Last weekend was “Blues at the Crossroads” in Terre Haute and they scheduled a half-marathon run early Saturday morning as part of the festival. While I’m not a good runner by any means, I like doing a race in the spring and then again in the fall. That gives me a goal, and also helps keep me training. That helps keep me in shape.
After a pretty dismal performance (2:25) in the last one at Sarah Bush Lincoln last spring, I wanted to do better this time. Part of it could be blamed on the extreme wind that day, but the bottom line was I was a lousy runner and needed to train more.
I’d always been a little cautious of running too much, because of all the other workouts I’ve got going on, so I didn’t want to over train. I’d also run into knee problems during the long runs at the end of a training cycle, right before a race.
Still, I’d read about how runners (real ones) often run every day, 5, 6, even 10 miles! That always amazed me and I wondered if I could do it, too. Maybe if I increased my mileage and running days, I could build a better base. That might make me strong enough to avoid the runner’s knee issue, but also take some time off my long runs.
So, in June, I started running 3 miles each day—even on the days I did strength training. Before long, I went a little farther on the running only days, going 4 and 5 miles. Then, I upped it to 4 miles on the strength training days, too.
It wasn’t too long and I was running twice the mileage. I also started feeling a little like Forrest Gump—“I just felt like running.” My neighbor Brad started calling me the ghost who haunted Horace Brocton road.
I finished June with just over 100 miles and I was wondering if I could do 120. Here’s where the obsessive-compulsive part of my personality kicks in. Even though there were some hot days, I passed 120 miles with a little less than a week to go in July. So I pushed hard and ended up with 140 miles—averaging 35 miles a week and feeling like a real runner (some days).
With 6 weeks to go before the Terre Haute half-marathon, I started thinking that maybe I could stretch it to 40 miles a week. That was pretty tough. There were a lot of days I didn’t feel like running, but I wanted to do better in Terre Haute. My theory was an old one: no pain, no gain. Build a better base. Actually be prepared.
Then, occasionally, there would be a run when I just went out there and—ran. It felt great. The whole run was effortless. If I was running 4 miles, I could keep going faster each mile and charge the last one. I’d always considered myself a wanna-be runner, at best a jogger trying to go the distance. But on days like that, I felt like a real runner.
By the end of August, I was pretty tired, and on the last day, hit 160 miles in the 10 mile long run two weeks out from the half-marathon. Even though I was pretty happy to hit the goal, I also knew that I’d probably never run quite that many miles in a month. 40 miles a week is probably just right for some people, but probably a little too much for me.
During a two week taper, where I took a few running days off and decreased the mileage, I felt pretty good. If ever there was a time to do better, this was it. The week before the race, I ran even less, and took two days off everything before the event.
It was nice having the race in Terre Haute, even if we did have to get up pretty early to get over there. As usual, my son Chris was with me, and I’d talked him into taking off and running his own race this time. He ran the last one with me, and I could tell he was like a race horse with a jockey that wouldn’t let him go—especially with my lousy time running into the wind.
We got there in time to park at the ending point and took the bus downtown to where the start would be. I was amazed at how many runners there were. It was a calm, crisp morning, and 291 of us stood around listening to some Blues while we waited for the start.
As they said go, Chris told me “see ya” and took off. I wouldn’t see him again for a couple hours. I felt pretty good, and tried to not get sucked into running faster than I should—it was going to be a long 13.1 miles and I didn’t want to get burned out early.
Within a few minutes, I heard someone saying, “Hi Tom.” I looked over and it was Dan Lynch. We talked a bit and he told me he ran the Indy Mini in about 2 hours. I told him that was fantastic and that I was just hoping to finish in 2:10, which would be averaging ten minute miles. He said he’d be doing that, so I hooked up with him. Right around then, another friend, Ken Hall, blew by us both.
Dan and I ran the next 8 or so miles together, not saying much, but he’ll never know how much he helped me. It was ironic. He was in one of my first Biggest Loser groups two years ago, and then did it again a year ago. The first time, he was there for himself, to get back into a routine. The second time, he was there to help out a friend.
Now, he was not only running a half-marathon, but he was running it faster than I ever dreamed of running. I kept thinking if I just stayed with him, I’d run it faster than ever and get my best finish.
He pulled a little ahead of me at mile 4, when I walked for a moment to eat my runners goo, which is a simple sugar packet that tastes a little bit like thick honey. As I splashed it down with some water and got going, I could still see him just in front of me. Finally, about a mile later, I caught him again.
At mile 8, when I did my next goo, he pulled ahead of me for good. Try as I might, I just couldn’t catch him, although I was always able to see him up in front of me. At mile 10, a group of guys passed me and I overheard one say to the others that it was 1:31. That was a pretty great time for me, and I knew I just needed to hang on for my best finish ever.
So there we were, Dan running up ahead like a little machine. I’m back a little bit, trying to maintain. It was almost as if he was pulling me along. Then the hills came. It’s not very nice putting the hills at the end of a race. That’s when my hips and legs really started getting tired. It’s funny—it’s never about breathing for me. I’ve always got plenty of wind. It’s the muscles that just don’t want to do it anymore. And they didn’t.
But Dan was still running, and so then was I. We got to mile eleven, and then twelve. I had a brief moment where I thought I might be able to catch him in the last mile, but my old familiar right knee started acting up a bit, and I needed to walk a few seconds to give it a brief. Once we turned off the road, into the grassy area for the last quarter mile, it felt a lot better.
Up ahead, I could see the clock. It said 2:04 something, and I knew it was going to be a personal best. I crossed at 2:05:12, and 150th overall (out of 291 runners). As I finished, I realized that thanks to Dan, and all those extra miles, I’d just taken 10 minutes off my best time ever, and a whopping 25 minutes off the fiasco last spring.
Dan was there waiting, having finished over a minute ahead of me at 2:03:43, and 143rd over all. I didn’t have words at the time to thank him (although I’ve got plenty of them now). Chris was there too, having finished in 85th place at 1:49:17. He’s such a stud. Ken Hall congratulated me as well, and told me that he was trying to catch Chris, but couldn’t quite do it, ending in 88th place and 1:49:30. He’s also a stud.
If you want to know what the fastest time was, it was 1:16:44 for the guy who won the race. The fastest gal finished in 1:29:26. You see, there are different levels for everything, and everyone has a goal. Even the guy who won likely looks up to world class runners, who do it in just over an hour. I used to be near the end of the pack, but now I’ve fought my way up to being squarely in the middle.
I figure I’ll never ever be able to match times like those of Ken or my son, but I am thinking that maybe next spring, with enough training miles in, and someone like Dan to follow, maybe I can do it in 2:00. I can’t wait.
The winner for week eleven in Biggest Loser “8” was Cathy Kemper, who lost 1.3 % of her body weight and 2.4 lbs. Cathy received the $20 gift card from Terry Elston and State Farm Insurance for all her hard work. Second place went to Shawn Bowers, who lost about a little less than 1.0% of his body weight and 2.0 lbs.
Join us for Biggest Loser “9” which starts Saturday 26th at 10:00 am. You’ll need to get registered by Friday so we can hit the ground running, so to speak. You’ll get 12 weeks of challenging workouts, and lots of help getting your diet squared away. Last year at this time, we had 68 people in BL “4”, so get signed up now.