This past Saturday, 9/19/15, my oldest son and I ran an amazing race together. A new Half Marathon to us, but a tried and true tradition for years about a two and a half hour drive from home. This race has been on my radar for a few years now, but timing and obligations always seemed to get in the way. Not this year! Back at the beginning of the Summer my son called me and said “let’s sign up for a race”. You know me, I love running races with my boys, so I searched and searched to find us a race. Because I didn’t have a September marathon planned this year, this Half Marathon at Camp LeJeune was the perfect choice.
This race would be my sons 5th Half, and my 29th! The weather the week prior to the race was finally cooling off a bit. For a few weeks I had been able to get in some training runs in more moderately warm conditions versus down right hot ones. My son was taking this race very seriously. He has recently gotten a lot fitter, and had really taken training for this race to a new level for him. Based on the runs he had in the month leading up to the race, I knew if he had a good day that he would leave Dad in the dust right at the start. Time would tell.
This race location is an interesting one for us. Being about 150 miles away from home, it seemed too close to commit to an overnight in a hotel, but meant getting up mega early on race morning to drive there. I chose to drive on race morning since they offered race day packet pick up. It was way more difficult to do this than I had ever imagined. We had to leave the house by 3am!! Yes, 3:00am. Ugh! It wasn’t a big deal to my son, who threw on some headphones, and curled up in the passenger seat. To me? Not fun! Because of added security measures at Camp LeJeune, they suggested we get there 90 minutes before the race. We had to submit personal info prior to the race like drivers license info, make and model of the car I would be driving, etc.. Getting there early would mean I would have the needed time to get my parking pass, find parking on base, pick up our packets, and get prepared to race. It all worked out just fine, it was just a very long morning.
Our race preparations went as planned. I was a bit disappointed that the cooler morning temperatures of the prior week had decided to end abruptly that day. When I had gotten up at 1:30am, the temperature was 70 degrees. By the time the race started it was 72, and humid. We hydrated the best we could before the race began, and I hoped for the best.
This race also includes a 5k, and 10k so there were plenty of runners everywhere. A very nice large holding area/finish area, it never felt too crowded but I knew that based on previous runnings of this event that there was over 1,000 runners there ready to race. We lined up at 6:45, and promptly at 7am, the race began. I told my son to race smart, and to hydrate and be sure to take his gels. Within the first 30 seconds he was well out in front of me. I hoped he hadn’t gone out too fast, only to lose it on the second half. United States Marines manned intersections and kept traffic under control. Since this entire race course was taking place in their home it was only fitting.
The race course was quiet and mostly flat. I was clocking mile paces in the 7:30 range at the beginning. This would change, and all too soon. It was incredibly sticky outside, and by mile three began to feel more like I was running through a swamp and not running on the road. It was tough. The condition were not ripe for a brilliantly fast race for me, and considering I had run another Half Marathon six days prior, I wasn’t trying to set any records. I just knew it wouldn’t happen, especially with the heat of the morning. The race course was beautiful though. Several signs along the way, families in their driveways cheering us on. It felt cozy and warm. The section of the race course along the water was very scenic and tranquil.
My race shirt usually gets soaked with sweat during a race, but this was extreme. My shirt was soaked by mile five, and my shorts were already getting that way. I had a guy pass me around mile five that was literally dripping from head to toe. He was drenched! I think he was almost leaving wet footprints as he ran by me. It was humid! I was enjoying myself though, and found myself hoping that I would never catch another glimpse of my son until the finish line. I wanted him to have a great race. He trained hard for it, and I wanted him to succeed.
My race felt dauntingly slow. As my pace crept upward I made a goal to come in faster than 1:49:00, a mark I was using to pace myself the prior week at the Carowinds Half. I felt this goal was achievable, even in the heat. Beyond the midway point in the race the pack was very thin. I raced in and around the same group of guys for quite some time. We traded positions at every aid station. Water was every two miles on the course up to mile 8, and then every mile until the finish. I knew based on how much I was sweating that I had better take advantage of each one until the end. I would skip the last one.
The later miles were tough. I just wanted to finish. The effort I expended during this race was far more than my previous race, and it was all because of the heat and humidity. It really zonked my energy. Nearing the end, I couldn’t wait to see my son. I wanted to know how he did. I never caught up to him, but found myself doing a double take at mile 13 when I ran up next to an ambulance and medics loading a runner onto a stretcher. Luckily it wasn’t him, but felt badly for that guy. Been there, done that. Not fun. Racing in these conditions can land you in the hospital if not properly prepared.
The finish line finally in view, I managed to hold my pace under my goal. I crossed the line in 1:48:08. Receiving my medal from a U.S. marine in uniform was very nice! My son was there to congratulate me and tell me all about his run. We swapped war stories of the heat and how we managed to push through to the finish. He beat me by about four minutes. He did start out too fast, and really slowed down the last few miles. He was pleased though with his race.
We gathered some water and Gatorade, and tried to cool down. Once we did, we walked right over to the car to change clothes. It was nice to be able to do that so easily. The car was right there! I guess that was a benefit to getting there early that morning. We made our way over to the large lawn that was filled with runners, family and friends. They had quite the spread. Tons of food, everything from funnel cakes to hotdogs, and everything inbetween. Fruit, sweets, beer, the list goes on and on. It was very nice. My calves started cramping up the minute I sat down. Even though I tried my best to stay hydrated, the heat, sun and humidity of the morning left me a bit dehydrated.
We hung around for the award ceremony, you know, just in case one of us won something. Plus it was just a really nice atmosphere, and much needed recuperation time before driving back home. I’m glad we stuck around! As they began announcing the Half Marathon awards they started with teams, then masters, then age groups. Low and behold, my name was announced! Second place! Then, as they progressed to the younger age groups, my sons name was announced, too. He had won second place in his age group!
We were both thrilled! The medals are beautiful, too! We couldn’t have asked for a better way to cap off this event than with an extra medal each! Father and son had succeeded the best we could that day given the conditions. I’m so glad we finally ran this race, and I have to say, may become a tradition for us. A cooler day would have been more optimal, but we had a great time together.
My son finished in 65th place out of 975 runners! Just amazing! His time was 1:44:39
I finished 94th with a 1:48:08.