Monday, March 22, 2010

13.1 Miles and Semantics

Run 13.1 miles and you'll find yourself searching for the right words to describe the experience. "Half marathon" seems really inadequate; running a 13.1 mile race is an accomplishment, not half of an accomplishment. Plenty of runners have been batting around alternative names for a race of 13.1 miles. I have favored "trisko," a play on the fear of the number 13.

Last week, I was standing at the starting line of the St. Patrick's Day 5K, and I noticed the t-shirt a woman in front of me was wearing. It declared that she was a member of Team Pikermi and had this picture on it:

I was intrigued enough to hit my computer pretty much as soon as I got home to learn more. Sure enough, Team Pikermi is a group of runners who are enthusiastic about the 13.1 mile distance, but think it needs a better name. And I am not afraid to admit, the name Pikermi is much cooler than trisko.


Because Pikermi, Greece is midway between Athens and Marathon. Pikermi, as a name, has the same historic significance as Marathon does for the 26.2 mile distance. I like to think that when Phedippides hit Pikermi, he was still feeling pretty good. Maybe he had some Gu, checked his Garmin, and thought he'd be in great shape after 13.1 more miles - we've all had that feeling. I can also say with confidence that if old Phedipp had finished his run in Pikermi, not only would he not have collapsed and died at the finish line, but he would have felt just fine after a shower and a good lunch.

I challenge my fellow lovers of 13.1 miles to join Team Pikermi and help give this distance the respect it deserves.

I ran into a different semantic debate about running 13.1 miles last week, with my husband. We were getting ready for bed, and he asked, as he often does on Saturday nights, "How long are you running tomorrow?" I told him 13.1 miles.

"But... that's a half marathon!"

"Well," I explained, "My training program has me at 13, so I like to throw in that extra .1 for fun."

Steve was astonished. "You're running a half marathon tomorrow."

"No, I'm running a half marathon distance tomorrow. It's not a half marathon," I said.

"What's the difference? That there are no guys in yellow vests telling you which way to turn?"

"I guess that's part of it," I said. "I also didn't pay any money for this, don't have a bib number, no official timer, no race director, no t-shirt, no one else runnign it with me, the course hasn't been certified..."

"Whatever," Steve responded. "You're running a half marathon tomorrow."

As I turned out the light, I muttered, "Half marathon distance."

Monday, March 15, 2010

Race Report: St. Patrick's Day 5K

I ran the St. Patrick's Day 5K for the first time last year. I didn't really love the race, but I did love the fact that I got a sweet, sweet PR (23:44).

That time loomed large as I warmed up for the race. The fact of the matter is, I am not as fast as I was last year. The injury to my left shin last fall forced me to take quite a lot of time off, and I have been returning to running - and to speed work - very carefully and gradually. Last spring, I went into half marathon/trisko season chasing a PR and nailed it. My first trisko/half marathon of the 2010 season is The Abe Lincoln Memorial Half Marathon on April 4, and as much as I'd like to PR, I just don't know if I can do it. This race, I figured, would be a good way to set expectations.

The temperature was in the 40s, rainy, and a bit windy. That kind of weather yields a wide variety of clothing choices from other runners. I wore tights, a long sleeved shirt with my racing team singlet over it, and my racing team jacket. Teammate Missy wore the same thing, without the jacket, and Penny sported shorts. As always, the guys wore less - Frank just did the singlet and shorts, and I was cold just looking at him. Of course, the people who ran the race dressed as leprechauns probably would have done so regardless. In retrospect, I think Missy's outfit was perfect. By the time I finished the race, I was a bit hot, but not so hot that I would have wanted bare arms or legs.

We took off, and as I approached the first mile, I felt totally worn out. When I heard my split time, I knew why: 7:45. Way too fast! I made an effort to relax and slow down in the second mile, which I did, big time, at 8:48. By the third mile, I felt like I was crawling, though apparently I wasn't - 8:35. I sped up a bit for that last .1 and finished in 26:20. That's a totally respectable race time... if you don't know how much faster I ran it the year before.

I am really trying to keep things in perspective. When I finish my half marathon/trisko in a few weeks, the most important thing is for me to cross the finish line knowing I have done the best I possibly could on that day. Last spring, that was 1:56:51. This year, I am hoping for 2:05. It won't be my best ever, but it can be my best of the day.