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2019 Wineglass Half Marathon

I have now run 7 half marathons but this last one I ran might just be the one that means the most to me. I ran my first 5k around 6 years ago and my foray into running dates to before that time. I never really thought I would have a chance to experience what I did in this last race and it was truly special to me.

When I started running my wife had no interest. As I began to run more and more she supported me but didn’t understand why I did what I did especially as I began to actually enjoy running and testing myself. Then a couple years ago my wife decided she wanted to run a 5k and then an 8k and she did both of those things. She never expressed any interest in running any event farther than that distance. She would scoff at the idea of running a half marathon. She loved watching me run and push myself at races but she said it was not for her.

Then at the 2018 Wineglass Half Marathon a friend of hers had decided she was going to run it. We were there to cheer on the runners as we had the past year. My wife was able to cheer on her friend and see her as she closed in on accomplishing her goal. My wife was so inspired by her friend that shortly after that day she decided she also wanted to run the Wineglass Half Marathon and that she would run it in 2019.

Once she had gotten the idea firmly in her mind that she wanted to do it she committed and registered for the race early on. The first step was done.

My wife would be the one to tell you she is not really a runner. She doesn’t really run and go on and on and equivocate about not being a real runner because she run walks and mostly walks and isn’t very fast. I have always tried to instill in her that if you do any amount of running at any pace and go any distance, YOU ARE A RUNNER.

I think that the “I am not a real runner” mindset is hard to break. I also think that this mindset makes other things even more challenging than they have to be.

When you first get the notion of running a race into your head, the idea of running the race seems fun and that is what you focus on. The hard part is committing to the training. This is especially hard early on in the process. It is even more challenging when you set an ambitious goal, but that goal is far way on the calendar. I think this is where my wife struggled. She wanted to do more running than she had at her previous races and fully recognized that she would need to train more in order to do that and to do it at a much longer distance than she had experienced, but there was just so much time between the present and that future race day that it was always easy to delay starting the training process.

Then when we finally did get the training process started there were all too frequent setbacks due to various injuries that would cause training to cease and then it was really a struggle to get back into training each time. So the process of training was really challenging.

As race day drew near we were able to finally find some consistency in my wife’s training. She was able to log miles using her run/walk strategy. We took a vacation and logged miles hiking and exploring, but then there was another injury. It was getting very frustrating for her with all the setbacks especially when she was finally finding her groove in training.

Then I was in the process of getting the in the final push for training for my 100 miler and trying to figure out how best to help her train. We decided on a strategy of focusing on her getting used to as much distance as she could. That meant mostly walking, but miles are miles. I would go out for my long runs on my training and my wife would go with me. I would run a mile then circle back to her and check in with her and we would go until I got as many miles as I needed and she would rack up miles all the while checking in with each other after each mile. This strategy worked out even better than I had hoped and it was so nice to be out there working towards our goals together.

In the last several weeks leading up to the race we tried to focus on race strategy and pace for her to execute at the race. My wife really wanted to be done in 3.5 hours. She felt that it was an attainable goal given how her training had went. So we had to devise a plan to get her there. We set out on various training runs trying out different walk run strategies and seeing how they felt. And then came more leg pains and setbacks to training. So much frustration in the training.

Finally we were able to settle on a plan of run for 30 seconds and walk for 1 minute that she tried out and felt pretty good. It allowed her to move at a pretty decent pace and run normally during the 30 seconds and then have time to recover before another burst of running and didn’t cause too much fatigue. It seemed like a plan that could be executed over 13.1 miles. Critically it also should get her in under her goal according to our estimates.

Then a week before the race I got sick, but I recovered in a few days. Then my wife got sick. Never a good sign. Colds have a tendency to kick her but. In a few days she was down and out. Leaving work early one day and then calling in sick the next. Not something my wife takes lightly she is kind of a workaholic in that way. So two days before her first half marathon my wife was so sick she missed work. Not ideal, obviously. We were both nervous. How would this impact her ability to run the race? Would she even be able to run the race? If she could go to the race would she be able to run at all or would it just be a long walk. Luckily by race day my wife was feeling much better and we took cold medicine to the race for her to use.

Emotionally at least, the days leading up to the race went smoothly and my wife, at least outwardly, seemed relatively relaxed despite what was approaching for her. She said she was nervous but really handled it well.

On race day we boarded the bus and got to the start line uneventfully, exactly what you want on race day, especially for ones first half marathon. We were there plenty early to stretch and get prepared. We talked about how to start the race. It would be very exciting and it would be fun to just run as much as possible at the beginning. But we discussed the importance of sticking to our plan. It will be hard to let people go by us as we execute our run/walk plan but it will benefit us in the end. We made a plan and now we need to execute it.

The race started and we crossed the start line. My wife was now running her first half marathon. Something I never thought would happen and something I bet she really never thought would happen. We executed our plan. We ran and we walked. Occasionally running or walking more or less as seemed appropriate. It was amazing. My wife was doing so well. Despite all the setbacks. The injuries, the nagging leg pains. The cold the week of the race. She was conquering it all. She was doing this. Not only was she doing it she was doing it well. She was executing the race plan exactly the way we had discussed. I checked in with her frequently to see how she felt and she felt good almost the entire race. No pain. Not much effects from the cold. We had packed my race vest full of tissues just in case, but we only ended up using a small handful of tissues over the course of the race.

I could not have been more happy for my wife at how this race was going for her. I knew she was nervous about it especially after getting sick. I know she had doubts about whether or not she could do it and do it the way she wanted to with a run/walk strategy. I always tried to reassure her. But I would be lying if I said I expected it to go as well for her as it did.


We went along at our intended pace and before you knew it 5k done. I told my wife think about this. You had so many setbacks this year, but you just ran a 5k and you feel fine. You feel better than you had on any of your other 5k races. You felt better than you did on your training runs. I tried to build her confidence by pointing out how well she was doing. It was just so great to see her out here feeling so well.

Then the next milestone hit before you knew it. We were approaching the 8k distance. I think that made us both a little nervous because we both knew what that meant. We were about you cross not uncharted territory. My wife had been able to walk longer distances, but she had never gone farther than an 8k at the pace we were going using this run/walk strategy. Still she felt strong. She was happy and in good spirits. We entered uncharted territory and continued to sail through it without so much of a hiccup.

It is kind of amazing to me to see someone running their first half marathon who is in as good of spirits as my wife was. She was happy and friendly. We talked a lot. She talked to everyone on the course she could. She thanked every single volunteer we crossed paths with.

Through mile ten she had barely a complaint. She felt fine. She was in good spirits. Our strategy was working. She was overcoming all the obstacles thst had been put in her path. After mile ten my wife started to waver. Her energy was starting to ebb. It was noticeable that she was slowing down. Then at just the right moment one of our friends who was volunteering at a water station. After we ran by, he road out onto the course to provide some levity and entertainment to lift us up and it really helped get us smiling though a tough stretch.

As we neared the end of the race my wife seemed to be in awe of what was happening. She was actually accomplishing this huge goal she never even thought she’d ever take on. In the last few miles she said multiple times “I can’t believe I’m doing this.” I told her “It is amazing when you start to find out just what you are capable of.” My wife was getting tired but she still felt pretty good despite everything. She could start to see the light at the end of the tunnel. As we got close to the end it really began to hit my wife. She was going to finish this race. She said, “I can’t believe I am actually going to finish.” She began t get emotional and tears began to well up in her eyes. She began to cry. I don’t know if she ever really truly believed that she would be able to do this. She wanted to and dreamed about it and hoped to be able to do it, but I don’t know if she ever believed she could. Now she was proving to herself that she could do it and she was doing it and she was going to finish. Seeing my wife so happy and so close to accomplishing her goal and her tears of joy and emotions overflowing almost ha me crying. I had to keep my emotions in check so she could focus on what she needed to do, but I was just so overwhelmingly happy for her.

We turned onto Market Street. We continued to execute our plan. We ran the section of Market Street that we had planned to run through to the finish line and we ran through the cheering crowd and crossed that finish line together. It was an amazing feeling. I hugged my wife. Meb would have to wait.

This was the most amazing experience for me. As much as it was for my wife. This is the kind of experience I have dreamed about having. I think anyone who runs has had these thoughts. Thoughts of how great it would be to be able to go out and run with your spouse or significant other. To be able to share in this thing you love. To go out and move your bodies and enjoy what running has to offer together. For a long time I never thought this would be something I would experience. As I dove deeper into running my wife seemed to become more resolute that she was not going to be a runner. Then she began to get interested in running. We have now run around six events together including this half marathon. Being able to share this with my wife is so special to me.

Experiencing this race with her. Seeing her run her first half marathon up close and personal. See her enjoy running. Watching her smile and and talk to people and thank every volunteer. To see her joy in running this race. It makes me so happy. It is a memory I will never forget.

My wife will probably continue to say she is not a runner despite my admonishments. We don’t run the same pace. But we can still get out and have fun running together. We make time to do some running with each other and it makes all the difference in the world to me. I think she thinks it is a sacrifice or me to slow down and run with her, but for me it is the biggest joy I can get. I get to be out here doing something I love with the woman I love. There could not be a bigger gift that she could give to me. She will tell you she is slow and that she doesn’t really run, but I can see a day in the future when I am asking her to slow down and run a race with me.

My wife talked about how much fun she had running the Wineglass Half Marathon and how it was better than she expected. She is already talking about running it again next year. If she could do it this year despite all the setbacks, how much better could she do next year if things went smoother for her?

Trying to Run a Better Race

 

Running the 2016 Wineglass Half Marathon:

I’ve known for about 52 weeks that I would run this race again. I ran my first half marathon here in 2015 and I knew I wanted to do it again and do it better. This was the one race I knew early on I would run this year.

Last year I was nervous if I would even be able to do it, but I did. This year I did something I had never done for any other race and I set for myself a pace/time goal. As the race began to loom on the horizon, I began to get nervous that I would not run well and what felt for me like a terrible race over basically a half marathon distance for a relay did not help the nerves.

I am not good at prep and planning for events like racing. I am more of a just go and do type person. So I was relieved when several of my friends running Wineglass asked if I wanted to car pool with them. Perfect, several fewer things to have to worry about on my end. Meet at the specified time and ride up with them. No decision making or planning by me needed.

The night before I felt like I was all prepped and ready to go before going to bed. All my clothes were laid out, racing and pre/post clothing. Gear laid out: hat, gloves, belt pouch (for chews etc.), compression sleeves, and headphones. I had everything in the same room in close proximity to make it almost impossible to forget. My wireless headphones were plugged into my computer to ensure a full charge so they would last the whole race. I had my camera out and battery plugged in to charge so it would last the whole race. Yes, I said camera. I’m a photographer and try to take a camera with me wherever possible.

We got to the starting location for the half marathon nice and early. Plenty of time to relax, stretch, eat, prep, and do all the pre-race things that only other runners are privy to. As I was getting ready I realized I forgot band aids to prevent chaffing (guys you probably know what this is about and maybe the girls too).  Strike one. The always-prepared Eric Williams thankfully had some extras that mostly worked. (I don’t want to talk about what happened when they stopped working. LOL.) As I was getting ready to run I realized I my headphones were definitely fully charged, because they were still at home plugged into my computer. This is after spending hours trying to put together a decent running playlist to pump me up throughout this half marathon. Strike 2.  As I am getting to the starting line I get my camera out to take a few photographs of the crowd of runners and the scenery only to discover that this battery too was still at home safe and sound fully charged. Strike 3. I was really hoping this was not a 3 strikes and you are out type of situation.

I was really starting to get down on myself for being unprepared right before the race. Not good. Fortunately for me Joette Foster was with me. She of the always-positive attitude gave me a quick attitude adjustment and got me back in a positive frame of mind.

As I waited alone for the race to start, if one can be alone in a group of thousands, out of the crowd materializes friend and fellow runner Georgia Tucker. We talked about the pace we were each planning to run and settled in the area where we figured we should be in the crowd, no pacer running the pace we were targeting. Unfortunately for Gorgia, but fortunately for me, she could not get her music service to connect so she too had no music to run with either. We ran and talked for 10 miles. In addition, we stayed pretty much at the pace I wanted for the entire 10 miles. I actually could not believe I could run and chat for 10 miles at basically my goal pace. Running and talking with Georgia helped me to not think about the running or the miles I’ve run or the miles still to go. It was so enjoyable to run with someone I knew and could talk to. I had my Garmin watch set to notify me if I was going too fast or too slow for the pace I wanted. That allowed me to just glance quickly and see if I needed to speed up a little or could slow down some then just keep talking and keep on keeping on running with Georgia.

