This was the first time Kristen and I ran a race together. A blind man can see that there’s an obvious height difference between us. The formula for run speed is basically stride frequency times stride length, so you can do the math.
This was my sixth half marathon. In all but the very first, I’ve had serious muscle problems in the final mile. Since my last race in the fall, I’ve worked with a physical therapist to train a more efficient stride. That’s paid off in spades: my short race pace is down to 8:00-8:30 minutes per mile from 9:00-9:30, and I can sustain that up to at least 10 miles. Nevertheless, it made good sense to not push my limits in my first return to the half distance - it would be all too easy to push myself too hard and encounter the same problems - so letting Kristen be my pace-setter was the smart money.
My very first half marathon in Rutledge, TN (read: flat) was my personal best with a finish of 2:07 and change. Kristen’s goal was to best 2:10 in this race, but I told her I was going to push her to beat my PR. She started off with a stellar pace — besting 8:45mpm for several of the first ten half-mile intervals. This is ridiculously easy to do when you’re running in a massive column of other runners. The excitement on race day is infectious and irresistible. I think she paid a little the early burst of speed in the third quarter, with just a couple of intervals peaking above 11:00mpm. As we got into the final quarter, however, her true second wind kicked in and she maintained a pace right around 9:30 at every interval in the final approach.
Running with my wife is a little bit of a trick for me. I can’t run directly beside her because it psychs her out. She sees me and subconsciously starts racing me, which could burn her out in a hurry. For most of the race, I need to keep about a pace behind her and a little off to the right. Sure, maybe it seems a little over-regimented, but she finds it reassuring to know I’m right behind her. But the plan was that when we reached the finish line, we’d cross it together.
Let me tell you, if you’re ever wanting for more photos of yourself on race day, run with your spouse. Most races will have an advance sensor ahead of the finish line so an announcer can call out runners’ names as they finish. When he called out our names together, it seems every camera angled towards us immediately. Our friends who had run the 8k were waiting for us, cheering.
Kristen was deeply emotional after the finish, but we’d both expected that. Running is more than just a simple pastime for us, and the euphoria of these moments are like religious experiences. The gun time clock read just over 2:06 as we crossed. Final results had us at 2:05:47, a clear personal record - for both of us. I’m very proud of my better half.
For the record, my legs felt better than they ever had after a half marathon. We went shopping that afternoon and by Monday my legs weren’t the least bit sore.
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