This is the second year of the Lexington Half Marathon, the second race put on by Jesse Harmon’s Run Hard group, in addition to his resurrection of the Columbia Marathon in 2014 and 2015. The guy must not sleep much because the idea of putting on two major races a year sounds like a metric crap ton of work.
I was in the midst of Kiawah training last year, and had just done the Savannah half the week before, so I did the half in 2014 with Justin Bishop and Kristin Cattieu’s 1:45 pace group. It worked out perfectly with knocking out my long run for the week. I was definitely surprised at Jesse and Ken Lowden’s ability to put together a 13.1 mile course in Lexington that actually wasn’t too hilly. For the uninitiated, Lexington must have been the site of some ancient mountain range because the area is one roller coaster hill after another. But the Lexington half was pretty good, save for a nasty stretch on 378. The caveat being that I didn’t race it. Still, Ken Vowles spent half the race in a portapotty last year and still clocked a 1:32, so it can’t be that bad.
With all my eggs in the 2016 Boston basket, I haven’t been marathon training this fall, and instead focusing on the shorter stuff. Last week’s Gov cup 5 miler was a big confidence boost that I’m nearly back to where I want to be, though I’ve been dealing with some right hamstring/glute tightness that has been nagging me since. Yes, Tigs, I know, I know.
I was on the fence about which race to run of the three. My trophy studies have yielded that when three races are available, always choose the middle one. The big dawgs choose the longest race, and people just kind of forget about the middle distance. In this case, I actually think there would be a similar undercard factor to both the 5 and the 10, and probably spreading out the field to make both weaker. You can tell I spend way too much time on this completely useless stuff. Alas, the trophy addict must get his fix.
Joe Wilson, ex -Columbian and my random running partner for half of Kiawah 2014, was coming up to run the 10k, so I agreed to put aside my hatred of the 6.2 and give it a shot. Breaking 40 is my last major running goal I set out for myself years ago, and it has eluded me even when I should have already done it. Technically I did it in the last 6.2 of the Orangeburg Rose Fest 12k, but I need to see those 39’s on a results page to make it legit. Either way, I’m not quite in that shape again for this race.
Arriving at the race I heard some reports that the 10k had the smallest field, so the trophy hunt was on. I knew Randy Hrechko was doing the 10k, so he would probably be my main competition, and I figured Joe would probably take me down since he got his 39:xx at Peachtree. There’s a huge crowd for this thing, with a ton of people I don’t know. Temps are literally 30 degrees colder than last weekend, high 30’s-low 40’s. I ran by the half start to check out the competition. Eric Ashton is there, so I know he’ll be running this thing solo. Dude is 47 and still running close to 1:10. Ty Thomas, Michael Nance (1:30 pacer) , Devon Shirley , Linn Hall, Eric Bopp, Lynn Grimes, Jennifer Reeves, Maria Huff, Julia Early, Joyce, Flicker, Trophy, Ivanka and Eliere Tolan, Rick Gibbons, Mike Jensen, Jeanna Moffett , Jennifer Glass, Marlena Crovatt-Bagwell, Jennifer Hill, April Hutto, Ilia Owens, The Fadels, Wendy Hart, Alan Humphries, Jenn Covington, Ken Lowden and Hou-Yin Chang are some of the familiar faces. There was about a 8-9 minute delay on the start but no worries, I still have 20 plus minutes to do a quick warmup. The Code and I join Joe and his friend Danny from Atlanta on a 1.5 mile warmup and get back to the line at 7:54 for the 8 am start. I’m moving my way up to the front when someone tells me I missed the 10k start. WTF??? Sure enough, I don’t see any other 10k bibs around. Although the website said 8:00, there was apparently some announcement at the half start that they were going to have us 10kers go off at 7:45. Well… I missed that memo.
The four of us start running, but I turn around about 100 meters in and we all get the go ahead from Jesse that we can last-second transfer down to the 5k. I know this is going to be an epic timing cluster for Strictly Running, but there’s not much I can do about it at 7:58. I guess the 5k is also a target event for the Run Hard school program, because I am up on the line with a ton of kids, Joe, Code, Danny and Brandenburg. The start is crazy with all the kids and I feel like I’m a bus among a bunch of speeding subcompacts. One thing is sure – I am just not feeling it. I guess I have to mentally steel myself against the 20 minutes of torture that is the 5k, because I am just hating life from the get go. Joe, JB and Code form a minipack ahead while I wallow in my pool of negativity a few meters back. What’s worse, my hamstring is really not liking the sudden jolt to low 6 pace.
