ENDURrun 2010: Stage 1 - The Half Marathon

When people ask me why I run, I tell them, there’s not really a reason, it’s just the adrenalin when you start, and the feeling when you cross that finish line, and know that you are a winner no matter what place you got. – Courtney Parsons

Today I woke up to the sound of rain pattering my window. Great, I thought. My first ENDURrun stage in the rain. Last year, it rained a few times during the week, and quite hard, but always at night. Luckily, the rain stopped by the time I was ready to head out to the race start.

The half marathon is two loops around beautiful Conestogo, a village to the north of Waterloo. It consists of a 12km loop, followed by an 8km loop that runs along part of the previous loop. Some changes were made to the course due to construction at the original start site. I was curious as to how it would stack up to previous years.

This year is also a record for the number of Ultimate participants. There are a total of 30 male and 14 female runners participating this year, with a number of guests, and later on in the week, the Sport (the last 3 events). So many new faces, some excited, some apprehensive, some happy, some afraid. How would they run? How would I run against them? Were they all elites, and I’d be the wheezing duffer in the back? So many questions. 

The alarm went off at 6:00am, and I got up and did my typical pre-race breakfast: Bagel, peanut butter, and a mug of coffee. After, I got my things together, packed, and headed out to Bricker Residence to pick up April, Melanie, and Duff, my car-mates for the week. 

We got to the start line at 7:15am, and already there were quite a few runners present. Some warming up, but quite a lot chatting it up. It was great to have so many of the returning runners back; and hear about some of their running adventures since the last ENDURrun. One of the amazing things about this event is the friendships that happen. When you tough it out through 160 total kilometres with others, it’s hard not to form a bond with them. 

In addition to running my own event, I was also participating as part of a relay team, the “Putman Racers”. My leg wasn’t until the end of the week, but I had to find each stage runner when they showed up, and hand them their race kit (bib, shirt, pins, etc.). My friend Sharon from the Pickering Running Room was doing the half, and after giving her some last minute directions, she showed up, and got ready to race.

As we lined up for the race, I looked around at all the red bibs (the Ultimate competitors) trying to get a handle on what they were all thinking. One man next to me was in long sleeved army fatigues and carrying a 50lb backpack on his back! He said that he’s running the Ultimate (the ULTIMATE!!) in fatigues and pack to raise money for wounded soldiers. After picking my mouth up off the road, I heard another runner mumble… “There’s strong, and then there’s ARMY strong!”

The race directory did his customary pre-race roll call, making sure everyone was there, then we all sang the national anthem. With an “On your mark…. set… GO!” we were off and running!

I started off running with my buddy Andy, who’s rooming in our suite this week. He’s an experienced ultra runner, so I figured I’d stick with him as long as I could. Good company goes a long way at these things. We managed to stick together for the first part along the road, and then into the paved trail along the river and golf course. But by about the 12km mark, I started to have some problems, and needed to slow down. My throat was very sore, and for some reason I was very thirsty. I wasn’t carrying my own water, as the aid stations were 3km apart. When I got to the aid station at 9km, I grabbed both Gatorade and water, and walked for a minute or two. Breathing was becoming difficult. Legs were doing alright, so I just dug in and focused on moving forward as fast as I could.

Soon, my other roommate Mark, and Sharon, who were running together, came up and met me. I ran with the two of them for probably 3-4km, at which point I needed another walk break at the water station. At the end of the first loop, another long walk break to catch my breath, work out a stitch, and have some more water for my aching throat.

The second loop started same as the first, but did an out and back along a road lined on both sides with corn. The wind was full force in my face for the entire stretch, and that, coupled with some discomfort in my upper thigh, slowed my progress to a shuffle, then eventually another walk. The rest of the loop progressed much this way, with less and less running, and more and more walking. My thought were to just keep moving forward, and pick it up when I could. 

Before long, I could see the end. Rounding the corner and coming into the last 50 metres, I just kept steady pace, and crossed the line at 2:07:46. Not my best half marathon, but also not my worst. Time to eat, stretch, relax, and enjoy the rest of the day, and the stories of the other runners.

TOMORROW: The 15km time trial. Some big hills, some trails. Bring it on. :-)

Official results here: http://results.runwaterloo.com/event/2010/endurrun/half-marathon/