So I am a few steps ahead of elated to tell you that they nailed it, and even placed in their age group.
Here is how it went down:
HOW IT ALL STARTED. This race and training started with a big old fashioned family rivalry. My husband ran a half in 2006 and a 10 mile race in 2007. Since then, he’s been plagued with a serious back injury, which completely sidelined him from running and pretty much every other sport. After loads of physical therapy, he successfully returned to running last year and decided this was his year to train longer, harder and smarter. My son, James, also decided he really wanted to run a half. He’s trained for the 5k, 5 mile and 10k, so I said yes when be pleaded his case for a half this year. Within what seemed like seconds, my boys had a wager on the table.
If James won (ran faster than Dad), Dad would pay James’ cell phone bill (which James currently pays) for the rest of the year. If Dad won, James would mow and shovel snow for the rest of the year – even though that was now his brother’s gig at our house.
During track this spring, James’ friends, Reed and Ross, said they wanted in too. They said it at one track meet, then another. Then they mentioned it again and their parents contacted me. I knew they were serious. And so we began training. Let’s do this. Dad became somewhat of a nemesis during training, but I knew this little rivalry would work in everyone’s favor.
TRAINING. We trained for 14 weeks including the last 2 weeks of track. The boys ran long runs (up to 13 miles), short runs, wicked hilly runs, tempo runs and intervals. We ran in cool temps and in hot humid temps. We talked about hilarious stuff, family stuff, school stuff, totally random stuff. We practiced taking gels. We practiced running through water stops. We burped, we made jokes. These guys had busy social calendars, so we worked around camps and vacations. Sometimes the boys would take whole weeks off. We rolled with it and supported each other. If someone couldn’t make a long run, they’d try to bike with him when he could so he was not alone. It was great. They put in some very impressive work and they never faltered on their commitment to this goal.
The night before the race, we all met up at Reed’s house. His parents hosted a big pre-race pasta dinner for all of us. Grandparents, parents and siblings welcome. It was so awesome to have this gathering and take in the family support. Not many 13 year-olds run half marathons. Their families embraced and celebrated their efforts.
GAME ON. On race morning, we all met up in downtown Madison on race morning ready to roll. The race started at 7:00 am, so we were all up bright and early to prepare. There was some nervousness, but it was all good nervous. Your know, the “let’s get this thing going” energy. Several people in our posse were doing the 5k and several the half.
Our number one goal was to beat Dad. Number 2 goal, I sort of waffled on all during training and even up until our last conversations at the pasta dinner. “We’ll see.” But I did this for good reason. I knew the race outcome could vary dramatically depending on weather, how the season went, etc. By the end of the season, the boys were in great shape. Based on race calculators using their recent 5k numbers, they could run sub 1:30. But I was not even beginning to think about going there for their first half.
My son James kept saying he wanted to run a 7:40 race pace throughout training. That was a great goal, but I was quick to nix any specific time goals. Our goal was to have a strong race. Respect the distance, run hard and finish strong. I told them to start slow (8:15 -8:30 the first 5 miles); then pick it up for the next 5; last 5k – give it. That’s it.
RACE DAY. We lined up for the race and were feeling AWESOME. The race day environment at this event is spectacular and we were excited. I told the boys to prepare for a slow start and just go with it as there were 3700 runners. Initially I said we’d start the first five miles at 8:15 pace, but I decided to let them rip a little more. The gun went off and we took off. We were easing into it as we ran the long, slow uphill, but picked it up as we hit the downhill toward the capital. We hit mile 1 at 8:09 pace (although my Garmin read it as 7:59). Perfect. Mile 2: 8:06; Mile 3: 7:53. A little faster than I was anticipating, but I knew these boys were capable of tearing it up and we weren’t in red line (or even yellow line territory). As we approached Camp Randall, I told Ross to pull over and tie his shoes as laces were flying everywhere. He did, but then we spent a ton of energy the next .25 running up hill to catch James and Reed. We caught our breath and carried on. Despite a stop, we ran mile 4 in 8:02.
Right before we hit the UW arboretum and mile 5, Ross’s shoelace was untied again. We stepped off, he corrected it (with a double-knot!) and we tried to catch up to Reed and James. BUT, they had taken it up a notch (as instructed as they were at mile 5). I looked at my watch and we were running 7:12 pace. I told Ross we needed to just settle in, maybe we’ll catch them later.
We didn’t catch them, but ran on our own. Ross settled in at his pace, but was struggling a wee bit due to a stomach issue and the heat/humidity. While it was in the 50s with no humidity all week, race day greeted us with almost 70 degrees and high humidity. The good thing was that he did not worry about his buddies. This day was his and he dug deep to run hard. We ran on, took in fluids and enjoyed the fabulous misting stations when we found them. We also discussed the high science of burping after drinking on the run. Hey – this is valuable stuff! Just after mile 11, we walked for a few seconds and he mentioned something about how he wasn’t having a great race. I immediately told him he was nuts! Not only was he going to finish, but he had been running it in great time and was going to finish in well under 2 hours – something elusive to many people who train for and run half marathons! He agreed with that point and we ran on. During the last mile, we hit a nice flat bike bath. Even though I knew Ross was fighting for this finish, I began to push the pace a little harder. He followed the lead without hesitation and finished super strong, running the last 1.1 miles at a 7:40 pace.
The splits for Ross and I were:
First 5 miles: 8:07 pace
Second 5 miles: 8:30 pace
Last 5k: 8:35 pace
As we finished, we ran into James and Reed. They had a heck of a race with splits that went down like this:
First 5 miles: 8:02
Second 5 miles: 7:53
Last 5k: 6:52 (21:17)
Total: 1:40:16 (and yes, for the record, that is a 7:40 average pace.)
Amazing. Awesome. And all three boys crushed it for their age group. They came in 1st, 2nd and 5th. I can’t even begin to tell you how proud I am of them all. As for John (aka Dad), he ran 1:54. No injuries, strong run, very happy camper.
I couldn’t be happier for all of them. The best news, they all are looking forward to the next one. And so am I.