I manage to free myself from the pack of grade schoolers, though there is one stubborn pre-teen that isn’t liking getting passed by a 40 year old Sasquatch. He lingers through the first mile but eventually gets dropped right after the marker. I was debating about doing the unthinkable and dropping out for the first time, since my heart wasn’t in it, but getting a 6:15 on the Garmin told me I could at least pull an ok time. After mile 1 is a plunge downhill on Pond View Lane. Right leg is still tight and I’m fighting against it. Code has dropped back from Joe and JB and I’m tracking him down hardcore. As I’m trying to gain on Code, some thin African American guy (later identified as Kennedy Mulinqe) passes me. I’ve never seen him before, but dude looks super fast. I wonder if he was supposed to do the 10k too? He runs up ahead and takes down the Code too. Damn, now I’m in 5th. My trophy hopes are dying in the cold Lexington air. I finally catch up to Code just before we have to do a little cul-de-sac out and back. Dave Hale was there at the turnaround cone taunting, I mean cheering, us. We’ve caught up to the half and 10k pack by now and its pretty crowded. Between my tight leg and all the people around doing different paces and distances, I start sinking into Debbie Downer land. What’s worse, we get to make up all that downhill as soon as we get out of the cul-de-sac. I am ready to get this thing over with, but I’ve got no power going up this hill. The sun is beating down on me and I can literally see the Code’s shadow on the ground in front of me. I catch up to Ken Lowden, making it 2 weeks in a row we’re struggling up a hill together. At least I don’t have 4 miles to go like him, though. Mile 2 in 6:30 something. Finally I reach Barr road and I’m pretty sure its flat and straight to the finish. Kennedy is slowly getting reeled in. By this time, my lungs are blasting but the hamstring/glute is at least a little looser, so I’m not fighting my own body as much. With visions of trophies dancing through my head, I push all the chips in when I can see the church. Kennedy either looks really smooth all the time or just isn’t trying, but I pass by him in a fury of flailing arms and legs. I’m sprinting it out from there, having no idea what this dude can do, and scared to death he’s going to blue shoe the blue shoes. I round the turn into the church parking lot and about blow out a lung hauling tail to the finish chute. The clock has the half time up, but my Garmin spits back a 19:53. 19:51 officially and 3rd overall.
Ok, so not bad for a 5k where I kind of phoned in the first 2 miles. I’ll take it. I don’t think I was any threat to break 40 in the 10 anyway with my bum hamstring. Selwyn Blake was my hero at the finish. I had to go up and explain the whole situation and we ended up giving him a pile of bibs while he’s trying to manage 3 ongoing races. Major props to him for getting everything worked out.
Eric won the half in 1:13, nine minutes clear of the field. Wow. Brandon Derrana was second with TUS’ David Russell third just a few seconds behind. Devon Shirley took the women’s win in 1:32, with Cruz Figueroa 2nd and Linn Hall 3rd. Julia Early and Joyce Welch went 1-2 in female masters, while Ty Thomas took 2nd in male masters. Ty was heartbroken when he learned his new 1:28:39 PR was 11 seconds slower than mine. To be fair, mine was on the pool table flat Savannah course.
In the age groups, Kim Hardin took 2nd in the 30-34. Michael Nance won the 35-39 when no one could match his 1:30 pace group. He did nail the time with a 1:29:52. Kenny Culbertson and Eric Bopp went 1-2 in the 40-44, with Ivanka Tolan and Wendy Hart doing the same among the women. Jennifer Conrick and Jenn Covington went 1-2 in the 45-49. Phil Togneri was 2nd inthe 50-54. Rick Gibbons was 3rd in the 55-59, while Alsens Edwards placed 2nd among the women. Rob Kreigshaber claimed the 60-64 by 13 minutes. John Houser was champ of the 65-69.
Jonathan Kinsey showed up for the 10k to destroy all holy grail chances for the mere mortals. His 33:16 was ten minutes clear of the field, with Randy Hrechko taking 2nd. Laura Day had a trophy hunt by winning the women’s race in 50 minutes and change. Peter Mugglestone claimed 2nd masters at age 70. Not too shabby. Tommy and Cheryl Outlaw were champs of the 55-59, with Dolly Rodgers 3rd. Sharon Sherbourne took home the 60-64. Patt Lowden won the 65-69 with Ken Lowden 2nd among the men.
Joe Wilson held off a charging JB to take the win in 19:14. Code got first masters, with Wayne Shuler 3rd. Four out of the top 5 were 40+. Yay for old men. Susannah Cate took the women’s win followed by Sara Bonner and Kristie Mears. Mary Howk crushed a 23:52 at age 64 (81 percent age grade, equivalent to an 18:05 ) to win female masters, with Barb Brandenburg 2nd. Danny Freeman took the 35-39. Beth Tanner placed 3rd in the 45-49 with Tom Tanner 3rd in the 50-54. Tour director John Gasque won the 55-59. Alex Ponomarev and Brigitte Smith were 65-69 champs. Rocky Soderberg won the 70+.