When it was all said and done, I surprised even myself. Actually, I probably surprised myself more than I surprised anyone else.
You see, I used to make fun of runners, especially those people who run in the dead of winter. Those people claim to run for ‘fun’. They must have a severely perverted definition of fun! Why would anyone put themselves through the physical agony? In my mind, NOBODY was crazier than the Winter Runner.
How things change! This past weekend, I ran a half-marathon in Ottawa in a snowstorm.
The Ottawa Winterman Marathon (and half-marathon) was a fun event that, I gather, was planned on relatively short notice. Nevertheless, the event was a roaring success. There were more than 800 runners, and I was one of them. The event took place at the Canadian War Museum on 22 February, and the race followed a 5 km loop that went from the War Museum to Tunney’s Pasture and back again. That was the course I would follow in my first ever half-marathon.
The conditions were less than ideal for running. On the one hand, my core heats up pretty well, so I appreciate a lower temperature when I run. On the other hand, I do not appreciate running through slush, wind, and falling snow. It was going to be a tough slog.
When I did my first ever long-distance race last autumn, a 10K race, I had only trained for two weeks, and the 51:28 effort nearly killed me. At the Winterman, I felt entirely different. After all, I had been running pretty much non-stop since the autumn, so I was in considerably better physical shape for this race than I was for the 10K. And that was the difference between my half-marathon and my 10K: after my 10K I saw my life flash before my eyes. After my half-marathon I felt tired, but otherwise pretty good.
That’s not to say that my race went flawlessly. On Saturday I picked up my race kit, and inside it was the newest issue of iRun magazine. Other than the fact that I was in this issue (page 6!), I was also interested in the cover story about Adam van Koeverden. In the article, AVK boasted of running a personal-best 1:18 half-marathon. Reading that the evening before my first ever half-marathon was not motivating. Frankly, it was downright intimidating. I was not planning on running a 1:18 half my first time out!
Standing at the start line at 8:30 in the morning, in the sub-zero temperature with heavy snow falling, I hadn’t completely shaken my nerves, but at least I actually felt like I wanted to run this half! I started my run as soon as iRun’s own Mark Sutcliffe fired the 100mm Howitzer starting gun. (At the Canadian War Museum, wimpy little starter’s pistols just don’t cut it!)
So now that I was off and running, what more is there to say? For the next 110 minutes, I ran. BOR-RING! Honestly, now that my body is in shape and the physical aspect of running isn’t as challenging as it used to be, I realise just how psychological running is. Just keeping yourself mentally focused for 110 minutes is extremely difficult! In some respects the slushy and less-than-ideal road conditions actually helped, insofar as they kept my mind busy while I calculated where exactly I would let me feet fall in order to maximise traction.
In fact, I got so bored that at one point I just started talking to people when I passed them. “Hi, enjoying the race?” “Crazy weather, eh?” “Hope you’re having a good time!” Much to my surprise, most people were really friendly and welcomed the banter. I think they were just as bored as I was, to be honest.
Speaking of running’s psychological challenges, the wet conditions gave me an extra head-game to play with about 5 km to go, when my water-logged shoelace loosened, and then finally became undone. I spent a good 10 minutes or so wondering about whether or not I should stop to tie it back up, but in the end I am very glad I did not. My final time was 1:49:48, and if I had wasted time re-tying my shoelace, I would have ended up the wrong side of 1:50.
Given that it was my first ever half-marathon, I cannot help but be pleased with my time. I did have one small disappointment, however. As a new iRun Blog Idol contestant I feel a special affinity for this magazine, and was excited to see that iRun Publisher and Editor Mark Sutcliffe was also running the half-marathon. Though he didn’t know it, I was really gunning for his scalp in this race. I lost sight of him numerous times during the race, but somehow always managed to claw myself back within striking distance. In the end, however, it just wasn’t enough! Mark used his experience advantage to put paid to my youthful audacity. But at least I gave him a run for his money! When it was all said and done, Mark crossed the finish line a full SEVEN SECONDS ahead of me.
I had you in my sights, Mark! Next time, I won’t be so generous. (-;