge and I had officially finished. My Garmin read 1:41:44, still a great result. Problem was, my chip result would show a somewhat slower time. Nuts.

As it turned out, I lost only about 30 seconds. My official time (or as I think of it, my second finish) was 1:42:14. Still a PR by over three minutes! And good for finishing in the top 20% of the men (top 12% overall). I headed over to Borders for my writing seminar (yes, I’m a busy guy) and wore my finishers medal proudly during class. And I wound up wearing my run shirt (the cotton one I changed into) to the theater for the 2:00 play. A little awkward, but what the hell.

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