At my Tuesday Night Workout with the SDP Boys last week, I finally decided that I would run the Snake River 1/2 marathon coming up on the weekend. My knee and hip are still slowing me down, but I figured, why not get one more in before I have to take a long break. My teammates started quizzing me about my goal time. I laughed and told them I was barely able to run 7:00 minute miles right now, but if I ran under 1:30:00 I’d be pretty happy. I laughed at the thought of holding 6:52’s for 13.1 miles. That just seemed a bit out of reach right now. That discussion set the wheels in motion for two of my SDP buddies Bill “Fitz” Fitzner and Christopher Goodwin. They made it their goal to get me in under 1:30. The course is an out and back run through the beautiful but windy Snake River Gorge. At the starting line on the day of the race, Fitz said, “OK, we’re going out at 7:00 minute pace and at the turn, we’ll step it up to 6:45.”. Christopher Goodwin nodded in agreement. “Oooookkk”. I said, but personally, I thought they’d drop me in the first few miles and I’d stumble my way to the finish happy to complete the half marathon, no matter what. When the gun went off, we went out faster than I anticipated. After about 400 meters I looked at my watch and saw that we were running 6:41 pace. Fitz and Goodwin reigned me in, and we settled into a nice 6:48 pace. This was actually a better pace for me. I didn’t think I would have the ability to increase my pace by 15 seconds per mile halfway through the race. The wind had us running one behind the other down the road, taking turns leading to block the wind and allowing others to draft. Other friends joined in as we fought off the wind and alternated – I only took the lead once. I was grateful. Amazingly, we had maintained 6:48’s up to the turn. That’s when things started to get harder for me. Instead of maintaining 6:48’s, I was hitting 6:52’s and 6:53’s. Fitz and Goodwin were pulling me along. Occasionally, they would get 5 to 10 yards in front of me before noticing I was falling off. Goodwin would fall back and encourage me along. Fitz, the human metronome would keep the goal pace that I needed to break 1:30. Occasionally he would point to the ground right behind him and yell, “C’mon Tom!” indicating that I should pick up the pace and catch up. I remember with about 2 miles to go Christopher said, “OK Tom, we have to pick up the pace and catch up with Fitz, let’s do this now”. The last thing I wanted to do was pick up the pace, but when in Rome…..It hurt but it helped. Just after passing the 13 mile marker, the watch hit 1:29. I had a minute to run just under 1 tenth of a mile. I crossed the line at 1:29:52. Shew! I could hardly lift my legs and my right knee ached like crazy, but thanks to these two SDP brothers (who could have run much faster), I reached my goal.
My MRI has finally been approved. Today I am going to schedule it to get a better look at the hip and knee. With any luck I will get the issues taken care of and be back to running the sub 1:25’s like I did last year. And hopefully, I will be able to pay it forward like these two friends did for me.