This past Saturday I ran my first race of the year. It was held at the University of Illinois in Champaign/Urbana. They hosted a marathon, marathon relay, half marathon and 5k. Between 7-8 thousand people took place in the combined events. My friend Josh and I participated in the half marathon. What an experience! I loved every minute of it. The course was fantastic, and the community did a fabulous job getting out and supporting the runners. It was a good feeling having so many people shouting out encouragement and support as we ran down the streets.
The course was advertised to be flat and fast. I can attest to the flat bit, but am not too sure as to the fast part. Josh and I started out together and ran the first 7 or 8 miles together. Somewhere in that time frame I lost Josh. I kind of zoned out a bit and when I snapped back to reality Josh was no where to be found. So, from there on I carried on by myself just taking in the scenery and moment. At mile 10 I caught up to a old high school friend of mine who was running the full marathon. We chatted together for about half a mile until we half marathoners turned off to head to our finish. I was in for one amazing finish.
We were set to finish at the 50 yard line of Memorial Stadium. That in itself sounds great, actually doing it is hard to describe. We approached the stadium and ran along the exterior of it for about .1 miles before doubling back and heading to the field entrance. We turned and ran down the tunnel and emerged on the field to the sounds of cheering fans and supporters. Once on the field we ran along the back of the end zone until we reached the sideline. From there we turned up-field, ran the length of the field to the opposite endzone, turned and ran along the back of that endzone until we reached its midpoint. At that moment we turned and ran up the middle of the field to the finish at the 50 yard line. The jumbo tron was on capturing all the runners as we crossed the line. It was incredible. When I hit the stadium I was so pumped up and excited that I could not help but sprint the rest of the way. I crossed the finish with a time of 1:56:09. Not a bad time for a first half marathon. I hope to have some pictures soon to post.
Next weekend will be my second run of the year. I am running a much more modest distance of 4 miles, but with the lofty goal of placing in my age group. To do so, I am going to have to break 30 minutes. I think I have it in me.