Yet when I toed the line at today's Paul Ryan Almost Half Marathon, it was as if I was possessed by Mercury, the god of speed, abundance, travel, and 1950s Ford Hot Rods.
The world record at the half-marathon distance was set in Lisbon in 2010 by Zersenay Tadese: 58 minutes and 23 seconds, for an average pace of 4:27 per mile. Given the fact that the fastest I had previously run even a single mile was 5:30, it seemed unlikely that Tadese's record was in danger today.
But after timer Peter Asciutto of Vac-and-Dash said those fateful words: "Ready, Set, Go!" I knew that Tadese better start worrying. For the first mile, I dispensed with all thoughts of moderation, and just started running all-out. Despite the fact that the fastest mile I'd ever run in a half-marathon was about 6:40, I headed out of the gates at a blazing 5:11 pace!
The following miles were even faster: 4:54, 5:00, 5:00. I was running faster than I had ever gone for any distance! Could I maintain this pace for an entire half-marathon? I didn't know, but I was about to find out.
As I tore along the McMullen Creek Parkway in Pineville, North Carolina, the Sunday-morning recreational runners along the path simply could not believe what they were seeing. I could hardly believe it myself. I was running so fast, my singlet was nearly torn away, revealing my taut, six-pack abs. A 5:00 pace is roughly 12 miles per hour, so I found myself passing not only recreational runners, but even cyclists, whose jaws dropped as they watched this ripped 45-year-old stride by them as if they were riding stationary bikes at the gym!
I continued along at nearly the same pace until I reached the turnaround. Oddly, my GPS read only 5.75 miles at this point. If I was truly halfway through a half-marathon, I should have been 6.55 miles into the race. Could it be that my GPS was not accurate? A quick mental calculation revealed that I was near world-record pace! I had completed half the race in just 29:26. If I could maintain pace on the return to the finish line, I would finish in under 59 minutes, within seconds of the 58:23 record!
The Paul Ryan Almost Half Marathon was an unofficial event, hastily organized by a few like-minded runners in the greater Charlotte area. How ironic would it be if this slapdash event was won in world-record time by a middling age-grouper from tiny Davidson, NC?
The turnaround was the only aid station on the course, and I was aching for water. I grabbed two cups and headed back towards the finish line. Rejuvenated by the icy drink, my pace improved. I ran the next "mile" in just 5:00 flat. But since my GPS was running slow, I did a mental calculation and determined that my actual pace was more like 4:23 -- well below record pace! If only I could hold out for 5.5 more miles, the record could be mine!
While my speed for the final miles of the race continued to astonish the now-swelling crowds along the greenway, I was slowing. If I was to break the record, I would need more fuel...and more importantly, more water. Alas, it was not to be. As I cruised across the finish line, I saw that my time was 59:28, 1:05 slower than the world record.
It would still be an American record, besting Ryan Hall's 59:43 at the 2007 Houston Half, but I couldn't beat the best in the world.
Here's a photo that official race timer Peter Asciutto snapped of me as I approached the finish line. It might appear that I was plodding along at a respectable-for-recreational-runners pace of 7:09 per mile, but I can assure you, according to the standard set by the Republican nominee for U.S. Vice President, I was running at an average pace of 4:32 per mile!
|Seriously haulin' booty!|
As judged by the standards of respected politician Paul Ryan, I had the race of a lifetime today. I set an American record, and nearly beat everyone in the world. This is not a day I will soon forget!