After years of Ironmans, Ultramarathons, Marathons from Balitmore to Boston what is so Super about a local half marathon? Well . . .. first the Superhero Half Marathon is sponsored by the Morristown Running Company and benefits the Christopher Reeve Foundation. Most of you recall the horse riding accident that severed Reeve’s spinal cord and the crusade that Superman embarked upon to raise awareness and funding to research spinal injuries.
Second, while I ran this race last year in 1:42 flat, today is the first half marathon distance for my River 2 Coast Crewmate, Michael “Coondawg” Cooney. Also racing is Dianna “Mamma” Carroll, Jim “Czar 2.0” Connelly, and Highlands neighbors Angelica Burns and Corrie Thomas.
The Superhero course is comprised of two loops a 6.7 mile first followed by a 6.4 mile one. From McGinty Park in Morris Township, NJ the loop mixes in residential streets with two miles of the Loantoka Trail running from Kitchell Pond through to Loantoka Lane.
Sunday at 7am it has been raining for: i(nsert here) 1. days, 2. months, 3. since Noah built his Ark. However, the start area at McGinty Park is well organized and Coons, Mamma, and Czar 2.0 perform our pre-race routines with ease. The field boasts 1200 starters plus relays teams.
Coons and I bypass the portos for tree spraying, then we find a spot 100 people back from the start line. Coons is nervous, and CZAR instructs him to seek a sustainable pace. 13 miles of running without stopping to walk is no joke! We say hey to Corrie who is running the 1st leg of her relay and before we know it the gun goes off.
After Boston a month ago, my goal is to run an even split race as fast as possible. I settle into a comfortable but pressing pace and the field in front of me rapidly thins out. Each loop has two small climbs, at mile 4 and mile 5 but otherwise the course is slightly downhill. I lean forward forcing me to lengthen my strides to gobble up as much ground as possible. I find my rhythm and feel my heart rate rise. I am running and competing and am happy. I am Old School and do not have a watch, or HR monitor and my experience tells me I am running sub 8s at about a 155-160 HR. My group enters the trails at mile 2 at 15:20, or 7:35 pace. I wonder how fast Coons went out? Too fast apparently, as he hits the trail just a minute behind in 16:30. CZAR 2.0 must now rein him in before he blows up.
I walk the steep top of the hill at mile 4 but otherwise feel good and my split is still 31 minutes or 7:45 pace. “Tim”, let’s keep this up for another 1:42 finish just like last year. I turn over my feet and complete the first 6.7 miles in 51:15, right on 7:40 pace.
I start the 2nd loop on my own with few runners around. I let my brain wander and reflect on the here and now. Here is where I would usually preech about the importance of gauging fueling and hydration strategies, and even in race ingestion of salt to maintain electrolyte levels. And for you the reader this is (insert here): 1. informative, 2. overkill, 3. egotistical drivel.
I reflect on how great it is to be running close to home, on familiar trails and with people I know. I think selfishly about my own race, time, and efforts as compared to prior ones. It is a damp misty Sunday morning, but I am out here doing what I love. My pace rivals that of 7:45s when I first began running 15Ks at the Midland Run ans the Sparta Runa round the lake over 10 years ago. Today’s effort proves to me yet again that I am still capable of achieving solid results.
Running is solitary but I reflect on my role as a leader, inspiring others, and serving as a role model. How are my friends running today? I have not seen Angelica but sense she is nearby. We typically run the same pace. Czar is planning to pace Coon so they are probably hitting 8:50s. Dianna is gauging her fitness to prepare a serious run up to a marathon this fall, (Hopefully New York!) Corrie is a much better runner than she gives herself credit for with great form. (Check out her race pictures!)
I focus on Coon. A year ago, he had arthroscopic knee surgery. He has worked hard at rehab and getting back to running again. At 40 years old, he could easily justify giving up fitness and adopting a sedentary lifestyle as a Dad focusing on his work and kid’s activities. Yet here he is running his 1st ever 13 mile distance after a handful of 10 mile training runs. With Czar 2.0 escorting him, I am confident that Coons will come through well under his target of 2 hours, and I think he has a 1:55 in him or 8:55 pace.
Through the trail section a second time I cut the corners and pass and push. I am suffering but not like Boston suffering. Slight twinges in my hamstring slow me some, but I push, push, push. The legs are dead and heavy. I think of hot coals, "lift those feet, ouch!" "lift those feet, ouch!" "Get them off the ground as fast as you can."
I maintain my pace but the effort to do so intensifies as my legs accrue lactic acid that is not being processed away. Damn, belly fat! I need to shed some baggage prior to the July 30 relay to compete with all those younger speed merchants on my assigned legs. What am I running this year? Hmmnn CZAR will probably saddle me with the uphill 8.7 mile Beast, or the 13 mile two man relay stage, or the 9.5 mile industrial warehouse leg. I WILL not get run over by a Kenyan girl like someone we all know!
By mile 11 my legs are ready to be done . . .”TIM focus now!” What other mental tricks can my rider tell my elephant? “Remember pain is temporary, Pride is forever. “ “Every second counts.” "The finish is only 15 minutes away." "Don’t spoil your 1:42 now!"
I push on the downhill section of Spring Valley road and pass several younger males. I am suffering and shuffle up the hill to mile 12. I pump my arms in a desperate attempt to maintain any speed up the hill. I come up on relays folks walking here at mile 6. I press and push. Another 10 minutes of agony and there around the corner, the finish line and crowds appear.
I am here. I get everything I can out of my body today.
The clock reads 1:42:12, good for 127th place overall, 97th male of 540, and 35th of 200 in my age group. My second half split is 50.57, or a 7:58 pace, evidencing how much I slowed down the last two miles. Not even splits, but I moved as fast as I could and know another mile at this pace would not be likely without cramping.
I spot Corrie who ran a great relay leg and we cheer in other runners. Then, sure enough, right at 1:55 Coon and Czar motor by. Excellent! 1:55:12 good for 379th out of 1200 starters!
That is a top 25% finish. Super!
We bump into Angelica who came in at a stellar 1:40 in 106th place, and her 45 year old Reach the Beach teammate Alison Jeffs ran a remarkable race in 1:32 and 7 minute pace for a 47th place overall. WOW! These nurse chicks are speed merchants!
Czar, Coon and I hit the finish line and Mamma brings it home in a respectable 2:15 showing stamina and perseverance in kicking off her season. She proves she will be ready for bigger races this year as she begins her training in earnest.
We collect our medals and swap stories as we drive the short 15 minutes back home to the Highlands by 11:15 am. River 2 Sea Highlanders are getting ready for our July 30th 92 miler!!