Sunday, October 27, 2013

I "Think" We Ran A Half Marathon ... And I "Think" I Won

Sunday morning on the Little Blue Trace Trail in
Independence, MO running the Larry Mattonen Half Marathon
Blue Springs 50/50 & 
Larry Mattonen Marathon/Half Marathon
October 27, 2013
Independence, MO

Half Marathon Time: 1:39:40
Pace: 7:34/mile
Place: 1st Place Overall (out of 29)

Well that was different.  On Sunday Michael and I ran in a Half-Marathon race ... I think.  I mean there was a $30 fee, and race bibs, and a starting line, and a "3 ... 2 ... 1 ... GO!", and about 29 competitors.  Wait, what?  Yeah ... 29!  Weirdest thing ever.  And out of that great throng, I'm pretty sure I emerged as the winner.  But who really knows.

There has never been, or will ever be a race of any size in our area that eludes my wife.  If our legs and pocketbook could handle it, the woman would race every weekend. Conversely, I would be good with two or three a year.  So I can't say that I was surprised when she signed us up for the Blue Springs 50/50 and Larry Mattonen Marathon & Half Marathon on Sunday.  The event featured 50K, 50 mile, Marathon, and Half Marathon distance races.  We opted for Half.  It was sponsored by a local running club, The Blue Springs Runners, so I figured it was a good way to get a good 13 mile recovery run in, and support a small local club at the same time.  I had no idea exactly how small we were talking.

Michael pre-dawn, super excited about the big race
We arrived at about 6:30 am in Independence, MO at the Little Blue Trace Trail.  It's the Jackson County Parks & Rec semi-paved biking, running, and walking trail that runs adjacent to the Little Blue River.  It's super flat, so I trained there a lot this summer trying to simulate the Chicago course elevation.  It was chilly, only about 29 degrees, with the season's first heavy frost on the ground, but absolutely no wind.  It was a really good morning to run.

We had picked up our race bibs and short-sleeve race shirt the night before at Fazoli's Italian Restaurant, which in itself was a little different.  And by the number of remaining packets left on the restaurant booth used for registration, we knew it was going be a fairly small event.  But it was a little surprising when the race director announced at 6:55 am "Anyone wanting to be counted in the seven o'clock start time, sign up on this paper with your number".  Hmm, well okay.  Michael and I both signed the clip-boarded piece of paper.  And then the same gentleman counted backwards and started the race.  All 29 of us who were lined up, started the "race".  Yes ... again, I said 29.

I had just ran 18 morning miles the day before, with a 4 mile recovery run in the evening.  Obviously my legs were still a little raw.  So I was just planning on taking it fairly slow, and maybe running a few Fartleks on the back end, or at most a few miles at marathon pace.  I had absolutely no intention of running this hard.  And the small crowd of runners certainly reinforced this thought.  There was no way to get caught up in "race day excitement" and go out faster than planned.  I was just going to use this event as a nice long'ish, but faster than normal recovery run ... which I did.

Beautiful changing leaves and fall colors along the trail ... photo courtesy of Michael
It was still dark when we started and a few of the runners, of course, bolted out ahead of the pack.  I never do that.  I wasn't really paying that much attention, but I figured they were just really fast.  But at about mile 1.5 I had caught most of them.  I had settled into a comfortable 8:00/pace and felt nice and relaxed.  Since I really wasn't running at a "race pace" I just figured there were a few more runners up ahead, but I soon found out there was only one more.

It was a little foggy along the trail early in the morning, and the heavy frosted ground was evidence of the chill in the air.  But as the sun began to rise, the remaining orange, red, and yellows lingering in the trail-side trees were lit up like Autumn neon signs.  It was beautiful.  Sometimes along this trail, you'll encounter a few deer, but I didn't see any this morning.  Nope, pretty much all I saw was an empty trail in front of me and the occasional water jugs left out for runners.  There was actually one manned water station with some frozen volunteers trying to warm up next to a camp fire.  It was great of them to lend a hand for such a small event.  Getting volunteers out is always a challenge for race directors.  No doubt these folks were friends of the Blue Springs Runners, and their help was much appreciated.

More incredible Autumn colors from a great run on the Little Blue Trace Trail in Independence, Missouri

My SWAG award for 1st Place Overall
The great Solar Dancing Snowman!  Simply ... AWESOME!!!
As I approached the 6.5 mile turn around (the race was a simple out & back), I kept a curious eye out for the number of runners making their way back to the finish line.  Basically who was in front of me.  I wasn't running hard and really thought there would be two or three guys coming back.  But the only person who passed me was a teenage girl.  She had about a half-mile lead on me.  And that was it.  I was in second place in the premiere event!

After I made the midpoint turn, and stopped at the aid station to visit with the volunteers for a minute, I settled into my marathon pace.  I felt pretty energy depleted after 22 miles on Saturday, but other than fatigue, everything felt fine at that pace.  And as I came around the bend just before the 8 mile water stop, I saw that I basically caught the young lady.  Four people, who I instantly figured out were her family, were waiting for her at the jugs of water.  She downed some water quickly and then was on her way, but not before glancing back over her shoulder to find out how quickly I was gaining on her.  She appeared to really be "racing".

