Pre-race- After 3 hours of sleeping the sleep of the just, I wake up. I am excited, nervous and not going back to bed. After getting dressed, I head downstairs. The whole team is there, looking awesome in their Team Just One Life shirts. I am wearing two bibs; the race one, signed by Meb, and underneath, a “coach” bib for after my race. We head out the doors and join the parade of runners, heading to the race start. There is an incredible energy in the air.
After some pre-race pictures we split up, to go to check bags and wait on the port-a-potty lines. I feel like a parent sending children off for a big test. I have done everything I can do. Now, it's their turn. I walk around trying to find a few runners from the team, with limited success. Annoyingly and perhaps not so surprisingly, we are not the only runners with red shirts with white writing. Note to self: next year we wear HOT pink shirts.
I line up in the second corral feeling pretty fast. Just an illusion, but one of the advantages in running in a race with many beginners.
Then, we are off.
Mile 1- Nice and easy, at over 8 minutes a mile. Today is not for racing. I'm tired and haven't been seriously training. That's what I keep telling myself. Truth is, I know my friend Yitzi is going to give me a hard time if I don't beat his wife's time, so by not racing, I am giving myself an excuse.
Mile 2- You might have noticed in the past, I'm an emotional kind of guy. The question is not if I will cry during a race, but only when. I see the first band stand for the first group playing music, as part of this Rock N' Roll race, and it's sponsored by Guitar Center, my oldest sons most favorite place in the world. Tears.
I look at my watch and I'm under 8 minutes per mile. I remind myself that I am not racing and that I better slow down. Although the sun is not yet out, it's getting warmer, and I can't possibly keep this pace.
Mile 3- I pass a used-clothing store. It's called Frock You. I sure hope they succeed and open a second store because I've got a great name for them to use.
I'm at 7:40 a mile. Maybe, just maybe I might get into the low 1:40s.
Mile 4- I'm not really sure why, but I think of my dad who passed away seven years ago this week. He always encouraged me to lose weight so I wouldn't end up like him. I did, just too late for him to see. I think he would have been proud of me and really liked Team Just One Life. Tears.
What the heck, let's give this a shot.. Not slowing down. I'm going to try for 1:40.
Mile 5- The course is not too exciting. I don't mind so much. I'm running well and other than some banter with people in the race, I am focused on running.
I am running the tangents almost perfectly and my Garmin and the race clocks are practically in sink.
Mile 6- Half way there. 50 minutes. I've run halves of full marathons in under 1:38, but never ran a half-marathon in under 1:40. I won't PR, but a 1:39 will be nice.
Mile 8- A few tough hills, but not too bad. The drum beats of the band help as well.
Mile 9- I see some of the wheel chair racers from the marathon go past. I tell the guy next to me that I want one of those.
I pass the team videographer and let out my best war cry and scream “Go Team Just One Life”.
Mile 10- Another hill. A volunteer says it's the last one. Ignorance is bliss. I tare up the hill.
Can I PR?
Mile 11- If I'm going to PR, I'm going to have to put up with a little pain. I'm now in the low 7s per mile. I can't really understand how I'm doing this. Then it hits me. When Meb signed my bib, he must have transferred some of his speed over to me. That's the only thing that makes logical sense.
It's literally, all downhill from here.
Mile 12- Run Sommer, run! I can see the downtown area and the stadium where the finish-line is located. I am close.
Mile 13- I'm giving it all that I've got. I cover the last 1/6th of a mile in 5:38.
PR! 1:36. I covered the last 5K in what would have been a 5K PR.
Never has a chocolate milk tasted better.
I switch my bibs and as a coach head back onto the course. This is perhaps my favorite part of the race. I cheer for every runner at the top of my lungs. I tell them there is cold beer at the finish line. I tell them they look great, even, and especially, when they don't. I cheer for them by name, whenever possible. Those with Red Sox hats get a special shout out. Then, I find one of our runners and run him/her back towards the finish line, and repeat.
I get to run with old and new friends. To give encouragement to those who need it, and distraction to those who prefer that. I watch one old friend go sub 2 in his first race. I run with another who has lost over 50 pounds, towards his wife and adorable son who are waiting up ahead.
All told, I cover more than 3 more miles, and have a blast doing so.
I am tired, sore and oh, so happy. There will be other days where I will PR. I can't imagine another race being better than this one.