A gunshot goes off in downtown Des Moines and we are underway. And when I say “a gunshot goes off,” I mean “without warning.” We didn’t hear a “ready...set...” or anything. It nearly caused a couple thousand heart attacks, but regardless, we are now off and running.
A shot of downtown Des Moines
I started out feeling very comfortable, running an easy pace. The crowd at the start of big races is always congested in the early going, so it is best to just relax and let things sort out. The first mile passed at 8:30 for me. A good pace, faster than I thought I would go, but I felt fine. I figured if I could settle in at this pace, I would end up with a pretty good day.
This race, like other big city races, has “pace teams,” or runners talented enough to run a set pace who will run at a tempo to help the participants achieve a certain time goal. My goal; stay ahead of the girl carrying the sign that said “2:00” for the half marathon! So far, so good.
The course winds its way out of downtown and into the scenic Waterworks Park. Here, we literally have miles of roads that wind thorough lakes, fields, and woods. The trees were just starting to show a hint of color. Des Moines is really a beautiful city, and anyone who says otherwise has never been here.
I keep clipping off miles, reeling off consistent times in the low 8:00 per mile range. Normally I don’t run with my watch, and this may sound strange, but when I am on a training run and want to check my race pace, there is a song I go over in my head. It is by a band called The Sundays, and the song is entitled “I Feel.” The song happens to have a three-count rhythm where the beats fall in synch with my footsteps during my race tempo. Sounds weird, but it works for me. I would be doing that today to periodically check my pace.
At about the 5 mile mark, I ended up having a several minute long conversation with another runner regarding the water bottle I was carrying. My Amphipod bottle has a strap that hooks right over the back of your hand hand, so you really don’t even have to grip it. This gentleman was asking me if it felt awkward to carry it, did I have to get used to it, etc. I told him how much I loved it, that it took virtually no time to get used to, and I think I could have sold him one!
Even though I had my bottle, I grabbed some Gatorade at the next aid station and promptly splashed some into my eyes by accident. A word of warning to all of you; Gatorade stings! That was unpleasant to say the least, but the situation resolved itself quickly enough. I kept plugging away.
Between miles 8 and 9, the course took a new route different from last year. We did a lap around Grays Lake Park, which was on a beautiful path and over a long footbridge crossing the lake. I thought this change to the course was a great addition. Very pretty!
I was still feeling good, even this deep into the race. I remember looking at my watch at the 10 mile mark and seeing 1 hour, 22 minutes. And, I had just passed the pace team leader carrying the "1:50" sign. This was great. I was well on my way to achieving my goals with only a 5k distance to go!
With the downtown skyline in sight, the runners crossed over the dramatic George Washington Carver Bridge and headed back into the city. At the 12 mile split, my watch was showing 1 hour, 37 minutes and some change. I was finally starting to feel some fatigue now. The lactic acid was building up, and I felt like my pace was slowing. I was starting to drag. Cue The Sundays:
Don’t...wake me up yet...."
Finally we made the turn on to 3rd Street where the finish line was in sight. That was exactly what I needed to see! It makes it so much easier to suck it up when you see the big banner at the end. With that, I mustered up what strength I had to try for a little extra kick at the end. The guy on the P.A. even announced my name as I was approaching the finish.
I crossed the finish line in 1 hour, 46 minutes, and 42 seconds. That was almost 15 minutes better than last year’s time, and I established a new personal record for the half marathon. I was absolutely elated, and I couldn’t stop smiling. There is nothing like the feeling of finishing a big city race with hundreds of people cheering at the finish line. It was so much fun to see a summer’s worth of hard work pay its dividends. And I was proud to be able to do this in honor of my family on my Grandpa's birthday.
Mary, Louis, Bernice, and Ogden; this one was for you.