Cap City event (both a half marathon and a quarter marathon) is really one of the best races around from a crowd support standpoint, a post-race food standpoint (always important to a guy whose motto is "I run to eat"), and a relatively flat course standpoint.
So, we did a little training and joined up with nice-sized group of the Mount Vernon Running Buddies (pictured below) including my wife, Carla, who was doing her fourth half marathon as we set out to attack the course. It was a hot, humid day, so staying hydrated and not overdoing it needed to be a big part of our race day plan, and I knew that I was going to need to watch Ashley like a hawk to make sure that she didn't have any problems.
We set out with Chad Sims and his 11-year-old daughter, Hanna, who was also doing her longest race. Starting in Corral B, I was a little worried that the girls would start out too fast, but Ashley did a great job of running a 9:55 first mile and just letting the crowd go. We hit the part of the course where you could see the lead runners coming back towards you, and it was fun to cheer on some people we knew including several of the Running Buddies and some Run DMC'ers including my pal, Brian Vinson, who was on his way to a blazing PR in the half.
We hit the first water stop and I had told Ashley to just stay in the middle and to keep running while I grabbed two cups of water. I made her drink all of hers and asked if she needed any more before downing the second cup when she said no. I'm awful about drinking during a race, but I knew that as hot as it was that I needed to set a good example and make her do it and to her credit she did every time.
Mile two came and went in 10:03 and then mile three in 10:14 even with a slight uphill that had some of the runners walking. Several friends passed us through here and it was fun saying hi. Usually the races are a blur if I'm focusing on my time and trying to meet a goal, so it was fun to be more relaxed and able to take in all of the other aspects of the event. At this point, we split off from the half marathon crowd and continued on and faced another hill during mile four that she conquered in 10:39. Man, she was doing great with no hint of walking at all!
As we headed into mile five, we merged back on to the half marathon course just ahead of the half marathon leader and eventual winner, Matt Folk, as he came flying along with over eight miles already completed! It was fun to see how effortless a 5:18 pace looks as he blew by on his way to a 1:09:20 finish!
Mile six proved to be the toughest mile as the crowds thinned back out and the burst of speed took its toll. When we reached the 5.5-mile mark, we were entering unknown territory because she had never run that far before. She never complained, though, and she also became the inspiration for several runners as they saw her and ran alongside us. Those of you who ran along with her and encouraged her through this point...thank you! It really made a huge difference! Mile six ended with a 10:47 pace, but still no walking as she was determined to finish the whole thing on the run!!!
Then, it was time for one final turn and we could see the finish line. The crowd was huge at this point and once again they were cheering her on by name!!! I'm still getting goosebumps and a little misty-eyed typing this recap three days later when I think about what she did. She gave it everything she had as she sprinted for the finish line...finishing the final .66 miles (yes, my Garmin had the course a little long, but it might have been me swerving to pick up all the water for both of us) at an amazing 8:58 pace that including a Kenyan-like 4:56 dash at the very end!!!! I had planned to make sure she crossed ahead of me, but there was no worry of that as I couldn't keep up at that point as she finished her first quarter marathon in 1:07:07 with me two seconds behind. Unbelievable!!! A 10:15 pace!!! (She ended up 561st out of 1,788 people in the race and 11th of 37 in the female 19 and under age group.)
After we spent a little while cooling down and celebrating what Ashley had just accomplished (yes, that means I had a few cinnamon crunch bagels from Panera), it was time to head back out on the course to cheer on other members of our group as they finished the half marathon. After cheering Teri Pokosh to the finish, I was waiting for my other running buddies, George Hartz and Scott Burgess, to come along. It was fun to encourage all the runners over that final half mile as they wrapped up their 13.1-mile journey in some tough heat and humidity.
It was during this time that I noticed one lady coming along at a pretty good pace, but with her legs getting a little more wobbly with every step that she took. After being at the finish line watching helplessly when Matt O'Brien collapsed last year just 25-feet from his goal at this race, I started to have a sinking feeling in my stomach. As I watched, she stumbled and started to fall as myself and several other spectators rushed out to her. She was very pale and was struggling to try to get back to her feet as dehydration had really set in. One lady who identified herself as a nurse helped me hold the runner up as she in a daze muttered about trying to continue on, but there was no way we were letting her do that on her own. Soon, another guy who had also finished his race and was waiting on his girlfriend to finish appeared out of the crowd and identified himself as a doctor. He told me to help him do a fireman's hold to make a chair for her out of our arms so we could carry her to the finish and she could cross the line.
As we got closer to the finish line, the runner was making attempts to hop off of our arms, so we decided to see if she could stand and walk across the line. The whole time she had been alert enough that she kept checking her watch as she kept murmuring about wanting to make it in two hours! :) We promised her that we would help her meet her goal, and we walked arm-in-arm with her to the end as the crowd cheered her on. Once she crossed the line (and I'm pretty she made her goal), we set her in a wheelchair and let the medical staff take over. I have no idea who she is although I think the name on her bib started with an "A" or who the other man was who helped me get her to the finish line, but I am just glad that she made it there safely and hopefully is fully recovered by now. I know first-hand after my recent Earth Day Marathon how the running community comes together to help each other, so it was a no-brainer for me to jump in and do what needed to be done. Any other runner would have done the same.
As I turned back around to head back out and cheer George and Scott on to their finishes, I realized that George was just crossing the finish line behind me. Soon, Scott appeared, too, and I congratulated both of them on doing a great job under some really tough conditions. Then, Ashley and I headed back out with the plan to finish the last mile of the race with Carla. We got out to the final water stop just a little less than a mile from the finish and briefly had a chance to say hi to a great group of Run DMC runners who were volunteering at the stop when we saw Carla cruising to the finish. She told us she had blisters on her feet, but that otherwise she was doing good. She got up the final hill and then turned on the jets to the finish line as Ashley and I neither one could keep up with her. It really was her strongest finish yet of her four half marathons despite some really tough heat and humidity.
While Carla caught her breath at the finish line, I went back out one more time to cheer on the final two members of the Mount Vernon Running Buddies, Pam Rose and Sue Sims, who were walking their first half marathon. I'm telling you from experience of walking one quarter marathon that walking a half marathon is no easy task. They had set a goal of doing it in 3:30 and they came in with time to spare and with smiles on their faces! Great job!
I have to give a big shoutout to the Cap City race staff on putting together another amazing event. Not only do they always have the best medals each year, they really do a great job of making sure that it's an event for everyone. The course is a fun course to run and this race will always be on my calendar as a must-do event if at all possible. While it would have been fun to have raced the half marathon as I've found that's my favorite distance, I am so glad that I did the quarter marathon with my daughter. It's probably just a matter of time and a few more races until she's racing me in the half. :)
And here's the crazy part...this is just the first part of what would be one half Goofy, amazing race weekend! Stay tuned for Part II!