Truthfully, that two-hour goal was what kept me going. I screwed up my right pinky toe pretty badly - apparently my fourth toe overlaps it a little, meaning I was basically 'stepping on' the pinky the whole way; it's quite literally one big blister now - and it was pretty painful, but I was doing mental math the entire way. Okay, I can still do it. Okay, if I reach mile marker 7 within the next 20 minutes I'll be on pace to do it. Okay, 11 minutes to go one more mile, let's go! I might have slacked off and walked most of the last half if my goal had only been to finish, but since the two-hour mark was still in sight, I kept trying. Which means it was a good example of goal setting. Hooray for me!
Anyway, I'm really sore now - I didn't know I even had muscles where that race found them - but I'm very glad I did it. It was a great experience. The River Run is one of Jacksonville's most famous events, drawing Olympians (there were eight in the field today) and recreational runners alike, so people were lining the streets throughout the entire course - out in front of their houses blasting boom boxes and spraying us with hoses, out in front of the stadium waving signs and cheering, giving us 'high fives' along the sides of the road, even sitting on top of the Hart Bridge! That encouragement went a long way with me. And the runners were a friendly bunch; everyone was talking and joking along the way, even with people they didn't know. I saw college students, old men with knee braces, couples, guys in Hawaiian skirts, overweight women packed into spandex, skinny middle-school boys, someone dressed up as SpongeBob, power walkers, and even - which really impressed me - one tiny nine-year-old blond girl named Sky, who ran the entire race in between her parents.
Monique stayed with me for the first two and a half miles or so, and then, when I wanted to walk for a minute, she kept going. She finished eight minutes ahead of me (and would have done even better if she hadn't had to make a prolonged stop at a Port-O-Let along the way... LOL!) She was 301st in our age group and I was 357th. Out of 10,198 runners, I placed 7,756th (LOL!). My 5k time was 36:22, my 10k time was 1:17:48, and my 15k time was, as I said, 1:59:41. (My time from the 'true start', when the cannon fired, was 31 seconds slower, 2:00:12, but your true 15k time is only the time it takes you to run between the actual starting line and the finish line. There are so many people that it takes time for everyone to get going. I was near the front of the crush and it still took me 31 seconds to get across the actual starting line.) Aside from my toe, and some residual heel pain, I felt pretty good through most of the race. I did an Albuterol puff at the start and breathed perfectly throughout the whole thing until the last 0.3 miles; I had some trouble after coming down the other side of the (steep) Hart Bridge, but the race was almost over by that point.
The takeaway: sore thighs, a medal, unslakable thirst, a blistered toe, a laminated number (3806), a few pictures and newspaper articles for the scrapbook, some great memories, a healthy dose of pride, and a new respect for myself. I had never run anything longer than a 5k in my life before this, and because of my foot I hadn't run at all for 4-6 weeks prior to this race, so the fact that I was able to finish and meet my goal, feeling as good as I did throughout 95% of the course, was pretty amazing to me.
I'm looking forward to next year.