On Sunday I ran in the UnitedHealthCare Half Marathon in Newport, Rhode Island.
I chose to run the race for three reasons.
First of all it must be one of the most spectacular half marathon courses in the world. You start at First Beach in Newport and immediately run past the start of the famous Cliff Walk. Then after a short distance through the back streets of Newport, you emerge on famous Newport Harbor, run past Ida Lewis Yacht Club (famous as the home of Ida Lewis), past New York YC's Harbour Court (famous as the home of the 2013 North American Laser Masters), and through Fort Adams State Park (famous as the home of the Newport Laser Fleet).
Then it just gets better. After Castle Hill, you run alongside the Eastern Passage of Narragansett Bay with fabulous views across to Conanicut Island and to Point Judith, you round Brenton Point and head east along Ocean Drive with the best views in Rhode Island of the ocean and the amazing luxury homes along the coast. Eventually you leave the ocean and run along Bellevue Avenue seeing many of the Newport mansions (one of which is owned by the famous Larry Ellison.) Then, best of all, part of the final mile is downhill, back to the beach where you started.
The second reason I wanted to do this half marathon this year was that when I first attempted it a few years ago I hadn't trained properly and I ran out of oomph after about 9 miles and walked most of the last 3 or 4 miles. I needed to prove myself that I could really do this course and maintain a good pace all the way round.
And the third reason was that many months ago I had foolishly challenged my 35-year-old son to run this race with me... and he had amazed me by accepting the challenge. So then I had to do it. My son was on the track and cross-country teams in high school but hasn't done much running since. So, when I showed him the Jeff Galloway half marathon training schedule and pointed out that (a) you only need to run 3 days a week for the whole 17 week program and (b) if you can run 3 miles you can start the program, he decided he would do it.
There was a slight complication about this plan: my son's wife was due to give birth 7 days after the day of the race. But his wife was very supportive and encouraged him to complete the training and do the race.
Then there was a much bigger complication about this plan: my son's wife actually gave birth (to a son) on the day BEFORE the race. So my son had to get up in the early hours of Saturday to drive his wife to the hospital after her contractions started, and then support her through the birth and in the first few hours afterwards; and Tillerwoman and I spent Saturday looking after their other three kids and taking those kids to the hospital to see their new brother. I wouldn't have blamed him if my son had decided to skip the race, but amazingly he decided to go ahead and his wonderful wife supported his decision.
So my son and I met up at the start at some ungodly hour on Sunday, and ran the race. Based on our training times I expected that my son would be slower than me but I had offered to run all the way with him. However, he would have none of it, and encouraged me to run my own race even if that meant leaving him behind. I stayed with him the first few hundred yards but he soon told me to go ahead. We did see each other briefly as I was heading out of Fort Adams as he was heading in. I phoned him when I reached the 5 mile mark and he assured me he was OK.
I stuck to my plan to run the first 7 miles at an easy, conversational pace, and then to pick up the pace a bit. I did run faster for miles 8, 9 and 10, but then I had another slight oomph deficit and returned to my easier pace for the final 3 miles. At the finish they called my name out on the PA system and I waved deliriously at the crowd and the cameramen. I expect there will be some photos online soon of me looking like some crazy old geezer about to collapse in a puddle of sweat. I might share them here if they are funny enough.
After the finish I called my son again and confirmed he was still going well. I had time to grab some Gatorade and a banana and then to find a good spot to cheer him on as he sprinted to the finish. He was looking very pleased with himself as well he should. It's not every weekend you welcome your fourth child into the world AND run your first half marathon.
I could show you some picture of the views.
I could show you some pictures of the runners in front of me (which would probably appeal to dirty old men who like seeing photos of fat-bottomed girls.)
But I think the best picture to sum up the weekend is this one.