Glass City Half Marathon - Race Report
Or, How NOT To Train For a Half Marathon!
For years now I have heard nothing but good things about the Glass City Marathon and Half Marathon (Toledo OH) from many of my running buds. So when my daughter Alexis contacted me late last fall about entering the half marathon with her it was an easy decision made easier that the entry fee was very reasonable too!
Last fall I was almost fully recovered from my knee surgery in April. Little did I know then that shortly after signing up for the Glass City Half I would need to endure a series of ligament strains to my other knee before begin any serious attempt to return to my race shape. Not to bore you with too many details, the bottom line is that for the four months leading up to race day I only averaged less than 30 miles each month! I should have been training on not less than 30 miles each week!
So in late March my knee was finally feeling better and I plotted a training plan to get be to the starting line. I had yet to complete any training run longer than 6 miles and only had a few of those. Most of my training runs were closer to 3 to 4 miles. All at a very slow pace for me, at least 2 minutes per mile slower than normal. With just 3 weeks before race day I attempted a 10 mile run. It wasn’t easy but I did complete the long run without any knee issues. The next week I did the same. I need to thank my running buds Mimi and Raffaella for letting me tag along with them on separate runs. Each of them were training for their own marathons. I do NOT recommend any runner jump their training miles the way that I was doing for myself.
A Mythical Runner ?
There is another part of my story too. For more than 10 year I have been collaborating running experiences with a group of Master (over 40 years of age) Runners online. We are from all over the country as well as other parts of the world. Over the years I had met a few of my cyber running buds at various races. Back in 2012 at the Detroit Marathon I had made arrangements for two such buds, Betsy (Toledo OH) and Karen (TX) to join the 501 group at Cobo Joe’s Bar in Detroit before and after the race. I met up with Betsy and her husband but needed to leave shortly before many runners finished the marathon. Thus I never did meet up with Karen that day. She has claimed ever since that I did not exist! Certainly I was only some sort of imaginary runner!
About a week prior to the race I learned that Karen was traveling from her home in Texas to run Glass City! She was joining Betsy again only this time in Betsy’s hometown marathon. So, we had connected and made plans to meet briefly before the start of the race. Well, as you might guess, that never happened. We exchanged a few texts on race morn but frankly the size of the University of Toledo campus and thousands of runners not a great combination to meet anyone.
On Your Mark . . .
Snow had actually been predicted for the early morning hours of race day. Instead runners were greeted with very cool temps (38*) and a modest wind with plenty of moisture in the air. While many runners prefer these conditions, I do not. I need sun, cool temps, and minimal breeze. Was this a sign?
I had been slated to start in the first wave, and start following the elites. Well this was not going to happen. But when I arrived at the start line I figured that I might as well take advantage of my first wave start so I can get this race over as soon as possible. Apparently my guardian running angel was looking out for me that morning and I accidentally did start with the second wave, about 2 mins later.
The Early Miles
The course is known for being a very flat course. Sounds nice, but frankly when you train on rather hilly terrain a runner can actually start out faster than they should. So I focused on just running relaxed. My goal to simply finish regardless of pace and time was on my mind. I felt like I was running very slow. Many other runners were passing me. I had figured that Karen was way ahead of me and I would go on living as only a myth in her mind. I also was expecting Betsy to be passing me soon.
Then at about mile marker one, I heard a voice come from my back saying “you really do exist!” It was Karen! She had spotted me from my description. We chatted briefly, I told her to go get her PR! Then as she pulled away from me I noticed the back of her running shirt. There was something about two axes? I figured it had to do with her local running club down in Texas.
During the next few miles several other running buds from the 501 Club also passed me! While it was great to see these folks I realized that this was a totally new experience for me. Not many of my race buds pass me during a race. Many will be in front of me from the start and I have no hope in catching them, but never have I been the one being passed. It was helpful to have the encouragement.
The Middle Miles
Then somewhere approaching mile 5, I noticed this lady running next to me with the same double axe design as Karen’s on the back of her shirt. I thought she surely must be from the same running club down in Texas as Karen! So I asked her where she was from, she looked at me and in a very surprised tone of voice said “Hi Lee!”. It was yet another lady from the Masters Runners online group! This was Laura, a runner from northern Michigan who I had actually met years ago at a Crim race!
Laura and I caught up on old times, she explained how the shirts were a part of a bachelorette party a group of ladies had organized for the bride who was running the full marathon! We then went on to compare notes about our training for Glass City. Neither one of us had trained very much. Apparently Laura’s training was better than mine as I needed to walk at the next water stop and she kept going, slowly pulling away from me.
As I was about to approach the six mile mark the sun started to clear the clouds away. My decision to run in shorts was the right one, I also needed to remove my hat on occasion too to avoid overheating. Nonetheless, it felt good to run in the sun even if there was still a chill in the air. I forced myself to “run tall” and enjoy the many beautiful homes along this part of the route. The homes and street reminded me of running along a certain stretch of the Crim route. Hawthorn street in Flint with it’s large homes, tree lined streets were very similar. The only difference was that in Flint the stretch of large old homes was not very long. In Toledo, the homes seemed to stretch on and on, very beautiful neighborhoods.
