This was probably one of my best executed races that I’ve ever run. Probably in large part because I wasn’t concerned about my time. My training wasn’t consistent or really at any level where I could set expectations. I decided I wanted to finish under 2 hours and run a negative split.
The MN Half Marathon was the official race for Team World Vision this year. I wasn’t 100% sure if I was going to race it, even though I’m our team captain, as the date fell during the few weeks my wife had scheduled vacation. We decided on a staycation and I signed up a few weeks before. I had been training as if I was racing it so that wasn’t a big deal. There were over 200 Team World Vision runners participating raising money for clean water in Africa. The final stats have been released, but you can bet that a lot of people got will receive access to clean water thanks to the fundraising efforts. You can donate to me here.
The event was a good size, not huge but not super tiny. Packet pickup went smoothly at Union Depot the night before. I arrived in plenty of time to park, relax, get our team picture, take a dump and race! This event had a roller blade race, duathlon (roller blade and running), and several running distances. I’ve never participated in an event with roller bladers before and I’m pleased to say that I beat some!!
The start was along Shepherd Road in St. Paul. After taking my dump, I walked up and was at the very back of the pack. I wanted to start out slow, but I didn’t want 11:30 pace slow and knew that it would be a lot of work to run through the crowd from the back. As I was walking, I saw one of my teammates and told him he needed to move up with me. I wasn’t sure what he could for the half, but knew from the times we had trained together that he needed to start further up. I did worry later that I might have ruined his race, but even at the end he was happy that I did that!!
I started with the 9:30 pace group and we took off heading East. It was flat for most of this 3 mile leg, with one decent hill that you climbed two times maybe a mile or so apart. As long as you didn’t blaze up it, there shouldn’t have been a problem. This stretch was super sunny as there was not a single tree. Running along the more “industrial” part of the river was interesting.
By the time we passed the starting area I was already between the 9:15-9:00 pace groups. I was feeling pretty good and happy with my race so far! The second out and back portion of the race was a little more scenic and had 2 hills that we ran up on the way out and of course on the way back! I passed the half way mark right around an hour and knew that I was either going to hit both goals or neither goal!
By mile 8 I was starting to see Team World Vision runners that I knew from training and would wish them well as I passed. Oh, I haven’t mentioned that the temp for the race start was in the 60’s but the humidity was pretty high and by the end of the race it was almost 80. So it wasn’t a stellar day and many people were suffering from the heat. There weren’t a ton of aid stations, but I think there was a good amount. They had trouble keeping the supply of cups ready, but I was able to get water and Gatorade as I needed it. I was also taking a shot blok every 3 miles. We passed a runner down as we slipped under 35E and that’s where I ran into Scott and Erin.
We exchanged pleasantries and luck and I continued on my way. A few minutes later Erin caught up with me. We ran together chit-chatting for the next few miles. I think having someone to chat with helped distract through some of the middle miles. We were both trying to stay in the shade (what little was available) and finish strong. I would say that we separated around mile 10, she really needed salt, but the aid stations nor medical stops had any salt. Medical stops also didn’t have vaseline (I didn’t need it but a guy near me kept asking them for it).
At one point in mile 11 as we were coming upon the hill, I realized that everyone was following the curve of the road to stay in the shade, but that created a much longer way to travel. I knew it was a little bit of a gamble to choose the shorter course over the shade, but I took the chance. I think I ended up doing that twice. I was still feeling pretty good and knew that if I kept pushing myself I’d finish well. At a couple points I mentally checked myself so that I wouldn’t get over excited or ahead of myself before I actually finished. In the last set of hills my glute and foot started hurting, but not in a way that impacted me too much.
Most World Vision runners wore the bright orange jersey (t-shirt, a few of us wear the singlet). During the picture time I had seen a guy wearing a t-shirt with the World Vision logo and pictures of kids on the back of his shirt. I assumed the kids were kids he sponsored and thought it was great that he improvised a way to honor them in the race. At some point in these later miles I saw the pictures of the kids laying on the ground and scooped them up and handed them back to him as I ran past. He was super amazed and appreciative. I didn’t realize it but he was really struggling to finish and that really motivated him and helped him remember his purpose in running. After the race this random guy comes up to me in the World Vision tent and said I want to give you a sweaty man hug. Awkward! Then I saw the pictures in his hand and realized who he was. We talked a bit about the race, etc. And he was wearing a crossfit shirt so we of course talked about that! We exchanged info and he e-mailed me a story that he hope his box will publish. I couldn’t find it posted yet. It is a powerful story of an ex-runner, but someone engaged in fitness who felt compelled by the need for clean water to run again!
In the last mile I knew that if nothing major happened I would be successful in my goals and kept pushing myself to finish strong. There was an ambulance near the finish line picking up a runner which was a little freaky and not something you want to see. As I crossed the finish line I was relieved to see that the clock and my watch both read 1:5x:xx YES!! I had done it. I had executed the perfect race! My tweet post race summed up my feelings:
— Nick Cross (@crossn81) August 2, 2014
Here is the data from Strava:
Final Official Results: