The last time I ran the Heart Mini-Marathon, it was 2008. I hadn’t run many races before, but I knew enough to promise myself that I’d never sign up for a mid-March race in Cincinnati again. The weather always sucks this time of year.
But here I was, in 2014, lining up for the start of this race again.
And guess what? The weather sucked.
I’ve been miserable, cold and/or soaked at the start of races before, but the bone-chilling 18 mph wind ripping through the skyscrapers downtown in the dark in 30-degree weather officially created the worst starting conditions I’d ever experienced.
It was still dark when the gun went off. And uh, the gun REALLY went off. It sounded like a cannon exploding, and everyone screamed. Race organizers, you might want to re-think that one.
We headed east and away from the city, and I ran the first half-mile with my husband as we both strode along with the pace of the crowd (which just so happened to be my exact desired pace). As we came up and over the entrance ramp heading out of the city, you could see thousands of heads bobbing over the road ahead of us. It’s always a thing of beauty when you get a chance to see the magnitude of a race. It makes you feel like part of something special, and adds some perspective to the task at hand.
Keith went on ahead just as the sun broke through the clouds and rose over the river. I realized then that the wind had become a non-issue as we escaped the confines of the city, and that it was actually pretty nice racing weather.
As the mile splits kept coming, I was as even as could be. Give or take 5-6 seconds, I was right on my race plan. I had decided to mentally break up the 15K race into thirds. And, as I breezed through the third mile and headed into the “middle” portion of the race, I was still feeling good. Plus, the need to pee, which seemed VERY urgent during the first two miles, had mostly faded away, thank goodness.
The Heart Mini is an out-and-back course, so somewhere after that third mile, the leaders started coming back up on the opposite side of the road. And, since we were all running on the concrete parkway, it made for a much-needed change of scenery.
After another mile or so, I started looking out for my husband. As we got closer and closer to the turnaround, I still hadn’t seen him. Was it possible that I had somehow gotten ahead of him?
You would think that since I hadn’t run this race in six years, I might have checked the race course ahead of time to see if there had been any changes. But you would be wrong. As we turned around, we went in a different direction (uphill) than I was expecting. Blergh.
Once I’d broached the big hill coming off Delta and headed around the bend, the city skyline was in sight. While the city skyline is very pretty, at this point, all I could think was that it looked damn far away … approximately three miles away.
But hey! That means that I was two-thirds through this thing. And my mile splits were STILL perfectly even-keeled. Good job, body! With the exception of chugging through water stops, I hadn’t needed a single break. I hadn’t felt so adequately prepared for a race in, well, gosh … ever? Not in recent memory, anyway.
As we came back into the city, the bone-chilling wind picked back up as we mounted the final hill. The dreaded entrance ramp. I remembered this part from running the race six years ago, and I remembered giving up halfway and walking. Not this time, baby. I plowed up that entrance ramp and posted my fastest mile of the race.
The wind was gusting so hard that the banner denoting the finish line was blowing straight backwards, so I didn’t even see it until I was on top of the balloons. I looked up at the clock, gave myself a mental pat on the back and threw myself over the finish line.
Heck, I even had some gas left in the tank. I walked through the long finisher’s area with a huge smile on my face. Actually, it was probably just frozen on at this point. I found my husband, who had finished a few minutes in front of me and who was also jazzed about his race performance.
Does bad-weather-racing reap positive results? For whatever reason, the stars aligned for both of us on that bitterly cold morning.
All in all, I feel really great about this race. I ran exactly the race I wanted to, and without even realizing it, beat my 2008 time. After one helluva winter (one that STILL seems to be hanging on in these final weeks of March), I’m proud of all of the work I’ve put in over these long, cold, snowy months, and I am overjoyed to benefit from the results. Bring it on spring racing season! I’m ready for ya. — Aidz