This photo is from the first and until this upcoming Saturday, my last half marathon. The location is the finish line of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. At the time, the Indy 500 Mini Marathon finished on the 2.5 mile oval. Today, the track is the turn-around point. I’m glad I got to run the event when it still finished at the most famous of all motor raceways.
Just in case you’re wondering, that’s me in the yellow shorts. I’m staring down at that row of bricks and thinking about the history of this famous track as I cross them. Things were different back then. We didn’t have energy gels, GPS, MP3 players and other high tech devices. We did have Powerbars for energy and I took one along with me. See that monster watch on my wrist? That’s a Polar Heart Rate Monitor and if you look closely you can see the strap running across my chest. Now, that was as high tech as it got back then. That HRM tracked my heart rate, split times and had a clock. No distances logged. No GPS tracking. Not sure what that thing cost me back then but it was far from cheap. I can’t remember what I’m holding in my right hand. I think it’s a small portable AM/FM radio. I don’t think I used it that day though.
During my training phase for the Indy 500 Mini Marathon I messed up my knee while running on ice covered roads. I didn’t fall, but I guess all the slipping and sliding trying to keep my balance tore something in my left knee. After that training run I couldn’t run a block without terrible pain. This was in January or February of that year. I did discover I could ride a stationary bike without any knee pain. So from that day until just a few weeks before the race, I had multiple ultrasound and physical therapy sessions and spent hours riding a stationary bike to get ready. I seem to recall I started running again in early May. There was no way I was going to train up to the distance I needed to be fully ready. I did the best I could. That knee injury bothers me to this day. Not enough to stop me, but usually the day after a long run my left knee is a little painful but fine again after a day of rest.
On race day I knew I had to take it easy. My knee still wasn’t really at 100% yet and I wasn’t sure I could even make it to the finish. When I signed up, my goal was to finish in under two hours. I accepted the fact finishing close to two hours would be an accomplishment. It was a great experience and I enjoyed it very much. But what I remember most is at about the ten mile mark I was so hungry I could hardly stand it. Running past McDonald’s, Dairy Queen and Dunkin’ Donuts only made it worse. I needed food BAD! That last two miles on the motor speedway seemed to take forever. You can see the entire length of the backstretch and turn three and it seems to never end. The running surface of that track is so incredibly hard. I even moved to the grass area along the backstretch to give my feet a break. Still, I was starving and all I could think about was food. Coming around turn four you’ve still got a least a quarter of a mile to go and I was so glad to see the finish line in the distance.
I finished in 2:15:00. Squarely in the middle of the pack that day. Not bad for the amount of training I was able to put in. Just as soon as I got past the finish gates I scurried over to the food tables and scarfed down cookies and bananas like crazy. Man, it felt good to finally get something in my stomach. I was happy to experience the race and very happy to finish, but right then and there I said “no-way” to ever running a half marathon again.
Just a few weeks shy of 25 years since that event and I’m running a half marathon again. I guess that proves you should never say never. This time, I’m better prepared. I know I can go the distance and still feel fine afterwards. Granted, Father Time has slowed me down since those days. If I finish anywhere close to 2:30:00 I’ll be pretty darn happy. This time I’ll have a heart rate monitor, GPS to keep track of my pace and distance and most importantly energy gels to keep the hunger down. I’m glad things have progressed. I can also say I’m much wiser now about my training and my expectations. Looking forward to putting it all to the test on Saturday morning in Nashville.