Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Half

As some of you know, I ran in the BJ Marathon last Sunday. I took the "half the distance, twice the fun" way out and only ran the 1/2 instead of the full. I started training back in June, and have enjoyed many long runs along the canal by my house. It's a beautiful place to run, especially these days as the leaves on the slope down to the water are all changing. It looks like the hills are on fire.

But I digress. My training went well until about a month ago, when I couldn't ignore the pain in my left heel anymore. I was sure I'd have to quite the race. Then I called a woman here who has a great deal of experience and education in healthcare, and her exact words were, "Gina, you're running long distances. When you run long distances, your feet hurt." Her recommendation: ice and new shoes. The ice was good. The new shoes gave me blisters. Chalk up a few more missed runs while those healed.

My biggest hiccup came when I got an email at 5 p.m. one day that said, "We've had a problem with your registration. If you don't contact us by noon today, we will delete your information from our system." The email had been sent the night before. So I called their number and asked to speak to someone in English, knowing full well that I would not be able to communicate what I wanted in Mandarin. The poor man on the other end must have been wishing he didn't speak English by the end of our conversation. He started by giving me the very cultural, "Sorry, there's nothing I can do" response. By the end of the conversation, he was saying, "Ok, calm down. I will do my best to get you reinstated." And he did. Thank you Jerry, from the BJ Marathon Office. I sincerely apologize for verbally haranguing you.

Back on track, I was feeling pretty good about the race. My goal was to finish under 2 hours. The great thing was, even if I didn't, making a PR for this record was a guarantee since last year it took me about 2 1/2 hours to run/walk it. According to my inike training program, which tells me my pace, distance, and time, I was on track to finish in about 1:58.

The day of the race I woke up, joined my three running companions (my husband and two friends from my complex) and had another friend drive us down to Tian'anmen Square. The runners were organized in clumps according their race: we had to push (quite literally) our way through the mini-marathon runners, and the 9K runners, until we broke out into the open area for 1/2 marathoners. After the guy next to us had his pre-race smoke, we were off. The first 1/2 mile we had to dodge discarded disposable rain jackets people had been wearing to keep warm. Me, I wore long socks on my arms until I got too hot (thanks for the tip Tammy!).

Since Erik had to leave for Hong Kong that afternoon, he didn't have time to run the entire race. So, being the gracious and encouraging man he is, he offered to run with me instead of loping off into the distance. It was a bit boring for him, since I run so much slower, and because I had my ipod on. At one point he struck up a conversation with a guy from Iowa. Only my husband makes friends while running a race.

Erik was supposed to run with me until mile 9 or 10, when we ran past our house. At mile 8 or so, he went to get water and never came back! I kept waiting for him to sprint up to me. I couldn't figure it out. But I had to keep running, so I had to rely on the cheers from the sidelines. And they were legion! Granted, most of the people watching were either people who happened to be passing by and decided to stop and gawk at the runners, or people who were just on their regular route to work and got blocked for a few hours. Still, even those people had their cell phones out taking pictures and videotaping. Because why not kill some time while waiting? Many people though were chanting the traditional "jia you" (pronounced 'jah yoh') which means "add oil!", clapping, and giving us thumbs up. I found a few of my own personal cheer squad (my kids and our friends) around mile 9-10. It kept a smile on my face most of the way.

But then came the 10-12 mile loop. Along that route, there were no bystanders, and I began to start having those, "Why on EARTH am I doing this??" thoughts. I also began to realize that my inike program was not as accurate as I'd hoped. At the 10K mark it had been dead on, but it was telling me I was nearing the end, and I really wasn't.

As I came around the corner for the last stretch, it announced, "Congratulations! You've reached your goal!" but the finish line was nowhere in sight. It was more than disappointing to run the last MILE without music, fully knowing that though my inike had told me I'd finished in under 2 hours, that would not actually be the case.

I finished in 2:07:14. Certainly better than last year, and better than the 2:10 I initially anticipated before I started training. I caught up with my friends and, after doing a short interview for a local TV station, we took the subway home. All in all, a good experience. And just like labor, I vowed for the first 24 hours that I would never, ever, do that again. But now I'm thinking, "So next year . . . "

1 comment:

Four Buttons said...

well done Gina!!! So proud of you, and your time is AWESOME!!!! you go girl! That was a HUGE improvement from your last 1/2, you should feel amazing. It's not easy for runners to knock off 20+ minutes from one race to the next, that's definately praise worthy stuff!! Wish I could have been there with you, I'd atleast have run a mile with you after you were abandoned by the spouse :) ha! love ya and miss you like mad!!