I don't know how many of you out there have seen a Saturday morning at 4:30, but two days ago I found myself right in the middle of a morning so early it felt like I didn't sleep at all. The air was crisp, the light was nonexistant, and my wife and I stumbled out the door to face the demon we've been training to slay for 6 weeks: The Provo River Half Marathon.
We boarded a bus that was to take us to the starting line, and before we knew it we were standing in line for the john at the top of South Fork, about an hour away from the starting time of 7:00.
When the race finally started, after an hour of stretching and catching up with some fellow-runner-friends, I found myself embarking on the longest run I've ever experienced. The light was low, and the canyon breeze was at my back. I settled in to some nice Red Hot Chili Peppers, and prepared for the next two hours of my life.
The first quarter of the race was a major downhill. Coming out of South Fork was a nice way to start, because by the time we were out we had knocked off three miles without feeling it too much. I tried to keep a steady pace - even when John Denver appeared on my iPod - and before I knew it I was at Bridal Veil Falls. To this point, the scenery was absolutely stunning. I don't fully appreciate the beauty of Provo Canyon while driving through it, but running down the Provo River Trail gave me an up-close picture of how pretty it really is. From Vivian Park to Bridal Veil Falls was probably the most picturesque of the whole run.
We ran past Bridal Veil, and at the mouth of Nunns Park, the run took an unexpected turn. Instead of proceding forward, the run followed the old Upper Falls road and we ran all the way back past Bridal Veil Falls in the opposite direction to Upper Falls park. This was a long steady uphill, by the way, but it turned out not to be so bad. As I made the turnaround, I was able to see my wife coming the opposite direction, and I was also happy to see I was more than half way home.
Up to this point I was feeling good about my run. I had a good pace, my legs were holding up and I was in a good part of the pack. We ran through Nunns Park, and then Canyon Glen. The smoke from campers was a bit hard on my lungs, but no real harm done. It was at this point, when Generator by the Foo Fighters blasted in my eardrums, that I really hit my stride. People started walking all around me, but I felt invigorated. My legs pumped in rythm, my mind was focused and everything was right in the running world.
The race slipped by like I couldn't believe. Before I knew it 10 miles were behind me, and the only thing that lay between me and the finish line was a measley peasley three miles. I can run three miles in my sleep, I say to myself, and I press on. Johnny Cash was my companion as I blasted out of Provo canyon and began the final stretch.
Leaving the canyon meant entering the blazing hot, sun-exposed final stretch. We wound through Centaur publishing, and my body ached to stop running. My left knee started to scream for relief, my headband was soaked through and my bronze Jr. Jazz jersey was deflecting the hot sun into my face. Nevertheless, I pressed on. By Utah Community Credit Union, or mile 12, I was on the home stretch. I ran past my beloved Tahitian noni International, through the Prosper parking lot, and before I knew it I was staring at the big red clock slowly ticking my time away.
I made it. I was at the finish line. I burned my final reserves of energy and broke the tape at two hours and 3 minutes. I was hoping for 2:10, which would have given me a 10-minute-mile, so I was very happy to know I exceeded my own expectations. I know, I know, we all know these guys that finish half marathons in a buck thirty or some crap, but I was dang proud of myself. Doing something like this was a huge accomplishment for me, and I had a great time training for and running my first half marathon.
I would like to thank my wife Becky for inspiring me to run this race with her, my friend Trevor for giving me a goal to shoot for, and the Shippen family for being at the finish line.