Mercedes Half Marathon: It’s Time to Run

By this time tomorrow, Lord willing, I should be running in the 2014 Mercedes Half Marathon.

It’s kind of funny.  Though I have no chance at winning (hahahaha), starting about two days before the race, my mind and my body start getting pumped.  This time around, the excitement started Friday afternoon when I rode downtown to pick up my race pack.  Walking up on the stage to get my bib number and packet and then walking through and around the exhibitors always gets the juices flowing.  It signals to the body that the race is getting close.

Yesterday, Saturday, was a busy day, though not necessarily in a good way.  My mind couldn’t get settled because I had too much stuff – unusual usual stuff going on – so by the evening my bowel was still unsettled and I was jittery.

And speaking of bowels, for a runner running a race, an unstable bowel is always the worst fear.  But it really shouldn’t be, especially for a race as well-organized as the Mercedes.  Why, you say?  Because the race organizers have portable toilets at regular intervals (no pun intended) along the course.  Sure, no one wants to mess up their race time by taking a “pit stop,” but you probably won’t have an accident along the course.  At least I don’t think you will.

So if I have no chance of winning, why am I getting so excited?  Well, it’s another chance to compete.  No, it’s not compete in the sense of “winning,” but it is compete in the sense of competing against ourselves, against the clock and against that runner right beside us.  Or, more specifically, competing against that runner 50 yards ahead that you try to catch.  It’s another chance to compete against age and gravity and busy schedules.  We’ve laced up the sneakers to train for months and we’ve paid almost $100 for a t-shirt, but actually running the race is a chance to get out again, between the lines, and compete.

For most of us, official athletic competition ended with graduation from high school.  So this is another chance to get after it.  Though we have no chance of actually winning the race, we plot our strategies and think about how we’ll handle certain situations.  We watching the weather and plan what running gear to wear.  We review the course trying to mentally put ourselves at different places along the way, imagining how we will feel and mentally give ourselves encouragement and reminders to use when we actually reach that point of the race.

I’m not a very fast runner.  I usually run somewhere between an 8:30 to 8:45 minutes per mile pace.  For this race, I hope to break 8:30.  That would put my finishing time at 1:51 or better.  I would be thrilled to run 1:45, but that would mean an 8:09 mile per minute pace and I’m not sure my running partner or my legs can handle that.  So, my plan is to take the start easy, move into a nice cruising speed and see how I feel at the eight or nine mile mark.  If I’m feeling good, I may push my partner a bit and run these last few miles as hard as I can.  We’ll see I guess.

The weather in Birmingham should be beautiful tomorrow.  It’ll be a great day for a nice run.

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