1) The Use of “Half Mary” is Annoying. I exaggerate not when I say that I must have heard this term used at least a dozen times before, during, and after the race. Most particularly, it seemed to be favored by paunchy middle-aged men who were attempting to appear both terribly casual and “in-the-know” about running lingo. Using abbreviations, unnecessary descriptors, and tired technical terms is also becoming more popular. For example: “Yeah, I neg splitted the return 11k for a This Decade PR at the MC Half Mary even though my HRM output was off, I hadPF and some ITBS flares, and the Garmin indicated a 13.23.”
Please. I know that, as runners, we’re obligated to be as dorky as possible, but let’s try to tone it down just a bit. And for heaven’s sake, if you feel you must use the term Half Mary, at least show a little respect and refer to it as a Half Marion.
2) Thirteen. Eeek! Out of the 1500 people who ran this race (the Tom King Half Marathon in Nashville), I was the one who was assigned bib #13. But Wait! There’s more! Let’s take a gander at the calendar…the race was on March 13! Yes, that means it was held on the 13th day of the 3rd month of ’10. 3+10=13!! And perhaps the triskaidekaphobic crown of jewels was the fact that this all happened at a race of…..13.1 miles!!!!!!!!!! What could it all mean? Don’t think I wasn’t pondering this quagmire of coincidence as I stood nervously at the start. Was this bad luck or some bizarro world twist of good luck? (Hint: see # 3.)
3) A 7:12 Pace is Not a 7:35 pace. Could someone please put a sharp bit in my mouth and attach some reins to it for my next race? You would think that after going out too fast at, oh, more than 50% of the several hundred races I’ve run throughout the years, I might enjoy catching an obvious clue. But no. The gun goes off, and I’m like a big dumb cannonball hurtling out of a stupid old cannon.
My goal was a 7:35 pace so that I could come in under 1:40. I had figured it out, practiced it, trained specifically for it, and carved a “CALM DOWN” mantra into my brain grooves. And, so, naturally I ran the first mile in 7:12. As usual, I thought, “My word. That’s much too fast for a Half Marion!” And then, of course, I continued at the same pace. Only around mile 2.5 as the entire World of Runners Way Faster Than Me began filing by did I miraculously realize the error of my ways.
So, I backed off, but the damage had been done. I continued feeling pretty good until about mile 8, at which point I began the phantasm of math equations wherein I tried to calculate just how much I could slow down and still come in under 1:40. Needless to say, math did not save the day. I missed my goal by 52 second. Which, frighteningly, is divisible by……13!!!!
4) Being Spit On, Cut off, and Whatnot Makes Me Angry, but being Told to, “Run, Bitch!” Does Not. Let’s face facts. If you’re a woman who’s even moderately fast or remotely competitive, you may have perhaps, just by odd chance, noticed that some (I said “some“) men in some races, ever so occasionally, can be assholes. This race is no more or less assholish-y than any other race, but I did enjoy a few incidents this past Saturday.
Around mile 3, where runners have an entire two lanes to totally spread out, Mister Man came charging up behind me, did the old brush by, and immediately stepped right in front of me. This has happened to me countless times in both training and racing, and I must say that, yes, I am always impressed. Why, look! You’ve passed me. Quite impressive indeed.
In the final miles of the race, I approached two men who were running together and obviously struggling. Their eyes were glued to the ground, and neither had said a peep. Until I passed them. And then it was all, “Yeah, Bob, just an easy training run for me today! Yessir, I ran this course in a 1:29 a few years ago! Just taking her easy today!!”
Good grief. Then, as usual, they both nearly gave themselves coronaries trying to re-pass me. (They never did).
Topping things off was Ye Olde “I couldn’t possibly turn my head 2/8 of an inch to check for someone behind me before I hock a tremendous loogey.” Yeah, being spit on in a tough race is a real unparalleled joy.
It is odd, then, that when I saw a friend, as he was headed home while I was still en route to the turnaround, and he bellowed, “RUN BITCH!!” I was both comforted and energized. There’s just something about having an obscenity hurled at you from a male friend. It is, strangely, the antithesis of machismo.
5) Wheelchair Racers Force You To Get Over Yourself. Because this particular race is an out and back course, you get to see everyone. Seeing the leaders is always an inspiration, but seeing the wheelchair racers (well, only one racer this year) is beyond inspiration. I mean, damn, I have legs that actually work. So what if they work 52 seconds slower than I’d like them to? This is not to say that I feel sorry for wheelchair racers. They kick serious ass in ways that I’ll never understand. That’s why, when I see them, regardless of how much pain I’m in or how disappointed I might be, I have a welcome respite from my own ego.
6) Hey! Speaking of Ego, Check Me Out on the Jumbotron! One of the coolest things about this race is that the finish line is on the 50-yard line inside the Titans stadium. You actually get to run down one side of the field and then back up the other side as thousands of manic fans in the stands scream, do the wave, throw confetti, and point at you with a sea of giant foam fingers as a flyover of the Blue Angels celebrates your victorious arrival! Um, okay. Well, you get to run up one side and down the other anyway.
And you really do get to see yourself on the stadium jumbotron as you cross the finish line. I’ve probably run this race half a dozen times, and I’ve always been in such a state of discombobulation as I approach the finish that the last thing I’m thinking of is a jumbotron. But not this year. When I realized, at the mile 13 marker (13!!), that I wasn’t going to hit my goal, I decided that I would at least watch a thirty-foot-tall me bound across the mat.
Could I look more distorted and goony? Could my legs BE any whiter? Could I appear more bald because my hat is hiding my hair and from the camera’s angle it just looks like I have none? No. No, I really don’t think I could.
7) The World Doesn’t End When You Miss Your Goal Time. For whatever reason, this becomes more apparent, the older I get. Perhaps it’s because, in my collective years of wisdom, I realize that there’s always another race to begin obsessing over, another magical number to chase. Perhaps it’s because age gives one better perspective. Perhaps it’s because I’ve discovered Age-Graded Calculators that magically turn my 1:40 into a 1:30.
And there you have it. A collection of random musings about one of my very favorite annual Half Marions.