We started (and finished) on NC State's Centennial Campus (close to where Liz's and my last apartment was), then went through a portion of downtown Raleigh (which was like a wind tunnel, ugh!) and doubled back around through Cameron Village before rejoining Hillsborough Street. I ran this part (about seven miles) straight through, without stopping to walk; my 10k time (6.2 miles) was right around 1:05, which is a ten-and-a-half-minute mile. I've never gone even close to that fast in a race before. And despite the rain, the scenery was really pretty; traffic was stopped, so all the roads were quiet except for the rain and the sounds of our feet, and the red and yellow leaves were starting to turn brown and drop off the trees. I didn't have my headphones on yet at this point (I decided to use my marathon strategy and not use them until I 'needed' them) so I had a few brief conversations with other runners as we went through downtown. I met two girls from New England, another woman from Baltimore, and Julie, a mother of three who lives in Raleigh and was right about my same pace; we passed each other several times throughout the race. I think I ended up beating her, but not by much.
The course rejoined Hillsborough Street around mile seven. After what had been a relatively quiet and scenic (if wet) route, the first hint of civilization that came into view was the Burger King drive-thru, which prompted a lot of jokes ("Anybody want a snack?" "Didn't know this was part of the entry fee!"). I took my first walk break around this point and broke out the headphones, swallowed some Advil, and ate some of my Sport Beans. We ran past Meredith College and up to the now-empty fairgrounds, which was where the marathon participants continued on toward Umstead State Park and the half marathon runners (including yours truly) got to turn around. (The fairgrounds also happen to be approximately one mile from my apartment, so I'd be lying if I said I wasn't just slightly tempted to jog on home and take a hot shower, then come back and finish this whole race thing at some later date! :))
We turned around, ran back down the hill (I got a second wind here -- downhills will do that to you!), back past Meredith, and continued farther down Hillsborough Street, into the main NCSU campus. After one final hill, we retraced our earlier steps down Western Blvd back to the Centennial Campus. The last mile felt endless, and I was having a lot of trouble keeping myself going, but I finally found my 'power song' (Pat Benatar's "Invincible") on my iPod, which helped. And the final stretch happened to be a downhill, so I actually ended up having one of my strongest race finishes ever. During one of the bursts of heavy rain, I came through the finish chute -- in an unbelievable (for me) time of 2 hours 26 minutes. I had wanted to beat Tara from last season's The Biggest Loser, who ran a 2:24, so I didn't meet that goal, but I did cut THIRTY-FOUR MINUTES off the time of the last half marathon I ran (January 2007, at Disney World), so I can't really complain. And there is the small fact that Tara ran her 13.1 miles around an INDOOR TRACK, while I ran mine in the wind, rain, cold, and hills while recovering from the aforementioned Cold from Hell. So… I think I can begrudge her those two minutes. :)
Anyway, so it was a very strong run for me, which I wasn't expecting -- I didn't really put in the miles that I should have, especially in recent weeks, and then with getting sick, well... I wasn't expecting much. But my overall pace was 11:19, which is crazy-fast for me during a race of this length. (Another interesting thing is that, judging by my 8.5-mile time of about 1:32, I'd have easily met my Gate River Run goal of 1:45 if that had been the race I'd run today.) And my body feels great right now -- the only thing that's causing me any real pain is a blister on the bottom of my right foot, and I was practically asking for that by running in new shoes (though the new ones were still a much better option than the old, beaten-up ones!). Pretty unbelievable.
Anyway, I'll get another chance to beat Tara in February, when I run the marathon in Jacksonville, so we'll see how that one plays out.
My next running goal... to try to get Liz to sign up for the Turkey Trot with me on Thanksgiving. (Honestly... that may be more difficult than the marathon will be. :))
Happy November, everybody!