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I made it
July 22, 2014 - Ron Deuter
I ran what I thought was a half marathon Sunday in Chicago. It was my first ever attempt at the distance of 13.1 miles.
I’ve been training for the race for months, setting a goal of finishing and not walking.
I accomplished both.
In my training, I settled on a pace of around 9:20 to 9:30 per mile. It’s what I had been running comfortably for weeks in my long training runs. So I had a feeling that I could run the half in about 2:03 or 2:04 as long as nothing went wrong.
My official chip time Sunday was recorded at 2:09.06.
Here’s where it gets interesting.
I wear a GPS watch when I run. On Sunday, I ran my first mile and was right where I wanted to be — 9:27 at 1.0 miles. Thing was, the mile marker on the course was no where to be found. I ran a little further and then saw the mile one marker. But my watch said I was at 1.4 miles by then.
As the race continued, I felt good. My training had done its job. I never felt too tired or felt myself fading. The achilles strain I suffered two weeks ago felt fine. If anything, I felt a bit faster. Training in hilly Iron Mountain paid off on the flat Chicago course. And I know I probably could have pushed harder in the final miles. I was just real nervous and didn’t want to screw up, so I tried to pretty much maintain a uniform pace until the finish line was in sight. Then I kicked up.
By the time I finished the race, my watch said I ran 13.76 miles, averaging 9:22 per mile. The time was pretty much the same as what the chip timing reported as my official time.
I began to wonder if maybe I went slower than I thought and that my watch was really off. No big deal, I thought, because I just wanted to finish without walking/stopping. Then I started talking to some others around the finish, those wearing GPS watches. They were all off, ranging from 13.4 to 14.0 miles.
Now, I know that GPS watches can screw up in and around skyscrapers and tunnels. One part of the course, in the final three miles, went completely underground for a few blocks.
But I noticed things being off in that first mile, and there was no underground running during the first mile.
I’ve had my watch lose its signal in the past, and it usually means the distance stops measuring. It didn’t stop when I ran underground.
How could everybody I talked with have recorded a longer distance?
On the race’s Facebook page, many people have been posting similar thoughts — that the distance was measured incorrectly. Some people said they wore other devices that measure distance, and they were off too.
Is that even possible? A race that big (some 20,000 runners) was measured wrong?
If my watch was closer to correct, and I averaged 9:22 per mile, that means I ran more like a 2:02 or 2:03 half marathon. Closer to what I thought I would run.
Other than the distance/timing issues, I really enjoyed the experience. There was not as much on-course entertainment as advertised, but the sights of the city and cheering bystanders kept me plenty occupied. Water stations were a little trickier than I thought, but I managed. And the weather was perfect. Not too humid, as I feared.
Running past the home of the next Super Bowl champions near the end of the run was pretty cool too.
The free beer at the end never tasted better.
The nerves, doubts and uncertainties I had leading up to the big day have now transformed into a hunger to do it again.
I guess it’s time to start prepping for the Iron Mountain race.
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