It was my 5th year running the Parkway Half Marathon and despite the heat, it turned out to be a good day for running. The course follows the water on the American River Trail from William Pond Park in Carmichael down past Sac State and back up basically the same path. In past years, I’m used to seeing about 20 guys run away from me in the first mile – keeping up a pace that I simply can’t manage. I may end up catching about 10 of them but after the first 800 meters or so, I never see the leaders.
Saturday was different. Maybe it was the heat. Maybe it was the fact that the race had been moved one weekend later than it has been in the last several years so the usual leaders may not have been there. Whatever the reason, the initial pace of the fastest runners felt close to manageable. Even the fastest runner was only running 5:50/mile. After about 3 miles at a 6:10 pace, I could still see all 7 of the runners in front of me… and I was feeling great.
During the next three miles I passed 2 runners and when I got to the turn around at mile 6.5, I could see that there was over a minute between me and the runner behind me. I was feeling good about my position in the race but I feared that I wouldn’t have anyone to run with for the last half… so I picked up my pace a bit to try and catch the #5 runner.
I probably should have eased into this surge a bit more slowly but I was still feeling really good. I caught #5 at about mile 7 and ran shoulder to shoulder with him. It felt energizing to run with someone. We didn’t talk but I imagined that if we had the energy we’d be saying things like, “let’s keep this pace and reel these next 4 in.” After a half mile, my partner’s pace started to fade so I pushed forward. After a few minutes, I lost him altogether.
I was now alone again. I still had over 4 miles to go and the heat was starting to make me feel heavy. The road was windy at this stage but I could occasionally see runner #4 – about 30-45 seconds in front of me… and then he was 60 seconds in front of me… and then he was gone. I settled into a pace that I knew would get me to the finish line and I hoped would keep me in 5th place. I was energized by seeing my family at the 12.5 mile mark and so picked up the pace quite a bit for the final stretch. I crossed the finish like at 1:22:46 – 5th overall. I was off my PR by a few minutes but it felt great considering the heat.
It’s 3 days later now and I’m feeling recovered and looking forward to what’s next – my first 50 miler in October.