With Sugarloaf cancelled for lack of snow and my ski season rapidly becoming a memory, I decided to run the Marathon Park Prep race in Ashland. The plan was to run this half-marathon as a fast distance workout, not go too hard, but I never really stick to plans like that.
I lined up near the front — but not too close –with about 600 like-minded runners beneath sunny but cold skies, at the site of the original Boston Marathon starting line. The horn sounded and we started. Two very thin, young looking guys took off right away while I settled into the front group, at least keeping my promise of not going out too hard.
The week had been an intense one. Threshold intervals on Tuesday; I had gone deeper than I had intended, even though I felt amazing doing it. And I racked up some additional miles in subsequent days and maybe my legs hadn’t quite recovered yet.
We clocked the first mile in just over 6 minutes. I cracked wise about running negative splits and then backed off a bit. We went steady like that until we hit the first hill on Route 135, the same hill I’d be running in a few weeks time on my way into Boston. Our small group started to come apart. I couldn’t resist keeping pace with the faster guys up the hill, then felt good over the top and down the back side. So I kept going while the other runners settled into their own, somewhat slower paces. I was running fast and smooth down the hills, too, using the speed t o make up ground. (But I would pay for that later when my hip flexors would start to tighten up.)
It was two of us for the next 3 or 4 miles. I was just sitting on, staying out of the wind. Bike racer habits die hard. I didn’t want to work too much to create a gap but we were pulling clear of the other runners.
Except one. He caught us on one of the hills and we ran together, three of us, past the Warren Center and down the steep, steep hill by Ashland Reservoir, where we lost the first guy, and where my hip flexors started to flare up.
On the next uphill, I went clear on my own.
I didn’t feel like I was going that much harder and with 6 miles to go, it was time to pick up the pace a bit anyway though my legs were starting to feel fragile. Also, there was a runner lurking behind me and I was trying to hold him off and that gave me the impetus to keep going.
And I was going well until the Green Street Monster, a short wall of a hill that caught me off guard. Maybe I had taken a little too much out of the bank… Half way up, my legs turned to jelly and I was laughing at myself which brought on a slight rush of endorphins and a wave of euphoria that I surfed over the top of the hill.
The final few miles were uneventful except for my right hamstring that was starting to quiver on Winter Street and getting mixed up with traffic and directed off course. I thought I was going to lose my place because of it, so I started my kick with half a mile to go and I kept accelerating all the way to the finish and across the line.
I clocked 1:22:25. Not my fastest half, but I was satisfied given how tough the course was, and good enough for 4th place and the age group win.