Monday, November 16, 2015

Seven More Miles.

Early on the morning of the Marine Corps Marathon, I lay in bed figuring out what time my running buddy Leah might be passing by milepost 19 if everything went just right for her in her quest to break four hours.  That requires a 9:09 pace so I figured that nineteen 8:30 miles, if she passed the start line right when the race started at 8 a.m., would have her running by Seventh Street on Jefferson Avenue in the District on the Mall at the earliest at about 10:42 a.m.
At 10:35 that morning I was in running clothes at the agreed upon spot on the Mall at the nineteenth mile marker of the race, anxiously scanning the faces of an endless stream of runners going by.  It's hard to pick out an individual runner in such conditions because you can't stand in the roadway and let them stream around you, you have to pick one curb or the other and watch the entire street from the side.

The four hour pace group went by, a little clump of about thirty runners following two runners holding up signs saying 4:00.  No Leah, and as the minutes passed, I began to worry that I'd missed her.
It had been raining earlier but it was now dry and the day was heating up, with the temperature climbing through the fifties and the humidity starting to rise.  I discarded a cotton t-shirt I'd been wearing to keep warm while I waited but I was still overdressed with a long sleeve running shirt and a light vest.
About eight minutes after the four hour pace group went by I spotted Leah, running steadily at a good pace, by herself amongst a horde of runners.  She looked good for someone who had just run nineteen miles, but then she still had seven miles to go.

I jumped into the race and fell in beside her.  For me it was showtime, because for weeks at noon I'd been practicing running six-milers at what I perceived to be a nine-minute per mile pace.

I had practiced running fifty-four minute six-milers diligently because I sure didn't want to let Leah down and falter as the miles rolled by at a nine-minute pace and perhaps have to drop out earlier than at the last quarter-mile-to-go spot at the base of the last hill rising to the MCM finish line at the Iwo Jima statue in Arlington.  I lied a little to Leah right off the bat by telling her that the four-hour pace group was only about four minutes ahead of her, but she seemed completely uninterested in that and we didn't discuss it further.

I didn't want to discourage her by making it seem like the four-hour group was too far ahead to catch but she knew something that I didn't, that because of the crush of people at the start, she didn't even pass the start line until twenty minutes into the race.  And Leah knows that the steady pace wins the race.

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