I had been checking my pace throughout and I figured I had been able to keep it slightly under 10 mins per mile. Not bad from where I had figured I would be. I also felt that I could maintain this pace. Then the mid point of the half marathon came. I had briefly challenged myself to think I could possibly run a negative split ! Well, that thought only lasted about a quarter mile. I could feel myself working harder and not running any faster. But, I still managed to throw in a brief surge of speed (that’s a very relative term) and thus was somehow able to maintain close to my overall average pace of slightly under 10 mins.
The Final Miles
It seemed like mile 8 was lasting forever, were is that next mile mark? There was good reason why it seemed this way to me too. It would be my slowest mile split of the race. There was also the one and only hill to conquer too. Truth is, it was more of a mound than a true hill. Regardless, I was not liking it, so stopped my watch and walked to the next drive which just happened to be near the crown of this “hill”. I did not walk far but it felt good to catch my breath a bit and I continued. The sun was starting to burn off the water from the road surface. Thankfully the cooler temps were still here.
I was looking forward to the 10 and 12 mile marks. The 10 mile mark would represent my farthest distance run since last September. I knew from studying the race route that shortly after the 12 mile mark there is a sharp right turn and it would not be too much farther to the final finish line. So in my head I had cheated a bit and figured I simply needed to survive to 12 after which, I could breeze to the finish.
The 10 mile mark eventually came and shortly thereafter I walked a short way at the following water stop. Less than a 5K to go I told myself. Besides, all I really needed to do was to survive to the 12 mile mark, right? It was a bit of a struggle after 10, not surprising at all given my minimal training. In any race, you really perform only as well as you actually train. There is no way to cheat a weak training plan.
I survived those very sunny miles as we ran into bright morning sunlight. Now I was regretting I did not wear my sunglasses. Instead I improvised, pulled the rim cap over my eyes and began to run a bit faster as I pushed towards the 12 mile mark.
It was during this push to 12 that I passed this one young runner who I had exchanged many leads with since the early miles. I told myself this was the final pass. I would not let this runner pass me! As my foot hit the pavement at the 12 mile mark I started to push my pace. That right turn I had anticipated was nowhere in sight! Ahrrg! Never mind, press on Lee. I told myself the faster I run now the faster I can finish this half marathon! Spectators were shouting to me “the beer is near”! Yes, they do serve beer to the runners after the race. I could not stomach the thought of anything being consumed at that point, I just continued to press on until finally that final turn was just ahead!
Not being familiar with this course at all presents a series of separate problems. While I was very pleasantly surprised to see that when I made that last turn there was a nice downhill path to the finish line inside the University of Toledo’s football stadium. But the faster I tried to run the more unsure I was about how much farther I really had to hold this nearly full sprint pace! There were a series of small turns as the final path into the stadium narrowed, I still could not see the finish line.
Judging from a photo I had seen on the race’s website, I assumed I would need to hold my sprint pace for nearly the entire length of a football field! It didn’t matter, I was here to finish strong, there is no letting up now!
Much to my surprise the finish line was at the 20 yard line and I did not need to run another 80 yards! Finally! The Finish! I smiled and raised my arms in celebration for the cameras! I did it!
Volunteers wrapped me in a Mylar warmth blanket, followed by another volunteer placing a huge medal around my neck. Sure, I was far from the front pack but I shared the thrill of a successful completion of a goal. The most important thing any runner can do after finishing strong in any race is to keep moving. So with plenty of adrenaline still flowing in my veins, my tired body kept walking around the football field. Eventually meandering to the party tents outside the stadium. There I found Coach Doug and several other members from the 501 Club, pizza, oatmeal cookies, garlic bread, and beer were the perfect Sunday morning breakfast on this day.
The official results had me finish with a total time of 2:11:37 or 10:03 min/mile, which includes my few short walking and a potty break. However my GPS device 2:09:48 or 9:52 min/mile. Either way, I consider this a great success given my background for the past year. This will also serve as a great start to my next half marathon in four weeks in Traverse City MI, The Bayshore Half Marathon.
So if you are thinking that this is the end of the story, well sorry to disappoint you but it is not! I too thought it was as I found my way back to my car for the drive home and fantasized about a long afternoon nap. Not the case as for when I reached the parking area none of the cars were allowed to leave! Per the campus police we would need to wait over 3 more hours because the marathon route surrounded the exits.
Not to fret, I figured it was a good time to watch the marathoners finish from my trapped view at the 25 mile mark. I looked for my friends Raffaella, Karen, and Betsy and cheer each of them on for their final mile. Somehow I missed Raffaella and Karen. This made me more determined not to miss Betsy! So, after a long line of marathoners of all shapes and paces run past me, there came Betsy! I spotted her long before she knew who I was, but when I reached out my hand for a high 5 and called her name she knew instantly! I think I was able to give her a bit of a final boost as she approached the long final downhill to the finish line.
It wasn’t long after Betsy passed that the officer figured a way to let the imprisoned cars to be released and yes, I was on my way home to that nap.
I now understand why my running friends rave about The Glass City Marathon and Half Marathon. I anxiously look forward to being more competitive in the half marathon next year!
I started this post by indicating that I entered this race only because I was convinced by my daughter Alexis to run it with her. Once again (third time now?) Alexis and her sister Bridgett convinced me to run a race that I was not planning to enter, and each time, each of them failed (with good reason) to make it to the starting line! Nonetheless, I look forward to each of them running with me next year too!
Thanks for taking your valuable time to read this entire post. I know it is long, but then, it was a long race too! I look forward to your feedback.
Thanks and Run Happy !