I have a friend who is an UltraMarathoner going by the moniker StyrofoamDeity. He once told me, There is no failure, there is only the next race. I found that statement gripping. It embodied a competitive, indomitable, relentless spirit that appealed to my running self and I embraced it as a way of life. There is no failure, there is only the next race.
So yesterday, muscles torn, body aching, my entire system out of sorts, instead of licking my wounds and caressing my medal, I was busy trying to put together the building blocks for a sub 1:30 half marathon. It's easy to plan as you know and one thing you learn from the marathon is that reality cuts down your idealistic dreams to realistic sizes with hard surfaces, injuries, dehydration, time and the sheer attrition by the distance. But every time you meet your race objectives, you get galvanized and that is what had happened to me.
"When are you updating your blog?" one of my friends asked me. Interrupting my thoughts. "You know, I read it every day" he added. Okay two people had told me that but I didn't know there were others. It was good to know. In fact one finisher yesterday told me my blog made a big difference for him as far as completing the half marathon in the time he did is concerned. So anyways, here is the update. Shall I call it the race report?
By the race day, I believed I had fully recovered from the stomach infection. My thinking was since it was a purely digestive problem, the losses made were recovered by my eating on Saturday. My lungs, heart and muscles were still OK. Or so I believe.
Making sure the target is clear to all and Sundry
Too Much Energy - Trying to Fly
So we gathered at the assembly area at 6am. And we are talking thousands of runners. Some with Obama messages, some wearing costumes that will take your mind off the race. I had my target time behind my back in cross hairs. The weather was perfect. I was strong. The crowd was perfect and the race was started in time. Nothing could go wrong. Except for some runners who thought they could be birds.
The lady on the left is frantically trying to fly with one hand. Rosemary clearly doesn't approve of the stunt. She is wondering: "Why cant some people just accept that they are not birds and settle down? What if she comes crashing down?"
After so not flying, she settles for being a bat instead and perches her excited wing on the nearest tree, er person, then flashes some teeth. Kamau thinks its a wiser move. Let her hang there. Flying should be left to birds. I agree. All she has to do now is learn to point her head downwards and her feet up.
After a few photos, stories, catching up and assuring the nervous first timers, the gun went off. But we weren't moving!
"Has the race started?" I asked Sikuku.
"But people are not moving!"
"They are moving at the front"
So we sort of waited until spaces started opening between us and people around us started moving and we surged forward trying to occupy every single open space that showed up. We basically started running off the road on the pavement with Sikuku in a bid to overtake people. Its after one Kilometer that we started running on the road.
At the 3rd Km mark we were surging forward quite well. Overtaking dozens and hundreds of people every minute.
"One Forty!" Someone shouted behind my back. I didn't turn back.
"One forty! I like that. I am One forty five!"
"Hell yeah!" I shouted back without turning to record the face behind the voice.
"I am with you!" He shouted back.
"Lets go!" I said. I didn't want to engage in handshaking and a conversation while the clock was ticking.
And so we surged on. The road was white. It was white all over. Everyone was wearing a white t shirt and at the 4th Kilometer Mark, I passed Nderitu and some dude explaining that I was chasing a white lady ahead of me. "Sawa" they said as I raced after the lean lady in black.
The Elusive Lady in Black
There was this white lady that I chased for about 2Kms who I thought could be my pace setter since I could hand on her for that kind of distance. She was lean. She wore all black and seemed to run quite slowly. Her speed seemed manageable. Since she was in black, she was easy to spot so I decided to hand on her. But slowly, she opened the gap and by the 5th Km, she was gone. Sikuku told me his knee was acting up so I was on my own.
People around me seemed inconsistent. I passed most of them and did not see anyone interesting or consistent enough to use as a pacesetter. So I stuck to my pace and occasionally glanced at my watch.
10th Km Mark - behind time
I crossed the 10th K at 46mins. This was neither good or bad. I went on. Staying focused, taking a little water and thinking about speed and avoiding getting absent-minded and sliding into auto pilot. I met Shiko at around the 13th Km mark and passed her. She was going for the full marathon.
I also met a former schoolmate called Oscar and passed him at around the 16th Km Mark. Then a white muscular lady came from behind and passed me as if I were walking, so did some two Brazilians and a Chinese runner. They just zoomed past. Negative splitters, I thought.
The Champions overtake the runningwriter
At around the 18th Km Mark, I felt strong and my legs got into the routine of gripping the tarmac and pushing me forward and I passed several people. At the 20th Km, I was tired but not done and I maintained a comfortable pace to finish at 1:40:42 by my watch. The first guy crossed the line in 1:02 and the marathon winner finished in 2:10. Chiku's time was 4:23 Sikuku 1:46, Yvonne 3:01, Wangare 3:23, Maggie 2:55, GK in 1:54 and Ogutu 2:34.
The Next Race's Goal
My certificate time was 1:42:14 and I am happy with that. I consider my goal met and I am setting a new one for next year. I want to fly and I am aiming at 1:30.
According to Macmillan's calculator, I need the following:
Sub 19mins 5K
Sub 40mins 10K
1 Hour 1mins 15K
I intend to erect the following as the three pillars of my training:
Stretch my long runs to 30Kms every Sunday. Starting from 25Kms. Look for Hilly routes.
Run 4-5 times a week. One of these should be tempo and one a speed run. Do speed runs on the track from February.
The Entire Team Some still wailing in pain. But Maggie's feelings are much too deep to vocalize. They find expression in her face instead. Trick question: How many people in the photo above are trying to fly? Post the answer in a comment below. Which of the above runners wants to Kill the photographer with his/her bare hands? Correct answers will earn you a Kosewe lunch.
Dreams that were born and nurtured on the road become real at the Finish line. These three men are making sure they leave their footprints at the finish line. Kamau is assisting his left foot leave the footprint. Rigging!