I had the most incredible day yesterday at one of our local races. The Raleigh City of Oaks Marathon and Rex Healthcare Half Marathon is an extremely popular and well attended race here in central North Carolina. The Old Reliable 10k is also run, and is just as popular.
I ran the Half with both of my sons. For me, this race was my 24th Half Marathon. For my 18 year old son, his 3rd Half. For my 16 year old son, his FIRST! So, yeah, it was a pretty big day for all of us. I had been looking forward to this race for months and months. I actually signed up when registration opened many months ago. Back then, February, my older son had just run his first Half. Due to sibling rivalry, my younger son who was 15 at the time went out a few days after that race and ran 13.1 miles. Why? His brother had just done it, and he wanted to prove that he could do it, too. I asked him if he would ever want to run a race at the distance, to which he responded, of course. I signed him up just before his Birthday in April. He would have over six months to wait, and train. My older son decided a few months later that he wanted to run it, as well.
With varying degrees of training, as the race neared we were all excited. I am a very lucky man. To run a Half Marathon with both of my sons was going to be epic! I wasn’t able to even attend the race expo this year because I worked both days. My oldest, who is a student at NC State, location of the race expo, picked up all of our race bags.
So, with all of our stuff laid out for race morning we hit the hay on Saturday night. Colton and I woke up early on Sunday, but the drive to the race is not really that far. Just 20 miles to a parking lot at nearby Cameron Village. We were to meet up with my son Dylan at 6:30am at the NC State Belltower. The weather here in NC had just taken a turn this week. With a cold front coming out of Canada, our race morning was extremely chilly. And windy! Race morning temps in the mid 30’s, rising to near 50 for a high. The wind made it feel bone chilling at times, but it really was to be great conditions overall for a race.
We met up at 6:30, for the 7am start.
All three of us warmed up, stretched and talked about our goals for the race. I was aiming for a sub 1:45, Dylan and Colton both wanted to go sub 2. I knew Dylan could do it, as both of his previous Halves were sub 2, but Colton would be the wildcard. He is a dedicated sportsman, and stubborn like myself, I trusted that he would finish. Due to his soccer season at school though, he just didn’t properly train, and because of that I just didn’t know what to expect from him. As any runners knows, proper training is key, and race day can bring a wide range of results. I was excited for all of us.
At about 6:45 the three of us made up way into the starting chute. We decided that we would start together near the 1:45:00 pacer, and just see what happened once the race began. Part of me was calm and content. The part of me that was just going to enjoy the experience of running with my kids. The Dad in me was nervous though, for both of them. The starting line is quite the sight to see. Right next to the Bell Tower on Hillsborough Rd., runners filled the street, and spectators were everywhere. As all three races line up together the crowd was a big one.
As the gun went off we made our way down Hillsborough. The three of us stuck pretty close to one another for the first half mile. Dylan went out in front as we traversed Ashe Ave., and Colton just just behind me heading up and then down the first hill of the course. Not sure why I don’t have a crick in my neck today, because I kept turned to see where Colton was, while straining my neck to keep my eyes on Dylan up ahead. A straightaway down Western Blvd., I overtook Dylan when I finally caught a good pace groove. We were running at a pace of about 7:30 at the time. Heading into the center of the city for a quick loop, I knew that the first really big hill test was coming up at mile 4. At this point Dylan and Colton were behind me, and I couldn’t find them in the sea of runners anymore.
Boylan Rd. is a tough uphill section of the course. Up until mile four my right foot (which I have had trouble with lately) felt fine. Going up this hill that all changed. All of the sudden the pain was back. The top of my right foot. It almost feels like I have a stress fracture in one of my metatarsals. It really annoyed me, and slowed me down. As I crested the hill, my overall pace was 7:42. I made it my goal to try to get through the next four mile section through the city, and not let that pace slip any more. I knew that rolling hills from miles 8 to 11 would find me losing time, and knowing I wanted to finish under 1:45:00, I couldn’t afford to lose precious time during the relatively flat section through the city. Winding through the city is always fun, but with each change in direction the wind would come at you from different directions. Down Morgan, then Martin and finally north on Wilmington St. toward the Capitol Building. The drumline is always a motivator!!
