2012 America's Finest City Half Marathon

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Report by: Stephen Terry

A few of us TCLA’ers ran America’s Finest City Half Marathon in San Diego. Suggested here is that the AFC 1/2 event might be what next year’s fall marathon group considers participating in. This race will definitely get you ready for any 26.2 mile course you’ll race in October or November of 2013.

Speaking to race day, it started well beginning with the drive down from Los Angeles at 1:50 a.m. that got me to the Zoo parking area at 3:40 a.m., more than 45 minutes before the first bus departed to take runners to the start line. I jogged around a little, relaxed, and was on the first bus departing the Zoo. On the bus ride I had a nice chat w/a cute runner (Briese – never met anyone with that name before!!). We got to the start area at 5:15 a.m., where I was able to warm-up some more and I calmly waited for the 7:00 a.m. start. Once the race started everything felt so easy. I couldn’t believe how many runners I passed. It must have been hundreds. Yes, there were hills, but nothing too taxing. My goal was to run under 01:30 with ease and when I passed the 10K mark at 43:43, I felt great. I thought I could pick up the pace from that point on. The key word in that last sentence is “thought.”

What began as a great day turned into horror from mile 7 on. When the race started it was in the 70’s and it was humid. Though I didn’t know for sure at the time, but it must have risen to the high-80’s by the time I hit that 10K mark. Added to the extreme heat was one hill after another… and another… and another… and another!!! My quads, gluts and especially my hip-flexors began to cramp on me. It got so bad that by the eleventh mile I could barely lift one leg in front of the other. Whenever I tried to lengthen my stride or speed up, I would cramp, especially in my hip flexors.

It was a nightmare. The interesting thing, though, is I never thought about not finishing. I didn’t drive all that distance and spend my money to not finish. My calculated worry was how long it was going to take to finish, because the longer it took, the longer I was going to be out there struggling in that heat. Looking at my watch I knew 1:30 wasn’t going to happen. Then I realized it was going to be longer than 1:40. And then I started wondering if it was going to take longer than 2 hours to finish. All I knew is I wanted to finish and the longer it took, the worse it was going to be.

The next thing I remember is being on a hill on Fourth Street and knowing that the finish was close when the course turned left and I looked up and realized that there was whole lot more in front of me. The last part of that race looked like Temescal from bottom to top – I’m not exaggerating.

Somewhere on that last HUGE hill leading to the finish is where Bert Whitson appeared. I’m usually not interested in talking while running nor listening to anyone talking (nor listening music). All of that is an irritating distraction which I want to avoid as much as possible. But I was thankfully glad for Bert’s presence, his voice and his encouragement when he appeared. He quietly, patiently coaxed me up and along and not everything he talked about was running related, which I was grateful for too. I may have only been minimally responsive to what Bert was saying, but I heard everything he said and his talking made it so much easier to crawl along to the finish. I think we’ve all seen an adult coaxing a toddler to run. The adult is taking steps while the child is taking a bunch of small, short steps to run and keep up, all while the adult is still leading. That’s how I felt with Bert. It was like he was the adult and I was the toddler doing the best I could to follow his leading encouragement. I can’t express enough my thanks to Bert. I damn sure appreciated it!!!!

Average Finishing Time: 1:48:45.8
Averge Per Mile Pace: 8:17.8
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