Aramco Houston Half Marathon & Olympic Trials Marathon

Forgive me for not posting an update on this past weekend’s events sooner.  I was hoping to find some good pictures from the race to include in this post, but I haven’t come across any yet, so I figured I’d go ahead and post.  If I find any, I’ll insert them later.

I consider myself extremely fortunate to have been a part of this weekend in Houston, not only because I had the opportunity to watch the Olympic Trials in person for the first time, but also because I was racing in my debut half marathon the following day (I’ll talk more about this in a minute).  As far as the Oly Trials are concerned, I plan on competing in the marathon in the next Olympic cycle, so it was an incredible experience to basically have a run-through this time around of what to expect.

When I first arrived in my hotel room on the 9th floor a few days before the race, I looked out the window and realized I had an amazing sky-box view of the start/finish line.  “What a perfect place to watch the race from!” I thought to myself.  I would be really hard-pressed to find a better place to see the 111 men and 186 women who started the race empty their hearts and souls onto the streets of Houston.  But then it hit me – that’s hardly any better than watching it on TV!  Actually, watching it on TV might even trump that because at least then you could see what goes on in the back miles of the course.  So down to the st art/finish line I went where I could see my six teammates and numerous other runners I know 4 times throughout the race without moving a step.  The atmosphere at the street level was electric.  You better believe I was satisfied with my decision.

Photo by David J. Phillip

As the marathoners began crossing the finish line (see results and mile splits here), I was astounded by the overwhelming display of emotions I witnessed.  For some, I saw tears of disappointment as they failed to achieve their Olympic aspirations this time around.  For others who made the Olympic team, ran a personal best, or were somehow otherwise relieved or satisfied with their accomplishment, they were tears of joy.  Either way, I realized something that morning.  I realized that runners are a special breed of human beings.  We’re all connected by this inner understanding of what it means to be a runner and why we all love running so much.

Photo by Richard Carson

Before I talk about my half marathon race, allow me to go off on this tangent for a moment.  I recently read Running the Edge by Adam Goucher and Tim Catalano, which I highly recommend for runners of all experience and capabilities.  In it, Catalano (a high school teacher and coach) relates the story of a young girl who came to him “looking for answers for why her friends loved running so much” (p. 27).  His response really stuck with me and made me think.  He said, “Pretend I am a person who can only see the world in black-and-white.  Now imagine you need to explain to me what the color blue looks like.  How would you do it?” (p. 28).  Some people may be able to put words to their love of running, but for others, the next time somebody asks you why or how you love running so much, I encourage you to give them this response and see how they react.

Anyway, to get back to the point of this post, the main reason for my travel to Houston was for the Aramco Houston Half Marathon on Sunday.  It was an early morning that started at 3:45 AM when, as usual, I woke up ten minutes before my alarm went off.  I swear I could never set another alarm for the rest of my life and probably still always be on time.  After taking a quick shower to wake my body up, I ate a light breakfast of oatmeal and a banana – just enough to fuel my body for the race but not so much that it would upset my stomach or leave me feeling heavy and bloated.  My teammate, Jon Grey, and I went down to the elite athlete area around 5:45 to start our warmup for the 7:00 start time.

At 7:00 AM on the dot, we were off.  My plan was to run approximately 4:50 pace throughout the race, and what do you know, our first mile was exactly 4:50 and there was a pack of four of us.  “Perfect,” I thought, “smooth, controlled, and easy – this is right where I need to be.”  Right then, the pace quickened into the high 4:40s for the next mile, low 4:40s for the subsequent mile, and within another couple of miles, we hit one in the high 4:30s.  Unfortunately, it was here that I had to make a tough decision.  Based on my current fitness level, I knew I had to back off a bit; otherwise, I’d risk completely blowing up.  It was a particularly difficult call to make because I knew that leaving that group would put me running solo for much of the race, but I had to accept it.  That was around mile 5.  I then ran on my own until somewhere between miles 9 and 10, when I sensed another runner coming up on me.  I knew that no matter what, I needed to latch onto whoever this was when they came up next to me.  It turned out to be Scott Smith of McMillan Elite and the two of us traded leads back and forth and pushed one another in the final few miles before he was able to get to the finish line 8 seconds ahead of me to place 6th, while I finished in 7th.  I ran 63:26, a decent debut time and an average pace of 4:51 per mile.

Though I was at least satisfied with my result, I know there are a lot of areas I can improve upon, and I am excited to get back to training and shift my focus to my next race, which will be the Gate River Run/US Championship 15k in Jacksonville on March 10.  Of course, I will update you sooner than that!  Until next time…

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