Gar Williams was the President of the Road Runners Club of America in the midst of the first running boom, from 1975-1976 (and was also President of the DC Roadrunners in 1994). He must be one tough character. Our local half marathon named after him is certainly a hilly monster of a course! It is an out-and-back along a rolling section of the Mount Vernon Trail, in the stretch between the Beltway and George Washington's Mount Vernon estate. I've done lots of races along this stretch, and they're always hard work.
We ran it today in fairly brisk conditions, starting at about 28*F and 8-10 mph winds. Fortunately it had a late (9:30AM) start to give us a few extra degrees of warmth. I wore all my new cold-weather clothes plus some new running tights. It was very chilly standing-around weather for the volunteers, but once we all got moving it was fairly comfortable running weather.
It is a small club race. I checked last year's results and found 226 finishers listed, with only one time slower than my PR of 2:38:38 (from a half in Burlington, Ontario, way back in 2002, when I was paced), so I knew I would have to push hard the whole race to keep anyone in sight ahead of me!
So that's what I set out to do - run comfortably at the back of the pack on the way out, and push hard on the return trip. I hit my split timer on the permanent mile markers on the trail, which started about a half a mile into the race, just to keep a check on my pace. I worked hard to keep running throughout and I think I managed to take just a few short walk breaks when I was taking a gel and drinking water. My pace varied quite a bit due to the hills, from 11:21 to 12:29 min/mile on the way out.
I hit the turnaround at 1:17. The good news is that I was on a PR pace. The bad news is that I was on a PR pace. That meant - UGH! I'd have to work hard on the way back and keep up my pace for another 6.55 miles! My arthritic knees were starting to hurt quite a bit on the downhills, causing me to kind of race-walk the steepest downslopes. I was wearing my knee wrap things, but they didn't help, so I might as well leave them off.
Back along the path, hill after hill after hill, over the wooden bridges, and through the woods.
*jeanne* was there (fortunately! she gave me both water and lip salve before the race), and was kind enough to come back out on the course after her (much faster) finish. One of my mental goals during the race was to get past the one mile marker before she got to me, and I accomplished that! When I saw her I grunted something incomprehensible like "Gotta. Keep. Pushing. PR." Naturally, she understood completely and trotted easily next to me, keeping me nicely entertained and distracted by singing The Battle of New Orleans and then Christmas carols to get in practice for our upcoming Christmas Light Run.
Finally the finish line appeared! Ugh, across the uneven frozen grass to get there, ouch! ouch! ouch! that hurts! But YAY! I did it! 2:37:46, a 12:02 min/mile overall pace for 13.1 miles! I worked hard for that one! While it's only 52 seconds faster than my previous best half marathon, and well below the 2:21-2:23 those awful race predictors say I "should" be running on a flat course, a PR is a PR and it's always a good day when it happens.
And YAY! That's my 3rd PR in 8 days! After training through the dog days of summer, I'm finally reaping the performance benefit of this colder weather! And I just realized this may just be my last race of 2005 - a rewarding ending for an incredible year.