When I got to the aid station, about 200 meters behind her, I jokingly told her parents that if I didn't catch her, my wife wouldn't let me back in the car to go home.  I was joking ... kinda.  Truth is, if I would have come in second place to a teenage girl, even though I wasn't racing this "race" ... I would have NEVER heard the end of it around my house. Never.  Michael's just like that.  Imagine the pressure cooker I live in!  Yeah man ... that's what it's like to be me.

What ... don't all the great champions do this at the finish line?
After about a half-mile, the girl was starting to fade and I quickly caught her before mile 9.  She said "Great job!" as I passed, and I replied the same.  Shortly after that, I ran into Michael who snapped a quick picture.  That was cool!  She said she felt good and she looked pretty strong too.  The remaining miles were pretty uneventful and as I approached the finish line, there was no doubt that I was the first one back.  I finished in 1:39:40.  Honestly, even though it was literally a 29 person race, it was pretty cool. I'm small like that.

The fan-fare at the finish line of a major race like this is simply overwhelming.  Sarcasm. The four volunteers, and two other people standing around said absolutely nothing as I approached ... they were freezing.  When I eclipsed the plastic sign labeled "Start Finish", one guy mumbled, "Wow .... strong finish."  I thought, "What's wrong with these folks?  Don't they recognized greatness?  Don't they know I just crushed dozen of runners?"  About that time, the main race director, a kind faced small'ish older gentleman said, "Did you get a shirt?  Grab a souvenir out of the box." It was a box filled with a bunch of plastic figurines that "danced" when the sun hit them.  I chose what all great victors would choose ... the Solar Dancing Snowman!  After that I waited a bit for Michael and then we headed back to Lee's Summit.

It was a little weird that no one said anything when I crossed.  Not a, "Good job, you were the first one back!" or anything.  I figured I would at least get one of those crowns made of leafs like they hand at Boston to the winners ... or something.  So at this point, I'm assuming I won their "race".  I'm certain there was no one in front of me, so maybe my $5,000 over-sized giant check will be mailed to me.  No worries though.  I accomplished what I planned for the run, and had a good time at one of the most unique events I've ran.  Plus, it further reinforced my theory that anyone can win a race if it's small enough.  Hope your training's going well too!
... be great today!


  1. Where was the marching band and the girls in skimpy clothes. And the fireworks!! You should at least have had a sparkler lit in your honour.

  2. Ha! This has me laughing! Such a different world racing a race this small. Glad you didn't let the teenage girl beat you...ha! And a win is a win so good job! Those are some big back to back mileage days. And sounds beautiful even though it was cold. It was 26 degrees here in Asheville, NC yesterday morning..brr. but it warmed up fast! Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

  3. Hey, a win's a win, dude. Own it! Congrats!

  4. Way to go on beating that teenager. Dude, you shoulda let her win. Imagine the story she would have been able to tell all her friends? I tell ya, some guys. Just kidding...kind of.

    So is Michigan on your race calendar for next year? What marathon are you eyeing? Here are two stellar races: Bayshore Marathon is the Saturday of memorial weekend. Awesome smallish race with spectacular views...typically sells out the day registration opens (in December). Located in a great up north town with lots of wineries. I am contemplating doing the full in 2014. Grand Rapids Marathon is AWESOME! I just ran it last Sunday (and thanks for your advice earlier this summer, I ran a 4:26...very pleased!!) You and Michael would have a comfy place to stay and VIP treatment. Great course and the race director is just plain awesome. Oh and I guess the Detroit Marathon is good too or so they say. :o) Just some food or thought.

  5. Quite the prize you got for your win! But yes, own it. A win is a win! Congrats. I'm with Michael. If I could afford it and my body could handle it I would race all the time.

  6. Funny about the way the race finished. Maybe they weren't morning people?!

    Congrats on the win - that's a great run on tired legs! Fun swag!

  7. My favorite line was "I'm small like that."

  8. Jim, I cracked up as I read your post! What an odd little event.Personally, I am loving smaller races...mind you, 70 or more participants. However, if I had your speed, I would be all over those 12 person races! Since Michael signed you up for this boondoggle, maybe she should make you a finishers medal???
    Susan SRMS

  9. Awesome job, dude! Especially on those cold and empty roads, just two weeks after a marathon! I'd still be rolling my way across the floor. Very fitting "trophy". Does it sing too?

  10. This was hilarious. Congratulations on your win! I'd totally own it...really a shame they misplaced your crown of laurel wreaths.

    This is all the way across MO from you, but you and Michael should DEFINITELY come to the SHITR half marathon ( It's free! I promise hotel rooms will be way cheaper than Chicago. And it's a blast. It's at 5 pm on Jan 11.

  11. This was without a doubt the most hilarious race recap I have ever read! I really did laugh till I cried!
    From now on you can claim with pride:
    "Why yes! I once won the Blue Springs 50/50 and Larry Mattonen Marathon & Half Marathon!"

  12. My type of race indeed! I love small races! I've done a race with 8 runners! Haha, so even slow me have some top 10 finishes :) Well done and glad you enjoyed it!

  13. I have some of the best stories from small races like this....they usually entail me lost somewhere in the middle. Yahoo on the (hopefully) win and stellar gift!


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