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View From the Sidelines: RaceVermont Fall Half Marathon

Posted Nov 05 2013 7:00am

aka Evan’s First Half Marathon!

When Evan originally decided to train for and run a half marathon this fall, it was because the two of us were going to do it together. I had grand plans to run one in September, and it seems there’s nothing like a pregnant wife wanting to run a long distance race to convince a guy to do something he otherwise wouldn’t. Plus, after years of Evan watching me run races, his first half marathon just seemed like such a cool experience to share together.

But somewhere around 22 weeks into this pregnancy , I came to terms with the fact that distance running (a definition that changes by the week) while pregnant just isn’t for me. A hard thing to admit for someone who prefers training for marathons to running 5Ks. But you know, there are worse things in the world than having to hang up your distance-running-shoes for a few months because your body is growing a baby.

Fortunately, Evan was still committed to the idea of running a half this fall…with or without me. And once I got over my selfish desires to want to run his first with him, I accepted the fact that it was probably better for me to be on the sidelines anyway. Not only would I have held him back if we were running together, but I also know how nice it is to run a race when you have someone waiting for you every couple of miles. In the 5 years that we’ve been together, Evan has patiently traveled to many races, standing outside in all sorts of weather to support me. I figured it was about time I returned the favor.

So on one of the biggest racing days of the year, I woke up just after 4:00 am not to run, but to support my husband through his first attempt at 13.1. We drove ~2 hours north for the RaceVermont Shelburne Half Marathon . The morning was freezing (just about 30 degrees at the start), but fortunately the snow that was originally in the forecast held off…instead it was a beautiful, sunny fall day.

The race was small, but very well organized. Packet pick-up was inside the (wonderfully warm) field house, and runners hung out inside until 2 minutes before the start. Just before 8:00 am, the race organizers lead everyone to the starting line and with very little delay, they were off!

racevermont fall half_ec start.jpg

1. Running in 30-something degrees may be cold, but standing around cheering in it is colder.

My main reason for envying the runners on Sunday was because I knew how much warmer they must have been. Meanwhile, I looked like a lopsided snowman all bundled up in my husband’s fleece and my winter coat that doesn’t really zip anymore. So sorry I didn’t take any #spectatingselfies to share with you.

2.  From an outsider’s perspective, the course (although beautiful) didn’t look very interesting.

racevermont fall half_lake view.jpg

The first 10 miles were basically on the same road, with a couple little out-and-backs on side roads to add on mileage. The final miles were on a gravel path that wound down along the water, before runners met up with the main road and headed back to the Field House for the finish. But Evan loved it…and it actually made it pretty easy to spectate. We had a good friend who was running the half as well, and her husband and I got to see our runners just after mile 2, the halfway point, mile 10 and the finish. Not too bad for a 2 hour race!

3. It felt a little weird getting Evan ready for (and through) a race that I also wasn’t running.

This was the first time we’ve traveled together for a race just for him. I thought I might be sad about the fact that I wasn’t also running, but I actually loved it. It was fun to focus 100% on his race. Plus, the excitement/pride I felt every time I saw him on the course almost rivaled the pride that builds when I race myself (…almost).

racevermont fall half_ec halfway.JPG

4. I’m a little rusty on my race spectating-logistics-planning.

While my husband has become a pro at it over the years, I found myself struggling with estimated times and paces. First, I completely forgot to start my timer (or even look at a clock) when the race started, so I was just going off an 8:00 am-sharp estimated start. Second, every time I saw him I struggled with the mental math to calculate his pace. Maybe we can just blame the pregnancy for that one. I finally got into the groove, timing the distance between Evan and our friend and our arrivals at different spectating spots almost perfectly.

5. I may be slightly biased, but Evan was such a fun runner to watch.

Granted, he says he was loving life for the first 10 miles (i.e. during all the times I saw him until the finish) and then hated it for the last 5K, but it was awesome to see him running so happy and so well. He admittedly didn’t fall in love with distance running during training, but that all seemed to change on Sunday. Despite the fact that there weren’t large crowds or tons of runners (the race was pretty small) just the experience of being in a race environment was enough to pump him up. His goal (besides finishing) was to maintain a sub-8 minute/mile pace the entire way. And for the first 10 miles, he blew that out of the water. Every time I saw him, I’d do some mental math in my head to figure out his projected finish time. I was so excited to see him flying through the course…hills and all!

racevermont fall half_ec mile 10.jpg

6. The last 5K of a half (just like the last 10K of a full) is make it or break it time.

Unfortunately the way the course worked out, I wasn’t able to see Evan at all during the last 3.1. And that’s when he needed support the most. I know that 3 miles can never seem so long as when they’re at the end of a distance race. And that’s especially true when the course has you running on a lonely path with no spectators and barely any other runners around to help you push. But to his credit, he didn’t give up. He may have sworn off running altogether during those last few miles (but who of us hasn’t?), but he kept plugging along.

7. Seeing Evan round the corner toward the finish line was one of the coolest moments.

Evan and I have done relays together, so it’s not the first time I’ve been able to cheer him into the finish of a run. But during those races there was always a sense that we were in it together. On Sunday, for the first time, he was in a race situation where he had done the work completely on his own. And it was so cool to be on the other side of the race for once — getting to support him while he gutted it out and finished something he once thought he’d never be able to do.

racevermont fall half_ec finish#painface

I know it must sound so cheesy, but running has been my passion since we’ve been together. Evan has been happy to support me and run shorter races with me, but until now he hasn’t really felt that drive to do a race on his own. Which is fine — I love that he has his own hobbies and passions that I’ve been able to support him in over the years. However, there’s just something so incredibly moving to see a person you love accomplishing something in a sport that you also love. I may not have been actually running that day, but the runner’s high I felt when Evan crossed the finish line was most certainly real.

racevermont fall half_ec finish sprint

Official Time: 1:42:52 (7:53 pace)

50th male/12th in his age group

8. Getting to dissect and discuss every minute of another runner’s race is the 2nd best thing to actually running it yourself.

Yes, I may miss running more than a few miles at a time. And I may be counting down the days until I can toe the line and push my body to the limits in the pursuit of a PR. But in the meantime, I love being around other people who have raced. When you know that your time on the sidelines is only temporary, it’s fun to be able to live vicariously through other people who are doing the one thing you would love to do but can’t. I’m not sure if Evan appreciated my 5,000 questions about every single detail of the race (what do you mean, you don’t remember exactly how you felt at mile 3?), but I sure loved talking strategy with him afterward.

9. Moe’s food is tasty, but it’s an interesting choice for a post-race meal.

racevermont fall half marathon moes

Tortilla chips and vegetarian chili. I guess beans are great for protein (and Evan appreciated the non-meat option!) but it was so spicy he couldn’t really get much down. Fortunately, we rectified that situation with post-race pizza and beer…i.e. the recovery fuel of champions.

10. I tried not to push TOO much, but Evan is already talking about “next time.” And I love it!

Despite swearing off running altogether at some point during the last 3 miles, a belly full of pizza and beer seemed to change his perspective. He already knows what he wants to do differently next time, and keeps saying that he could have done better “if…” You know, that classic running bug I’ve been hoping will bite him all along. We will see what happens. But I’m striking while the iron is hot! I’ve already made plans for us to enter the Vermont City half marathon relay lottery…AND have gotten him to confirm that he’d run this race again.

Now who wants to volunteer to watch Cheese Baby while we’re running?

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