I don’t know if I’m up for this half marathon. I wasn’t going to run it, due to just trying to watch my money, and pick and choose races (opting for marathons at this point) but someone offered their bib at the last minute, free, and I can’t argue with free, but it’s interesting: If I weren’t running this half, I’d be doing my weekly long run of 15-16 miles, though at a much slower pace. And, if I’m at all going to get serious about running another 100M next summer, maybe I should be putting in extra miles. But, a half marathon is an opportunity to get some speed work in. Or, speed for me. Faster than normal anyways, so using some different muscles. And again, free.
But my running buddy Katherine is running late, waiting for a third person who shall not be named. So I’m sitting here in my dark apartment, waiting, tired, wanting to just go back to sleep. Maybe I just haven’t had the time to mentally psych myself up for this.
Katherine and her shuttle van finally arrive. Yikes, we’re cutting it a little close. Race starts at 7:45 and it’s 7:10! But she zips us downtown and we park and get down to Pioneer Square, where the races start and end. The Half starts first, and the 10K starts a half hour or 45 minutes later. I’m not sure but there might be a 5K too. We get in line for the Honey Buckets, which is odd because, instead of lining out along a completely empty cordoned off road, people have lined out in the opposite direction, out onto Yamhill Road, which is not shut off at all, just doesn’t have traffic at this particular moment. Sheep. We’re all sheep.
Katherine and I get through the Honey Buckets quickly, but The Nameless One is taking a long long time. And, he’s left his bag with us. If he’d taken it, we could’ve just left. He’s running in the 10K so doesn’t seem to have a sense of urgency. When he finally gets out, we give him his bag, make quick vague arrangements on where to meet (“By the beer”) and zip over to the bag drop-off, for which there is also a line. Argh. Announcements are coming over the PA, telling Half runners to start lining up. In line, we briefly run into another member of the Portland barefoot contingent, Chris, who is also running the 10K. We’ll meet up with him later.
I finally get my bag checked, opting to keep my sweatshirt-ish thing for a second layer, because by the way, it’s raining. Yep, welcome to Portland. And it’s cold. And it’s not until we’re walking over to the starting area that I realize that I forgot to take off my huaraches and put them in the bag. Doh. Well, hell. I mean, I could carry them, and might even very well opt to use them on what I now know are the rough Portland roads, and if the weather were any nicer, I’d do that, but right now, the rain is coming down, my feet are freezing already, and I can’t imagine standing on wet pavement would feel any better. Ok, forget pride and principle: I’ll run this one shod, even though it’s overkill: I’m wearing my Luna Leadvilles, super thick rubber meant for longer distance and rough terrain. Well, since I don’t have to worry about road roughness, I have no excuse not to run fast. My goal? Under 1:50
But we are not starting on time. Instead, we are standing in the cold rain, unable to hear the announcers, who seem not to realize this. We should have started ten minutes ago. On the other hand, this is a great opportunity to look around at the people, because by the way, this is a costume race! The theme this year is superheroes, and there are plenty. All kinds of Batmen and Batwomen, Supermen and Superwomen (or girls, there never was a Superwoman in the comics), and with some Flashes, Green Lanterns, Catwomen. The guy next to me is Wolverine. And, Portland being Portland, even more obscure stuff, like The Tick, the Ambiguously Gay Duo (two different duos), a group of Powderpuff Girls. Ninja Turtles. Superchicken. Lara Croft. Also, perhaps my favorite, a Hunter S. Thompson with a red cape, with the guy playing it in character.
And it’s not just superheroes: There’s a group of Rainbow Unicorns. A zombie family. A group of sharks. A woman dressed as a Tri-Met train. A Bullwinkle. I’m feeling a wee bit lame. The Nameless One is going as a Native American. Katherine is Dorothy. I’ve had Katherine draw a cat nose and whiskers on my face, so I can at least be a black cat. A tailless black cat. I don’t know, I’m just not an extrovert, though I love seeing everyone out and being fun and weird. Especially, holy yowza Batman, there’s a rocking sexy Zorro woman, with half her fake breasts hanging out. I love Halloween: the only time of the year when woman can dress as sexy as they really want to, without damage to their reputations. Or dress silly. The guys just look silly though. Guy in Superman outfit? Silly. Woman in superman outfit? Hot.
Ok, finally! We start! North at first, around downtown, then south on Naito Parkway. Still raining, though some sun starting to appear to the east. My Leadvilles are ok. Definitely don’t have to worry about what I’m stepping on. I’m trying to maintain good running form, though running faster than normal, and therefore can’t help but have a longer stride. They’re at least not slippery when wet, that new custom lace Luna makes really keeps the soles tight against the feet, without any discomfort. I am slapping a lot though.