A mile 10 the wheels started to come off a little bit for me and I could not keep up my pace and Georgia and the pacer I really wanted to stay in front of pulled away off into the distance. I was still running ok but could feel the strength leaving my legs. I just didn’t have much left in the tank. I was excited to see my friends at STRC and the SOAR kids cheering runners on and that gave me a quick boost of energy but it didn’t last. I was able to finish the race at a good time for me 2:15:32. This was a significantly faster PR for me. I felt good almost the entire race. I was happy with the results.

The race was great and I enjoyed it and felt accomplished by my run. However, by far the best part for me was the post-race. Over the past year being involved with running groups and clubs like STRC I have gotten to know so many runners, where in previous years I had known none. If anyone was there to cheer me on at previous races it was my amazing wife, Debby and one of my dogs. I’ve gone to several races where I showed up alone, run the race, and then immediately gone home because I didn’t know anyone.

This year was totally different. This year I knew at least a dozen people who were running in either the full or half marathon. This year I had friends, support, and comradery from the running community. This is something I would never had and I would have even known was possible without joining great running groups like STRC and No Meat Athlete, Corning. They welcomed me into their group and made me one of them. They supported me throughout this journey and encouraged me to work hard when I didn’t think I could do it.

When I crossed the finish line I first looked for my wife. She’s been there supporting me through all my craziness. She pointed Joette out to me in the crowd and we congratulated each other on a well-run race. We found, Lindsay Barrile, the person who has been the captain of this running crew I have been fortunate enough to fall in with. Lindsay planned great workouts and training for us and I did more structured running thanks to her than I ever would have. Let’s face it I would have done no structured running workouts without her. We found the speedster of our group Eric and the four of us got our picture taken together, which I had never done before at a race. We sat and recovered together. We talked about our races, where it went well for us and where it came off the rails. We shared our successes.

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Me and Kira after the race. (Photo by Debby Reynolds)

We all went to change into some dry cloths so we could enjoy the rest of race day together. I was able to find Debby in the crowd with one of our dogs who was very excited to see me. It is always great to have the support of my loving wife and one of our great dogs after a race. It always helps to ease the post-race discomfort when you can be snuggled by a dog.

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Me and Kira after the race. (Photo by Debby Reynolds)

Our group of runners was able to reconnect after changing and watch more of the runners finish there races. We were joined by another friend Sarah Wellington who was able to return after spending some time with her family. We were able to hang out, socialize, and enjoy some great food and a few beers on the always-fabulous Market Street in Corning, NY.

While we ate we were able to monitor another friends progress in the full marathon thanks to the Race Joy app. Brande Flaitz was running the full marathon and we wanted to cheer her on. I was in communication without other STRC members out on the course cheering and they were wondering about her progress. I was able to relay her position using the Race Joy app. We were growing concerned that she had become injured as it seemed she had fallen off her expected pace for the race. Brett Shelton who had been cheering with other STRC members and the SOAR kids ran out to meet her at mile 24 and see how she was doing. As we tracked her progress it was suggested that we go out to the course and meet up with Brande to support her in this effort. Thanks again to the Race Joy app we were able to find her exact location and drive over and meet up with her around a mile or so out form the finish. Sarah who was still recovering from her race and her own injury broke into a sprint upon seeing her and ran out to support her. Lindsay, Joette, Eric, and I all joined them.

Brande was clearly in pain. She was gutting it out through the pain of her injury. We were able to walk and ran with her towards the finish line where she successfully finished her race. Despite being injured, she was still moving at a decent pace. I couldn’t keep up without running.  I had never been a part of something like this. A group of people supporting each other and encouraging one another to push our limits. This is what running is. This is the community of runners I have been lucky enough to become a part of is all about.

Brande didn’t get to run the race she had envisioned but she ran the race she could given the circumstances she was dealt. She gutted it out through sheer force of will and determination when many others would have given up. She ran a race many others including me could not have run. I am proud of her for her toughness and her ability to dig down deep and see that race through to the end. This was a day I will never forget for so many reasons and I am so glad I was there to be a part of it. I am so glad I became a runner.