I ran in the Wisconsin Marathon and Half-Marathon today. The temperature was in the low 50s and partly cloudy. It was perfect running weather. It was a well-organized race in a beautiful lakefront location.
In this race the marathoners and the half-marathoners run together. You can tell the Marathoners because they talk all the time. Of course for them the first 13 miles are just a warmup. I'll bet they don't talk so much by mile 20.
My usual race strategy is to find a really fit looking woman who is running the marathon and try to keep pace with her. My coach, Heather Collins, didn’t think much of that strategy and told me to keep on pace with my Garmin GPS. She trusts technology more than people, I guess. My pace goal was 8 minutes per mile.
I was going to follow her instructions, but just before the race started I spotted a bald guy who had the following message printed on the back of his optic-yellow tee-shirt: “I’m 55 years old and plan to finish in 1:45. Think you can keep up?”
And while some of us old guys think it is bad form to flaunt our age, I didn't figure the guy would wear that shirt if he didn’t think he could do it. A 1:45 finish is just under 8 minutes per mile so I felt it was my duty to follow him.
But to keep Heather satisfied I monitored my pace on the Garmin also.
The bald guy slowly pulled away from me, but I kept him in sight and I stayed on the 8 minute pace. Everything was going great and then just after mile 7 the Garmin died and a few hundred yards later the bald guy died.
Not really. But he started walking so I was left without a pace setter. Technology and humanity had failed me. Fortunately I had worn a backup watch because I didn’t trust the Garmin (it’s tempermental). I started measuring the mile splits. I no longer had instant feedback but at least I knew at each mile marker what my pace was. I was off pace for miles 8 and 9, but returned to pace through mile 12.
Then, about ½ mile from the finish line, from out of nowhere, the bald guy reappeared five yards ahead of me. I was wondering if he took a car, but I decided he must have resumed running shortly after I passed him and with his faster pace he had finally caught me.
I passed him with a hundred yards to go, but then in the last 10 yards he surged and finished ahead of me by a couple of steps. That sort of annoyed me, but then I remembered that he started ahead of me (that’s how I spotted his tee-shirt) and when the official results were posted, there I was two seconds faster than the 55 year old man from Menomonee Falls.
My time was 1:45:51, an 8:04 pace, which was a significant improvement over last year’s time of 1:50:54. I finished 290 out of 2238 and 2nd in my age group of “Everyone over 60”.