Okay, I'll stop talking about myself in the third person.
We all made our way to the start, which was about a 1/4 mile walk from where we were. Sometimes, just making the TREK to the start can be fairly treacherous, as we have to walk up a grassy hill, usually covered in snow and/or ice. My friends and I, boy can we run, but we're not the most graceful people in the world (we all have good stories about "falling down" while running).
The gun goes off and we do too. The first mile was pretty slow, 9:45 to be exact, but we started near the back of the pack and that's to be expected. But, we picked it up from there, averaging about an 8:20 pace over the next three miles. Of course, I knew this race and I knew where the hills were, so I was just biding my time.
Inevitably, John and I got separated after the first 5 or 6 miles, but that was okay. It's always nice to start off with friends, but you have to run your race. Training runs are one thing, but when you pay the money and have a number on you, all bets are off. So, it was all good with me. And, I had the iPod with me, so I could keep myself entertained.
Running by the mile 10 marker, I started getting the anticipatory butterflies about Warner Hill Road. It's one of those things you just have to "get up". I kept telling myself to take short, quick steps and maintain as even of an effort as I could in order to conserve my energy. Lap 11 came in at an 8:53. Brilliant! Lap 12 was a 9:08. I'll take it!!! I knew the last 4 miles would be a whole new ballgame. In other words, the worst of it is over. It's go time.
I rebounded on Lap 13 with an 8:30 mile. I was actually getting stronger post-climb; picking up steam. Lap 14 was even faster (8:27). Lap 15 was indicative of my desire to just "get this bleeping race done", an impressive 8:16. All that remained was one more mile. One more mile and I could breathe a sigh of relief, go inside, get warm and get food!!!
All of a sudden, I turn to my right and who do I see?? John!!! Somehow, he went by me in the beginning, but I must have passed him at some point, because I was in front of him (remember I talked about that whole tunnel vision thing?). He couldn't have come along at a better time. He gave me an extra spring in my step, and I'd like to think I did the same for him. We sprinted to the finish, me coming in at 2:18:29 and him one second behind me (after all, he IS a gentleman...ladies first and all of that). We hugged in sheer elation! How exciting for both of us. In 2009, I ran an official time of 2:25:10 and he came in at 2:28:07. We both had another year of distance running under our belts and it definitely showed.
From there, we set off to find our friends. We caught up with Ted, who ran an impressive 2:14:09. It was impressive because, first of all, he beat us and secondly, because it was the furthest he had ever run before. You see, Ted had only begun racing last August. Yes, only five months ago (don't people like that just piss you off? Just kidding, Ted). In fact, he was training for his first marathon, the LA marathon, which he was running on 3/21.
Once inside, we focused on putting back all the calories we had burned plus more, I'm sure. We talked about our own individual experiences about being on the course and how it felt for us. That has to be one of the high points of being a runner. The camaraderie. You can show up at a race and go up to any number of people and strike up a conversation like you've known them forever. It's such a strong bond that only other runners understand. It's an amazing feeling when you connect with another person like that.
We talked about what the next race on the horizon would be. As it turned out, we were all setting our sights on the "Half at the Hamptons" which was a 13.1 mile excursion on Hampton Beach. No bathing suits required, folks. This was taking place on Sunday, February 21st. Remember...it's New England...and it's February...and it's WINTER!