Running has afforded me some very neat opportunities over the past 6 years since I picked it up, including running for a relay team where I only knew 2 of the 11 other runners, doing a 5 mile warm-up run with Max King and Mario Mendoza before my first ever 5K and wearing a purple skirt as a pacer for a womens half marathon. While all of those were awesome in their own right, being asked to pace a friend (Bob) for his first ever half marathon was (and still is) cool beyond cool. The fact that he picked the Bend (half) Marathon only made it, and us, cooler.
As my friend neared race day, we poured over his running and fueling schedule, helping to prepare him for what was to come. Even though he had been training for the distance and had run further on one of his long days, I warned him that race days are always different because of what the mind says….run faster!!! While the body says…you idiot!!! To make matters interesting, Bob had only been running for 9 months, had only ever raced in a family 5K and was messing around with gels and protein powders. While that might sound like he had gone a little overboard, keep in mind that Bob had lost nearly 50 pounds by race day.
Speaking of race day, the moment arrived and with it came perfect, sunny conditions with a starting temp of 40 degrees. Given the amount of white stuff over here this past winter, this race could certainly have been a little hairy, but as it turned out, we were treated to epic weather. 941 people finished the half marathon on this Gorgeous (Series) day that was marked by a well organized, well staffed and well attended event. Volunteers were abundant all over the course, wearing smiles and bright shirts to set them apart from the runners. The course itself was a great testament to the recreation mecca that Bend has become and offered unprecedented mountain views as it rolled south and then west before returning to Drake Park and the downtown district, with a finish line right behind the Tower Theater.
And what about my buddy Bob? To be fair, there were a few moments where I considered getting behind him and pushing… and yet here he was, holding his sub-9 minute pace for 13.58 miles (trust me, the course was long) and flat out, getting it done! Bob crossed the line and looked a little like a guy that left a few organs out on the course, and yet just 10 minutes later he was talking about doing another one. I love this guy!
All along the way, I had the pleasure of encouraging Bob, along with scores of other runners, as we all raced towards the finish. The line up of spectators as we neared the end was electrifying, including our wives and our kids, who had each participated in the 10K and 5K races, respectively. We were met with finisher’s medals and water bottles while we high-fived each other and other runners who were near us. Running is like that, where often times we find ourselves surrounded by hundreds of like-minded people all striving for the same goal; to finish. Like us, I hope you’re smiling when you do.