When I ended Part 1, I had just concluded the first mile of the race and I was incredibly confused about my time.

The first major incline across the Hope Memorial\Lorain-Carnegie Bridge went well. My family said they would be at the end of the bridge, but I didn’t see them there. I didn’t want them to think that they came out for nothing and didn’t see me! As it turned out, they just went straight to St. Ignatius instead.

Running through my old stomping grounds of Tremont was a lot of fun, and hearing the praise music from the Spanish Assembly of God Church helped lift my spirits for a bit.

Shortly thereafter, I passed through the Mile 4 water stop and saw Sheila and many friends from church. Seeing them was a gigantic pick-me-up and I headed towards Ohio City feeling a bit better about everything. I told myself that life would go on even if I didn’t PR and that completing a half marathon at any speed is a big accomplishment and that the best thing to do was to run as hard as I could and let the timing chips and God take care of the rest.

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My friends and church family who staffed the Scranton Road Ministries C.D.C. Water Stop at Mile 4!

 

I spotted my family near St. Ignatius, and my dad shouted out that my brother would be joining me. Initially, I was pretty nervous about how this would go. Longtime readers of this blog know that my brother is a cross-country and track runner extraordinaire. In high school, his cross-country team placed in the state meet during his sophomore year, he won several West Shore Conference Championships, and his relay team placed in the state track meet during his senior year. At John Carroll, he ran track as a freshman and did very well. Oh, yeah, did I mention that he won the 2012 Lakewood Summer Meltdown (Sheila and I’s first 5K) too?

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We took this after my brother won the West Shore Conference Championship for the 1 Mile Run in 2012. Since then, my brother has grown a few inches taller and I’ve grown a few inches thinner!

 

Needless to say, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with him!

In retrospect, though, his decision to join me was the single biggest reason that I set a PR. I must have thanked him at least ten times for doing so, but I can’t express how much his presence with me on the course and his support and encouragement helped me get to the finish line. When I was running out of steam, he told me that I looked fine, and knowing that he wouldn’t let me stop and walk or give anything less than my best helped keep me going. God never lets me down, but He really hit a home run for me on Sunday by blessing me with an unexpected running partner.

The sections of the course on Lorain and Franklin passed relatively quickly. While on Franklin, my face brightened when I saw someone with a sign that referenced Hodor from Game of Thrones.

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Hodor! (Source)

 

My brother and I finally linked up at around West 74th and Franklin, and we proceeded down Lake towards the Edgewater neighborhood. From my training runs, I knew that this part of the course would pass quickly and that we would soon be on the Shoreway.

Once we stepped foot onto the Shoreway, I knew that we didn’t have much left. I also knew that my legs were beginning to feel somewhat sore. Whether this was due to being overheated, failing to do enough stretching in the days before the race, running my last training run too late in the week, or something else is something I don’t know. However, I told myself that I had plenty of time to rest this week and that resting would feel a lot better if I knew that I left everything out on the course.

Running towards downtown on the Shoreway was much more fun than running away from downtown like we did last year, and the miles on the Shoreway passed relatively quickly. In retrospect, I think that I could have run tangents a bit better, so I’ll just have to make a better attempt at doing so next year. As I ran, I began to mentally compare where I was in the race to the order and time of songs on my playlist, and I began to feel a lot better once I realized that I was doing much better than I had thought I was doing!

After we ascended the final big hill on the Shoreway, I knew that it was all downhill from there. We saw my family around Mile 12.25, and I said goodbye to my brother as my family exhorted me to finish strong.

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My brother and I at his track meet at Baldwin-Wallace University in early 2014. I cannot express how grateful I am for helping me get through the toughest parts of the race.

 

A great song—“Kings” by Bass King vs. X-Vertigo—came on my playlist, and I began to feel my legs responding to the music, so I let adrenaline take over and I began to run hard.

The West 3rd Street exit ramp was farther than I thought, and I started to wonder if I was going to wind up crawling across the finish line. Once we ran down the exit ramp, I saw the finish line in the distance and I began to start doing my best to sprint again. As is my tradition at the end of every race, I put on “Minas Tirith” from The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Soundtrack. I ran hard for what seemed like an eternity and the finish line never seemed to grow any closer.

