January 20, 2019
49:54. Mile 10. 5K left to go.
It began building...we could feel it, that anticipation to unleash what we had left in our tanks. We had been racing sub 5- minute miles for 10 miles, and now it was time to see who had the strength and speed the last 5K. All we could hear were our footsteps and breathing-which was barely controlled right up to the edge. That threshold. I just needed another 15:30 5K.
The Chevron Houston Half Marathon is one of the fastest half marathons in the country. I first ran this race back in 2014(you can find that race report on this blog), and ran a PR back then of 1:07:29 (that breakthrough was sub 5:10 pace for the first time). The course is flat like a track, fast, and minimal turns. The competition brings world class runners from all over the world, and some of the fastest U.S. half marathoners. I walked outside of my hotel ready to do a shakeout run with Silvia, when I saw someone who looked familiar and knew immediately who it was. He won this race in 2014 in 61 minutes. I only saw the back of his head but I knew who it was.
It was Meb. I introduced Silvia to him, and the guy is the nicest dude in the world. He asked what our goals were, wished us luck, and even when we came back from our run he waved back at us again. Meb is one of my favorite modern runners-he sets the example of what running really is-a lifelong sport.
January 20, 2019
Houston Half Marathon
Silvia and I jogged to the race start where we were put into the B section of the elites. This race is super stacked with world class athletes. They had a short separation between the A and B elites, so I crossed the timing mat 5 seconds into the race. I worked my way into the race, opening up with a 5:05 first mile.
I love this race. The course is fast, flat, like a track. The competition is world class, the winner runs just inside or right at 60 minutes. It was awesome to return here 5 years later. The weather was a bit chilly- temperatures at the start were in the high 30s. I wore 2 pairs of lightweight gloves(the cheap pair on top of the nice pair), a hat, and CEP compression socks. Mile 2 was 5:01, and then I began hitting some sub 5s. My third mile was 4:56, and my 4th mile was 4:55. By now I had been running with a few other guys, and as we approached mile 5, a 5:03 split, we caught Fernando Cabada(the 2:11 marathoner was clearly having a rough day). He then asked, "What pace are you all running?" A guy who had been running with me answered, "5:00 pace." I heard that loud and clear, and it bothered me.
I thought to myself, Chris, you did not fly out all the way from DC to run 5:00 pace. Last December(2018), I ran the CIM Marathon in a new PR of 2:25:05, but it was also a mixed emotions race because I was on pace for a 2:17(went through half in 1:08:40), and I was aiming for the 2020 Olympic Trials Qualifier(standard is 2:19:00). 35K in of the 42.2K race I was on 2:18 pace. It was difficult to swallow that one, however it was a big improvement off my last marathon- I find the distance is improving for me as I age.
I did not come out here just to run 5:00 pace.
I then made a bold move. I left the few runners I was with and I hammered mile 6, 7, and 8 in 4:54, 4:54, & 4:56, and then went ahead to work towards catching another pack of elite runners. I had gone through 15K in 46:30(a PR) and was averaging 4:59 per mile. I had never been here before. It was the danger zone, the unknown territory. But I continue to push. I then caught up to the next pack, and together we rolled through mile 10 in 49:50-something, which was a 10 mile PR. Again, new territory.
5K to go. I felt I had what it took to run close to 1:05 flat. I knew I could do it. Just hang with the pack. I felt so strong! I knew I had the speed and strength for the last 5K, and perhaps a really good closing kick. We hammered it out and approached the downtown area where the last mile is literally a straight shot to the finish. We approached mile 12 with 59 minutes and 50-something seconds on the clock, which was so awesome. Never have I run so fast!! I flashed back to when I was in high school when I ran my first sub 5:00 mile. Here I was running 12 in a row on my 13th. I thought back to one of my favorite quotes from Once A Runner:
“...Or we can blaze! Become legends in our own time, strike fear in the heart of mediocre talent everywhere! We can scald dogs, put records out of reach! Make the stands gasp as we blow into an unearthly kick from three hundred yards out! We can become God's own messengers delivering the dreaded scrolls! We can race dark Satan himself till he wheezes fiery cinders down the back straightaway....They'll speak our names in hushed tones, 'those guys are animals' they'll say! We can lay it on the line, bust a gut, show them a clean pair of heels. We can sprint the turn on a spring breeze and feel the winter leave our feet! We can, by God, let our demons loose and just wail on!”
Time Of Day
Splits: 5:05, 5:01, 4:56, 4:55, 5:03, 4:54, 4:54, 4:56, 5:00, 5:02, 5:03, 4:58, 4:59
But immediately after I finished, my attention switched to finding the other runner. No not the guy I battled with. Not Meb. Not the guy who won the race.
No, I was focused on finding Silvia finish her race.
Silvia came through in a new PR of 1:21:16, which she most recently beat at the DC Rock and Roll Half Marathon, finishing that race in 1:20:39! She also just broke 60 minutes for 10 miles at this year's Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, running 59:34(edit: 59:48 converted from the 9.96 mile course). Over the past year, Silvia has become one of the best runners in the DC area. She ran her current PR of 2:48:38 at the California International Marathon last fall.
We both are working towards the Ottawa Marathon this coming May.