Saturday, December 6 was a special day for me. I had signed up for the St Jude Half Marathon a few weeks prior and the day had arrived. I picked up running in seminary again, after taking several years off in favor of gorging myself on Chick-Fil-A and overall laziness in college and part of seminary. In April 2006 I ran my first half, and I had longed to do another one. Timing and circumstances had long prevented that, but here it was!
The weather forecast was for the low to mid 30's, which always sounds great. That morning, I learned the weatherman can be right once in a while. It was a cold morning, but the thing that worried me more was that I had not trained as hard for this as I had my first half. I hadn't done the long runs or done the hill training I had done before, and so I was very concerned that I would not be able to make the full 13.1 miles. My plan was to aim for an 8:30/mile pace, somewhat slower than my training runs but I wanted to err on the side of caution.
After some good luck hugs and kisses from Carrie, the waves starting rolling out as me and 11,000 of my new friends took off for the course. It was a pretty course, going by many of the historic landmarks of Memphis, down to the riverfront where Old Muddy was hard at work living up to the name. Then came the funny part, somewhere around mile 3 the course runs back through Beale Street and this is where the crowd is roaring. Out of nowhere on 3rd Street in front of the Peabody Place a manhole cover jumped in front of me and tripped me up, and I ate pavement in front of a few hundred people. I freaked out at first, well actually I sprang up like nothing had happened, then freaked out that I had twisted an ankle and then noticed a pain in my wrist, elbow, and my hand was bloody. Not going to lie, first thought was "I don't care if the wrist is broken, I'll dry the blood, deal with the elbow later. I signed up for this and paid for it and I'm going to finish this! Ow, Ow, Ow...."
My strategy was to coast for the first 7-8 miles and then depending on how I felt I would start to turn it on and finish strong. I clocked in at around 8:36 for the first 6 miles, and then around mile 8 I was feeling so good and barely felt like I'd expended much energy that I turned it on and began to push myself harder than I had done in a training run. Around mile 11 I talked to a guy who was starting at Southern in the fall, and that was awesome. Right before the finish at the stadium I saw Carrie and sorta posed for a picture! I knew she would be there and looked feverishly for her. Seeing her gave me the strength to push that last quarter mile in an almost sprint to the line.
When I crossed the line I looked up and saw the time, but I had no idea what my official time was (wave starts mean big delays). It turned out that I had turned in a PR, 1:49:09, a pace of about 8:20 per mile. I was so excited to have been able to complete the course, get a warm blanket, change into dry (and not smelly) clothes, get some hot food, and a big kiss from my wife!
To God be the glory though, anything I do is for Him and only because of Him. It is a gift I do not plan to waste.
On to Nashville, first full marathon. Bring on 26.2!