22 of 52: B & A Half Marathon

Everyone’s Driving a Different Machine

It’s been a few weeks since I ran this race and I swear I have only a passing recollection of who said this. Was it me or Dan? It was probably me, responding to one of Dan’s insights about running – or runners. That’s usually how it goes. Dan shares a thought that he’s been having about runners or running – more like an ongoing observation – one he’s been working on for years. And then in a moment of un sophisticated word salad, I attempt to summarize what he says in four words or less.

OH! Now I remember – we were headed south on the B&A – probably around mile 4 into the race which means he had already stopped to pee and then caught up to me. I’ll never understand how he does this… Kari had dropped us long ago. We were at that point in the race where the leaders were starting their return run from the turn around so we could see them – and they were working HARD.

Dan said something to the effect that he thought it was interesting that no matter where you are in the race – front, middle, or back – there were people working just as hard. And it’s true. No matter what combination of training, ability, physical characteristics, age, experience, motivations and whatever else you’d like to throw in the mix – if each individual person was working with the same effort as everyone else we would all be traveling at a different speed. At the moment the reason seemed obvious to me:

“Everyone’s Driving a Different Machine” – the word salad fell out of my mouth.

The Run

This was my 4th time running the B&A Half. When I looked that up I was surprised – I could have sworn I’ve run it at least a few times more but nope. Athlinks doesn’t lie. I mentioned many weeks ago that I might try to PR this race, but honestly my training hasn’t been all that it should have been to make that happen. My half marathon PR was 1:55:33 @ 8:49/mile. None of my other 21 half marathon distance runs have come close to that pace. What was I thinking? And then this happened…

I PR’d by 1:47.

What?? How? I’m not sure but I think it has something to do with what I was writing about last week. About shortening the scope of my attention from “all the miles” to “this mile” and at times “this moment”. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The first 5 miles went by without a hitch – I mean aside from the mile markers being off by about .34 miles. Well – the markers weren’t off exactly. We noticed that they were right on the marks on the street that indicated where they were supposed to be. So what the heck? Did we miss part of the course? We wondered about it for awhile and joked about our sub six opening mile. At some point we gave up trying to figure it out or we got distracted. I was thinking – “dang, I’m gonna have to keep running after we finish to make 13.1.” I wasn’t really looking forward to it.

Dan and I headed South on the B&A. I’m in the grey shirt and white hat. Dan is in the blue shirt and orange hat.

I was feeling good. The extra push I get from running a race surrounded by a bunch of other runners was in full effect. I have been getting more weekday runs in and some strength training. The winter sun was gone and I was enjoying the cool temps.

We had talked about running 9:30 but the first several miles were right on 9 minute pace. A short while after Dan caught up to me from his unscheduled/scheduled pit stop, he started feeling some pain in his calf. With a full marathon two weeks in his future he decided to stop and work it out rather than keep running on it. I fully expected him to catch up to me again in a mile or so.

But then Dana Dobbs ran past me. Who is that? He’s a local triathlete. I’ve never met him or run with him but a lot of folks in the tri club know him which is how I know who he is. Anyways – he’s fast as hell – and as he passed me I took note of how wide open his stride was.

I usually run with a conservative stride – a pretty consistent .95 m. I don’t want to over extend myself because I feel like the longer my stride is the more I put my knee at risk but after seeing him run I decided to open it up a little bit – but not try any harder. Turns out I opened .15 m per step to 1.1 m – that’s about 6 more inches. Per step. Apparently that adds up.

I ran down boulters to the turn-around and then back up the hills to the trail head. I still felt strong so I decided to keep doing what I was doing. About a mile later I saw Susan and Angus at Arnold station and I said to Susan – “I think I might PR?!”

I had just looked at my average pace and realized I was on track to do it. But could I? Surely the math was wrong – I had made a mistake – and so I proceeded to think about this for the next mile and try to do the math. I am not good at runner math and so this took all of my mental focus so the mile disappeared…

And THAT is the moment that I realized I shouldn’t think about running the rest of the race – I should only think about “right now”. Which is hard to do for me.

I had just seen Susan at Arnold Station – at this point I’m trying really hard to do math.

I’ve known for awhile now that I don’t like to suffer for long periods of time. I can suffer through short track intervals or in the pool – but the idea of suffering for MILES – I don’t have what it takes mentally. If staying in the moment really works (and I have been trying it out on shorter tempo runs and it seems to) then I may have found a loophole in my “no suffering” clause.

I probably still don’t like to suffer for long periods – who does? But maybe now I have a way to cheat time a little bit – to make me feel as though no time has passed at all.

I don’t know what happened in mile 6 – but I like it.

Long story short – every time I would start thinking about “how much further” or if it was hard – I just tried to bring my thoughts back to the moment. I have to give some credit to the book Dan got me for Christmas – “Running with the Mind of Meditation”. The author talks about focusing on the breath and when the mind wanders – and that it WILL wander – to just refocus on the breath. Simple.

This went on for awhile – and then I was done.

Mind games or not – I’m pretty sure I was suffering at this point.

If the race had been about a half mile longer – Dan would have caught me. He finished about a minute later. I have no idea how long he stopped to work out his calf but HOW DOES HE DO THAT? It doesn’t really mater – I’m just happy to have such a consistent and well matched running buddy.

I almost forgot! The mile markers sorted themselves out somehow and by the end the finish was right on 13.1. I don’t know how Josh Harriman made it happen but thank goodness he did. Another .35 miles would have sucked.

Not the Run

It was a great day. I think I really learned something new about how to think while I run and I’m pretty sure I’m going to figure out how to apply this to work and trumpet and pretty much every other part of my life. It’s nice to know that while I may just be driving “my” machine – it’s possible to mod that machine from time to time and keep getting better.

Next Week: Where the Hell is Centennial Lake?


  1. Congratulations, on your Half Marathon PR! That must have felt great knowing you did it when you thought your training or lack thereof hasn’t prepared you. As for Dan always catching up maybe you just don’t want to admit that Dan is a lot faster he’s just runs at your past to keep you company! Lol



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