Running back toward Hillsborough I crossed the timing mat at the 10k split. 48:32. Not bad! I had lost a bit of pace in the city, but with an aching foot, I wasn’t complaining. Out toward Glenwood Ave. S the real fun begins. Down, the up, then down and back up for the next four miles. Really an undulating section of the course, it will really bite you in the ass if you aren’t prepared. I was hanging in there. I stopped for water near mile 9. The only time during the race that I took any hydration at all.
My mind was all over the place during this race. A bunch of times I looked over my shoulder to see if I could locate my kids, but never could. I found myself hoping they were having good races. Part of me wanted to stop on the side of the course and let them catch up. I had thoughts of my younger son getting a calf cramp on a hill and having to drop out of the race. I had thoughts of Dylan doubled over throwing up in the bushes. It was nerves. Fatherly nerves. I remained optimistic that they weren’t far behind me, and several times thought at some point during the later sections of the race that one or both would tap me on the shoulder, say hello, and then run on past me. I knew that just beyond mile 11 would be and out and back section, when I would get a look at who was behind me for about a half mile. As it approached, it gave me energy, knowing that I may see them.
My pacing was still good. If I could keep it up, I would hit my goal. I hit mile 11 at 7:55 pace overall. I knew I could maintain it over the final two miles. I made the turn at mile 11.6 and quickly affixed my eyes on the runners on the other side of the road. My eyes were peeled! A few minutes after the turn, A huge smile on my face as I spotted Colton! I cheered him along. Gave him two thumbs up! I calmed down a bit. He looked strong. Then a few more minutes passed, and I spotted Dylan. He saw me as well, and was pointing at his back, and shaking his head back and forth as if to say “my back is hurting, this isn’t my best but I’m doing it”. There we all were, within five minutes if each other, making our way down the final stretch of the course back to the finish at the Bell Tower.
I was ecstatic! What a fun way to end a race. Lots of spectators, cheering and the finish line was approaching. I knew that I would have to wait in the finishers chute to see both of them finish. I crossed the line, hitting my goal. I quickly had the race medal placed around my neck, caught my breath, and tried to find a spot on the side where I could have a view of finishers behind me. Just a few minutes later I could see Colton approaching the finish of his first Half Marathon. It was pure joy to watch him cross the line. As he walked toward me a volunteer laced his medal around his neck and a big smile emerged on his face. I gave him a huge tight hug! He had done it. In record time, I thought. I was so proud.
It was now time to move out of the way of other runners. We found a good spot, and cheered Dylan on as he then finished a few minutes later. All of us done, all of us under two hours. I couldn’t have been prouder. Giving Dylan a huge hug and fist bump, we all gathered our finishers shirts, and found a place to relax on the hill. We were all immediately freezing. The wind was whipping around, and because we were all wet from sweat, every time the sun went behind a wispy cloud, the shivering began.
We gathered for photos, ate some food and tried to warm up in the sun. Priceless moments in time that I will always remember. I am so happy that I can share this wonderful sport with my sons. It truly is a gift. This one was all about family, and I was in my glory.
Many, many thanks to all of the race volunteers. Our hometown race is spectacular year after year. Yes, the race is not easy or flat, but it’s ours. Last year I ran the Full, and to this day it’s still my PR. The Half this year, was my fastest half of 2014. Not a PR, but a personal best for 2014. Here are our official results.
There were 2,132 runners in the Half. Overall I placed 233, Colton 329, and Dylan 414.
Our finish times:
Dad: 1:43:58. Colton: 1:47:27. Dylan: 1:51:01.
I finished 27th out of 160 in my Age Group. Colton finished 20th and Dylan 23rd in their AG’s.
Pretty amazing! Very proud! Quite satisfied. It was another amazing year at the City of Oaks.