I’ve seen a few Vibram Five Fingers in the crowd. People seem as freaked out by my huaraches than if I were barefoot, with a few snide ‘Ouch’ comments, and one guy, on passing, seeing the 50K on my sweatshirt, asks kind of passive-aggressively, “You don’t run ultras in sandals, do you?”
I just stare ahead and say, “Yes.” I don’t know what people expect me to say to a question phrased that way. But, here I am getting grumpy, when really, I’m feeling good. The rain has stopped, the sun is even coming out, I’m warmed up. I’ve lost Katherine. One of her ankles has been bothering her, and we had already planned to separate pretty quickly. I hope she’s ok though. We’re going to be running the Columbia Gorge Marathon next weekend!
The route takes us up, up into the hills, above PSU, near the VA, with some nice paved bike/running trails in the trees, along quiet roads. I’ll have to come back up here and explore sometime. In fact, wow, this is a long uphill. But now we ‘peak out’ and head down Tewilliger (I think? sp?). I try to let gravity do its work, and let myself be pulled fast downhill, but really I’ve been going pretty fast already (for me) and I can kind of feel it in the feets—slapping them down hard. And the road here isn’t that bad at all. I think I really could have run this barefoot with no cost to my speed. Even the rougher road parts have had convenient paint strips that I could have utilized. Well, the Leadvilles are still not slipping, and it’s a good opportunity to try them out in another kind of way.
Somewhere in here we’ve gone halfway. I check my watch. Under fifty minutes. Ok, good, that puts me under two hours for sure, and probably around my usual 1:45. I was wondering about the long uphill, how it would affect my time, but this long downhill helps make up for it.
Back up Naito Parkway the other way, waving hello to the homeless people who slept under the overpasses. What must they think of all this? Decadent middle-class luxury.
The weather is much better. Sun! Too bad everyone’s clothes are now soaked, especially costumes. Plenty of people with sopping wet capes clinging to their backs. Ick.
At this point, the 10K course comes in from the west and joins up with us, which is a little....not annoying, not frustrating, but....after running 10 miles, I’m feeling weary, and here come all these super fast runners whizzing by.
But wait, can it be? Yes, a train is actually crossing the road, and everyone is forced to just stop and wait. Wow. That’s some good planning for the course. The timing company has put some timing pads before and after the tracks, so supposedly they can erase the wait time off of our official time, but having to stop and wait kind of sucks something out of everyone mentally. Or, it does to me, because now all those people I passed in the last mile have caught up and are in front of me again. Good thing the train was really important: just four engines linked together, going very very sloooowly. As soon as they pass, runners are zipping under the lowered gates, lights still flashing.
Some twists and turns through downtown, and suddenly from 4 miles to go we’re at 1.1 miles to go! Ok John, time to kick out the jams. Finish strong!
Pass pass pass. Weird to see some people actually walking at this point, just physically kaput. or probably mentally. But they’re so close! I want to say to them, just keep jogging! Baby steps! Penguin waddle in!
There’s the finish! Same as the start. The course is now kind of crowded as we get narrowed down and the halfers and 10Kers mush together. I have to do some more whipping and dipping like at the beginning. Not a full on sprint, no room for that, nor maybe inclination, but at least still strong to the end.
Et voilà, le fin! Check the watch: 1:44. Ok, cool, I’ll take that. That’s about my average. Good to know I still got it.
Festivities are going on in Pioneer Park. A band playing, the whole area crowded, with people enjoying their two free IPA beers for finishing, plus veggie chili (I love Portland that way) and whole grain bread slices. Still cold. I get my bag and take off my wet top layers, which helps. And, I eventually come across Chris, who directs me over to the Barefoot table. He and the Nameless One have been there a while, and I get to meet another member of the Portland BRS, Daniel, dressed at a Hawaiian dancer, with coconut bra and everything. And Katherine eventually comes in, though nursing that hurting ankle. Still, she finished.
We hang around for the race awards, then the costume awards, hosted by The Joker, who is funny, and people’s costumes are funny. Seriously, only in Portland. Maybe San Francisco I suppose, but for example, the Detroit Marathon always happens around Halloween, and costumes are suggested, but most people don’t dress up. They’re boring like me. I guess I need to be less boring. Next year. Maybe I can finally indulge all those crossdressing fantasies I’ve had.
The costume contests are ok, but I’m cold, and sore, and tired of standing up. It’s been a good day so far, but I’m ready to get on to other things. The good thing about a half-marathon (versus a full) is that one can actually have the rest of the day and not be bed-ridden with fatigue. And so, we all say goodbye and head out.