This will go down as one of my most memorable races. It was my 150th race in a little more than three years, so that’s a bit of a milestone in itself, but more importantly it was my all-time fastest half marathon of the 28 half marathons that I’ve run. I was amazed when I reached the finish line in 1:31:57, which is 14 seconds faster than I ran in The Scream a few months ago. I never thought I could run a better time than The Scream since it was loaded with 8 or 9 miles of downhill running, so a PR on this fairly hilly course in Greenville, South Carolina, was something I didn’t even consider before running. My goal going in was to finish somewhere in the 1:34 to 1:37 range and I would have been happy anywhere in that area.
With 2,635 finishers in the three races — marathon (436), half marathon (1,268), and 5k (931) — this is one of the largest racing events of the year in Upstate South Carolina. This year the half marathon was the second race in the Running Journal Grand Prix series, which I have run for the past two years and plan on continuing this year as well, at least until my 60th birthday in February when I’ll be changing age groups.
For the most part the three races were on three separate courses although a few times during the race we ran side-by-side with runners from the full marathon for short distances. The full marathon was an out-and-back course but the half marathon was more of a loop that ran through different areas around Greenville. We ran through city parks, down greenways, and through business areas and scenic neighborhoods. It was a beautiful course but as slow as you’re traveling when you’re on foot, there’s only so much sightseeing you can do when you’re in a race. I started out fast as I always do and a half mile or so into the race there were only four runners ahead of me. I’m accustomed to being passed often as the race progresses but on this day I wasn’t passed nearly as much as usual, ending up 35th overall out of 1,268 finishers for 3rd place in the Grand Masters category.
I started the race with Butch Holt and Louis Messina, two other Charlotte area runners who are following the Running Journal Grand Prix this year. Both won their age groups in this race, Butch in the 60-64 age group and Louis in the 65-69 age group. Butch is one of the fastest runners in the 60-64 age group in North Carolina, and in February I’ll be moving up to that group as well. Today I jumped out ahead and wasn’t sure where Butch was, but I felt certain that he wasn’t far behind. Sure enough, when I got to a big turn on a hill 8 miles into the race, I took a peek back and Butch was right behind me. He’s caught me plenty of times in races so it’s never a surprise, and I try to look at things philosophically… I’m running as best I can, and if anybody goes ahead of me it’s because they’re able to run faster, at least at that moment. As mentioned earlier, I get passed a lot and it’s something I’m used to and don’t fret over. I’ll just finish the race wherever I’m capable of finishing and I hope everyone else does the same.
Usually when Butch passes me in a race he’s out of sight within a minute or two. On this day though, after he passed he wasn’t leaving me completely behind. I looked at my heart rate and it was 165. Earlier in the race I had been comfortable running at a heart rate of 168 beats per minute so I stepped it up just a little to get to 168, and before I knew it I was within about 2 or 3 seconds of Butch. At one point 9.6 miles into the race I actually caught him for a few seconds before he took off again, although I was able to stay about 2 or 3 seconds behind.
I passed the 10-mile clock and just caught a glimpse of it. I didn’t really catch the time but I felt like I was doing pretty well and I decided to rev up my heart rate a little more from 168 to 170 and see how I felt. Everything seemed right so I decided to hold it there if I could over the last 3 miles. Usually in those last few miles of a half marathon I’m fading fast and slowing down to the 7:30 range, give or take, but today everything was clicking. I ran mile 11 at 7:05, then mile 12 at 7:07. I caught Butch somewhere around the 12th mile, took a chance on passing him, then tried to hold on. Mile 13 for me was at a 6:44 pace and I’m pretty sure that’s the fastest 13th mile I’ve ever run. I crossed the finish and took a look back, and there was Butch just a few steps behind. I’m hoping over the next few years while we’re in the same age group I can make things interesting by keeping up with him, at least part of the time.
I should add that regarding the race itself, it’s one of the best. The organizers, the Greenville Track Club, in particular race director Ed Hughes, really know how to put on a good race. The post race food was fabulous, the long-sleeved tech shirt and design is easily one of the best shirts I’ve received in 150 races. Finally, the finish line is inside Fluor Field, home of the Greenville Drive, the Class A minor league baseball team, which has to be one of the greatest minor league stadiums in the country. It’s designed like Fenway Park complete with the 30-foot high “Green Monster” wall in left field, and runners enter in right field and then run three-fourths of the way around the inside of the park to the finish line near home plate.
9 – 1-10 Website (Information, results, registration, photo links, etc.)
6 – 1-10 Awards (Quality of medals, trophies, etc.) (1 to 10)
8 – 1-10 Awards Presentation (PA system, winning times, etc.) (1 to 10)
9 – 1-10 Food for Race Participants (1 to 10)
10 – 1-10 T-Shirts (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
6 – 4/6 Part of Race Series (Grand Prix, etc.) (6=Yes and 4=No)
5 – 0/5 Professional Photography (5=Yes and 0=No)
6 – 4/6 Chip Timing (6=Yes and 4=No)
7 – 3/7 Certified Course (by USA Track & Field) (7=Yes and 3=No)
7 – 1-10 Course (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
4 – 1-10 Parking (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
8 – 1-10 Entertainment (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
10 – 0-10 Age Groups (10 if 5-year groups; 0 if 10-year groups)
0 – 0/5 Indoor Shelter from Elements (0 if none; 5 if provided)
6 – 1-10 Bathroom Facilities
TOTAL – 101
Age Group: 1 of 29 (3rd place Grand Masters)
Overall: 35 of 1,268