The very first half marathon I ever did was the 3rd race in the series that year, the Decker Challenge. Appropriately enough it's a race that is run out in the back of Austin, up and down some serious hills. Some say it's Austin's toughest half marathon... because it is and certainly the hardest one I've ever done. It was the first half marathon I ever did and it hurt enough to where I questioned how does one double that distance? The next year, 2010, it would be the first half marathon I would do after getting out of the biopsy. It's one of these smaller races where your bib isn't assigned till you get to packet pick up. When I got there, my bib was 911 and I joked around with my friends, are you guys kidding me? I don't even have to put an emergency number on the back of the bib, you guys put it on the front! But it would be my fastest half marathon at the time and the first time I won my age group or division in a race ever as an adult (if you want to see the recount of how I saw it then versus now http://pickingupahitchhiker.blogspot.com/2011/01/better-half.html). That course is tough enough to where it's the only race I've never missed since I started running.
In the two following years (2011 and 2012), I asked for bib 911 and got it (it might help that I volunteered at packet pick up), remembering how much that meant to me. But this year, on half marathon #8 and wondering just how well the legs would keep holding up, I just kind of let it go. I'm the kid who always asks for bib #8 since I was born 8/8/80 but I'd never gotten that in a half and hadn't asked for the 911 this year. The last two races were just random bibs and the first two times I'd gotten PR's with a stroller and the truth is the legs were tired after several races in a short time. I just wanted to go see what the system still had.
But a couple of days before the race, someone sent me a video put on by the same store that sponsors this race and the Brain Power 5k, Rogue Running, called JFR, just fucking run (https://www.youtube.com/embed/0lj0elMzwlQ). Now, if you believe that a store that charges the kind of prices that a specialty store does for equipment and training or a guy like me who does regular workouts with a GPS watching timing every second, is only about running, I have a bridge I'd like to sell you (for the bargain price of the costs of my medical bills plus a burger). And so... that became the goal... this one is just for fun, hard hills but let's just go fucking run. There's no marathon on the calendar and the honest truth is that after the year I imagine will always be the race I do the most athletic events in one year... it was the last race of 2013 and while that may not last, there's honestly no race on the calendar for quite a while. When I got to volunteer pick up, they had reserved bib #8 for me!
So I did... I didn't do my traditional meals before (going to 4 holiday parties the day before didn't facilitate that and I have a weakness for desserts) I still focused on the music and the watch but less so than usual... it was the coldest half I've ever ran, EVER. One of my shot blocks fell on the race. There wasn't anyone ever anywhere really near me neither behind nor in front after not being far out the gate and it's a lonely course out in back roads where there really isn't pretty to look at. I don't know the roads since I've seen them only the 5 times I've ran the race but it's one big loop so pretty impossible to get lost. Looking up at the hills was not a pretty sight so I just focused on the lines and the cracks in the roads, sang when the breathing wasn't too hard.
The cold weather helped, the great volunteers that high fived and gave water helped, the music helped. To be in good shape, to do something well requires tuning in but every once in a while in some of the things like running that are just basic, you just tune out and it's just fun. So on the last race of the year, I just had some fun and it would be my fastest half marathon ever 1:20.21, taking 2 minutes off my previous fastest one which it had been two years since. I went back on the course and ran a few friends in and wondered if the look on my face at the end of those hills was as pained as some of theirs looked.
In the obsession with the number 8, on my 8th half marathon, I took 8th overall and still somehow didn't place in my age group. I got beat by 7 people and 4 of them were in my age group (but I promise I'm not competitive). But you know I went to eat with some people, some who had gotten their best time, some who it was their first one, some who were disappointed. But I don't know that there was one who wasn't happy that they hadn't ran. I'm actually more sore than I have ever been after any half marathon. The races are done for 2013 and somehow I've managed to get a trophy and or a best time in every distance I've done this year (miler, 2 miler, 5k, 5 miler, 10k, half marathon, 30k, marathon, spartans and 100 mile bike ride). That is of course insane and cannot be sustained. But it turns out that my therapy, that whole just fucking run has worked out pretty well for me in 2013.