Just as I was about to start losing steam again, the finish line suddenly grew closer and I saw that the official race time was still well under 2 hours. When I saw this, I knew that I was about to set a great PR, and my spirits soared. I barreled on through the finish line and let out a giant cheer. I know that some folks consider making a lot of noise in the post-race area bad race etiquette, but I personally think that completing a race is something to celebrate. This isn’t golf! We’ve trained hard for months to prepare ourselves for one shining moment, and we deserve to celebrate the moment when all of that work finally pays off.

I moseyed through the postrace area and collected items from the post-race spread. One improvement from last year was the fact that many, many more beverages were available! I also couldn’t resist striking a Johnny Football pose.

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I’d love to see Johnny Football appear in one of the race promo videos and tell the runners that they are going to wreck the course on race day.

 

Pain began to set in, and I managed to hobble my way to the car without much trouble. I then joined my friends who volunteered at the Mile 4 water stop for breakfast at IHOP. When I walked in, the 20 or so folks who were gathered burst into applause! This meant a lot.

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After watching my diet closely for the past few months, I can’t deny that it felt great to dig into a plate of sausage and eggs without worrying whether it would jeopardize my chances on race day!

 

After a great church service filled with more encouraging and supportive friends, I came home to check my time. When I first checked my time, the results indicated that I won the entire half marathon! I knew this was a misprint, so I checked back again later and the results then said that I ran the 10K. While running the 10K is a major accomplishment, I earned those 13.1 miles and I still wanted to find out my real time, so I emailed the results folks to see what was going on. My stepmom had a problem with her timing chip at the 2012 Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon and she told me that it took 6 months to get it worked out. Fortunately, they fixed my time within a few hours! Major thanks to David at SAI-Timing for fixing this so quickly.

When I saw my time, I was stunned. I finished it in 1:52:52 – an 8:37 minute\mile pace! (I realize that my GPS watch and the watches of many others indicated that the course may have been longer than 13.1 miles. My watch said 13.5, while others’ watches said 13.4. I calculated the above time using 13.1 as my distance. Maybe this was why I had such confusion during the first mile!) Considering that my previous half marathon PR was 1:59:10, I was really happy.

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All in all, I’m thrilled with my performance at the 2014 Rite Aid Cleveland Half Marathon. Heading into the race, my goal was to set a new half marathon PR, and I am very pleased that I was able to reduce my PR by over six minutes! My mental approach did affect my running a bit, but I don’t think that it slowed me down too much, and I think that the biggest limiting factor on race day was the fact that I overdressed.

Once again, I was honored to have the opportunity to serve as an Official Blogger along with several other great people whom I have had the privilege to call friends over the past year or so. Many of the team from 2013 returned in 2014, and I hope that we’ll have the chance to do it again in 2015 as we chase new dreams and goals.

No race recap of a major race would be complete without a special thank-you to my bride. I say this about once per training cycle, but I am blessed to have a wife who doesn’t complain or resent the amount of time that I dedicate to running and a wife who is fine with training runs and workouts on weekend evenings. Towards the end of my training cycle, she picked up my share of the household chores without complaint because I was so overwhelmed with my work responsibilities and training. Of course, the healthy meals that she has faithfully cooked for the past 2 years have helped me keep my weight under control, and I’m grateful for all of the time that she invests in locating healthy yet delicious recipes for our suppers.

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Lastly, I want to thank God for giving me good health and the courage to believe that I can run. When I first started running in June 2012, I had no idea what I was getting into. I had no designs on running a 10K, let alone a half marathon or full marathon. My goal was to make it through my first 5K in semi-decent fashion. Once I got bit by the running bug, though, I haven’t looked back, and God has given me the confidence to believe that I can run distances that were extraordinarily daunting just a few years ago. There’s no way that I would have had the courage to train for my first half marathon or first marathon in 2013 without God in my life, and there’s no way that I would have ever, ever believed that running a pace well under 9 minutes\mile over the span of 13.1 miles would be possible without God reminding me to trust in Him and believe in myself.

What’s up next? In the short term, I’m looking forward to a week of active recovery (yoga, elliptical, walking, etc) and possibly the St. Joseph Academy Earn Your Spots 5K on Memorial Day morning. It’s hard to pass up a 5K that’s within walking distance of one’s home! In June, I’m looking forward to setting a new 10 mile PR at the Towpath Ten-Ten (and enjoying the delicious postrace buffet too!). When October rolls around, Lord willing, I’ll be heading to the starting line at the Towpath Marathon to finally run the race that I had originally planned to run last year.

 

Did you run any races during the 2014 Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon weekend? How did it go for you? What did you think of the new course?