WALK THE WALK
The Place: Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton Ohio, September 15, 2007
Start Time: 7:35 AM
By Ed Smith
Arrived early at the parking area on Saturday morning and spent about an hour sitting in the rental going through the check list. As it turned out the hotel I stayed at was outside the base main gate and only 12-15 minutes from the start line. I arrived early… I was happy that I had dressed warmly as the predicted 48 degree start was right on. Throw in a little wind for good measure and I shivered right up to race time (cold arms). The pre-race had the usual fanfare – presentation of colors, singing of God Bless America, and various base senior staff thanking everyone… As the wheel chair racers kicked off at 7:30 two of the Air Forces finest fighters blasted overhead and just after they passed a large flight of Canadian Geese in perfect “V” formation passed thorough the rising sun. How did they ever stage that?
At 7:35 a neat and orderly start of approximately 1800 marathoner began the quest. This race has split starting times in that the half-marathoners (2000+) started half an hour after the full marathoners. At my pace I expected to see some of them around mile five.
The first 1.5 miles was flat as we headed across the base tarmac and then turned left up a gradual incline (about 5 degree) for the next 2 miles. The weather was clear and cool, muscles getting lubricated, still observing my breath and aircraft over head. Does it get any better? Had some thoughts about the possible stress on legs as I reached the crest but was relieved when I saw the next half mile was level. Then a second kicker as the course once again shot up (about 10 degree this time) for another quarter mile. As this upgrade crested it leveled off for a half mile and then headed sharply downward for less than a mile. For me it was very hard to hold back and I’m sure this had an impact on my legs but finally down to a relatively level roadbed.
Miles 5-10 meandered thorough the base with very few spectators (restricted area) but had much encouragement from volunteers at the water stations. They did make a small adjustment this year by ushering us out a base gate and looping us through a local town for the pleasure of a few hundred hardy fans (terrible street pavement). At the 10 mark I was somehow well ahead of pace (good to bank a few) and was feeling excellent. Also between 5 and 6 I did see several “halfers” as they turned around at 6+.
Miles 11-14 were uneventful. This portion reached the outer extremities of the duty runway and, being open, added a stronger wind to the now low fifties temperature.
But the sun was up and we’re half way.
As I crossed the timing mat I saw several of the busses that brought over the relay participants as this was a baton passing point. There where at least a dozen relay teams (mostly military) that participated for bragging rites. At mile 14 I felt a slight twinge in my left calf followed by the feeling of a small foreign particle in my left heal area. This particle, sometimes feeling the size of a rock, stayed with me the remainder of the race and it’s interesting how many different ways one can contort ones foot trying to dislodge an annoyance… I’ve preserved this adversary for future testing.
Miles 15-20 went very well as a respectable pace was maintained and I marveled at the fact that I was still wearing the cheap throwaway gloves I’d gotten in Chicago. Mile marker 21 passes by and that good feeling you get knowing only 5 to go moves you forward.. Nutritionally I’ve started taking mostly Gatorade at the tables at the half way mark. The first half it was water only and a few raisins. I took a kick of “GOO” at 16 and another at 20. Just slurped on a little water and ate half a banana after 20.
As a corner is turned at 21 a slight twinge is felt in the right hamstring, nothing severe but worth noting. In front of me I see a severe incline, probably 20 degrees and looking lot more. This is the backside (down slope from mile 3) that climbs for nearly a mile, levels for a bit and then continues up. This was a killer for me (and many others), sharp pains up right side of left calf and occasional pulling on right hamstring. Slowed to a snails pace
(had a 15 min. mile) I found ways of altering pace to accommodate the pain. Plod on the crest is in sight. I had figured in my mind that there was another leveling and then one final crest to conquer. I had already done the mental preparation for that when reaching the crest I saw nothing but a long downhill into the base and the finish… I erred for the good… Going down hill the leg issues disappeared and the pace got respectable for the last 2 miles. I’m always amazed at the number of folks you can pass in the last few miles even if you’re walking…
The last .1 of this race is unique and really cool. Headed towards the finish line you pass through a row of vintage aircraft and still have the flyovers six hours after the start. Each medal is presented by a senior air force officer (something reserved for the Kenyans) a salute and a hand shake. I managed to at least remember to take off my hat, hey 5:44:30(13.09pace) by their count. Not my best, but respectable.
Ending temperature 54 degrees, another lovely northern day…