The Inaugural Marla Runyan Half Marathon in Camarillo Sunday morning started off on time and as planned, behind the Target store. Great weather was on hand - overcast, low to mid 60s, minimal wind.
Marla Runyan is a legally blind runner who graduated Camarillo High School in 1987. Stargardt’s Disease caused her childhood macular degeneration that took away her eyesight. But she didn't let this stop her.
Runyan is a three-time national champion in the 5000 meters and won four gold medals at the 1992 Summer Paralympics. She is the first legally blind athlete to compete in the Olympics, finishing 8th (top American) in the 1,500 meters at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. She was the top American at the 2002 New York Marathon in 2 hours, 27 minutes with the second-fastest debut time ever by an American woman.
Quite an inspiration. And she was there at the start of the race, giving us a brief, yet memorable send-off. The key words were "make sure to pace yourself." Solid advice.
My goal was to run a half marathon time of 1 hour, 25 minutes or less. Based on my 2.1 rule of thumb (projected marathon time = half marathon time x 2.1), a time of 1:25:43 or below equates to a sub-3 hour marathon time that has eluded me now for 8 years. So I was thinking I'd be happy with a 1:24 to 1:25 run at a reasonable pace that wouldn't beat me up.
Cutting to the chase, I ran the race in 1:23:51, good for 4th overall and 1st in my age group. I just looked back and the last time I ran a half marathon was over 3 years ago on 9/19/09, in 1:23:53. So somehow I managed to cut 2 seconds off my time.
The words of Marla Runyan were penetrated my brain briefly but 1/4 mile into the race my body told me I was felt pretty light footed. So I pulled past 5 or 10 guys into 2nd place, within range of the 32 year old who ultimate won the race (and on that note, pretty much ALL of my personal best times were set at the age of 32).
To achieve a 1:24 marathon, all I needed to do was run a 6:25 pace the entire race. The first mile for me was 6:09 and my two mile time was 12:20. Five miles into the race I was under 31 minutes, around a 6:12 average pace. I had built up a minute cushion below my target time.
Then around mile 6 I started realizing that my body could not continue that 1:21-ish half marathon pace. While I was able to maintain the rate of my stride, my step became less bouncy and more labored. No breathing problems or anything, just muscles that started to show signs of fatigue. Not good!
Two guys passed me between miles 6 and 10 and one more nearly reeled me in at the end (in fact, I was surprised he didn't catch me but I gave it whatever I had to hold him off).
At mile 10 I was around 63 minutes or so, which translates translates to about a 6:46 pace for the final 5K, significantly slower than the 6:18 pace for the first 10 miles. I definitely struggled to keep my pace but I held it up through the finish....barely!
Lesson learned. If an OLYMPIC ATHLETE tells you to pace yourself before a race, well, dammit, LISTEN to him/her!
But it was fun making an attempt to keep it real with those 32 year olds. I'm 48, so you'd think at least I get to subtract a third of my time to even things out with them.
Would be interesting to run that exact same race again, but this time do the first 6 miles at the more appropriate 6:25. Perhaps I would have run negative splits and a faster overall time. Next time...
Three weeks until the Malibu Marathon now. Considering one more slow paced 18 to 20 miler this coming weekend. I'll do it if I feel up to it.