Sunday, October 4, 2009

Runner's Almanac - Day 50, San Jose Rock n' Roll Half-Marathon

The night before the run, I lay all my necessities out on the credenza in my hotel room. For anyone who knows me personally, you knowI don’t decide on my outfit to work the night before, or anything like that. But then again, I’m not usually excited to go to work. So onto the credenza I organize my belt (no bottle attachments, just a pouch), a hand full of Gu with a Gu belt, race day outfit, hat, glasses, gloves, kerchief, Band-Aids, tissues, a plastic baggy just in case. Now I just make sure my alarm is set so I remember to wake up in the morning.

The day of the race, I make myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, pack up, and head downstairs. On my way to drop off my bags and check out, I pass elite runner Meb Keflezighi and his crew in a small lounging area in the lobby. Meb looks focused and ready (he ends up setting a 20K record later that morning and winning the race). It is packed with expectant runners outside and the air is crisp and nice for a long run. I find a volunteer to help me pin the 2:30 pace bib on my back, and I go searching for the pace group amidst the crowded corrals – which are all roped off before the start. Everyone is excited to get started. Some local notables greet us and a fabulous singer delivers her rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner”.

Although this is the Rock n Roll half marathon, there is no band at the start and looking back, I don’t recall any DJ or noticeable music at all. If there was a DJ, it was more background music than anything else. I also decide not to use my iPod since I want to take in all the sights and sounds. Since this is a destination run for me, I want to explore everything about my trip. Soon we start off, and it is about 4 minutes into the race by the time our corral makes it to the official start. After leaving the downtown area, the route is pretty residential and weaves through many neighborhoods – It reminds me of the pretty yet cozy streets of Pasadena actually. Although I was told that this is a popular even in San Jose, there are not a lot of fans out, compared to the LA Marathon.

The first 4 or so miles go by very well. I actually have to check myself since I want to go at a faster pace – The excitement can do that to you. But I know if I want to make it to the end, it’s smarter to stay with my pace group. I become familiar with the other runners around me. There is an elder gentleman with a biblical quote on his back about God giving him strength. It’s always good to run close to a man of God, so I keep him in my sights. At some point, Sharky who is the mascot for a local sports team, also decides to run with us. But we outrun him – Poor shark.

Around mile 7 or so, one of the other runners in our pace group strikes up a conversation with me. Her name is Laura, a San Jose local and alumni of Santa Clara University, completing her first half marathon. She had run with Team in Training before, doing a triathlon in Hawaii. Laura just had a baby 6 months ago, and although she “hated” running, it really helped her lose weight, and she was very happy about it. We ran together for about 3 miles, and I give her one of my Gu's. I’m thankful to have a buddy for these few miles, and around mile 10 or 11, she falls behind a bit and I rejoin the pace group.

I should mention that although we take walk breaks with the LA Leggers training back home, I decide today only to take walk breaks at water stops or when I absolutely need to. I end up walking for about 2.5 minutes total. I am reminded of our walk breaks at the LA Marathon and how it was more difficult to start back up again after walking even for a minute. It seems those few seconds walking are enough to register any pain in the body.

The last couple miles are the most difficult, and once I make it past the finish line, I have to hold back the tears. Any runner knows that it takes as much mental stamina to run a long distance as physical endurance, and this is no exception for me. My final time is almost spot on my goal: 2:30:05! I accept my finisher’s medal – which is rather heavy, but snazzy – and check out the booths at the finish line. I also see another LA Legger, Patricia, as she crosses in her pink LA Legger shirt. I love to cheer on runners after I’m done with a race, so I walk backgrounds and cheer and congratulate the runners and walkers who finish after me.

The best part now? An hour and a half live performance by rock/blues performer Jonny Lang. This guy is amazing.

So will I run San Jose again next year? Maybe. It is a great crowd and the weather this time of year is really ideal. I would prefer more music along the route, but I guess you get what you can get. The bands are spaced out about every mile or so, and that mile with no musical distraction is noticeable running along quiet streets. The course is also nice – mostly flat with a couple of inclines – but as it is largely residential, the atmosphere could be more varied if possible. Would love more spectators, but unfortunately, running doesn’t seem to get as many as other sports. San Jose is a lovely city and this is a great race and distance for a first timer.

Happy racing!

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