Saturday, November 12, 2016

Spectating at the Princeton Half Marathon

Last weekend was Princeton Half Marathon's fourth annual race (fifth if you count the year Hurricane Sandy canceled it). I was on the race committee for three years, only ending this year when there was a change in leadership and I was ready to move on. The first year I ran it as a personal challenge. The second year I ran it to improve upon my time. The third year I had no desire to run it, but I was asked to be the official last place finisher. I did enjoy being encouragement to the back of the packers.

This year I was determined not to do it until ... until they offered a bonus for the four-peats. They would wear special bibs (blue and white instead of orange and black, and starting with a 4), receive a special extra running shirt, and qualify for a contest to see who had the most improved time. That last one really tugged at me. Having finished at 3:04 the year before, and knowing how much stronger I have been with my training this year, I wanted to compete for that award.

Spoiler alert: read the title to see if I ran.

As I was inching closer to the deadline for registration, Don emailed me to say he lost his job. The air fell out of the balloon and I didn't want to spend a $100 on a registration fee. The next day even bigger news hit us: Don was scheduled for open heart surgery on October 31 (less than a week after the race). The whole time he was in the hospital they could not commit to when he was coming home. I was glad I had not made a commitment to run a race I was not sure I would be able to run.

Stacey put out the word she was planning to spectate and was looking for some company for her and her dog, Jasper. With cell phone in hand, we met up on Washington, near the top of the first big hill (the one I feel is the steepest, unlike Herrontown which I feel is the longest). We saw the lead cyclist go by (otherwise known as "not Don," because Don held that post for several years).

Stacey made a two-sided sign. One side cheering her friend Aimee. The other cheering her friend Hilary. I'm sure we knew others in the race (like Laura's husband, Percy), but we did not plan that far ahead. Both Hilary and Aimee were appreciative of the encouragement.

We also saw this man in the multi-colored beard and matching shirt. After Stacey's friends went by, we headed to Hamilton Avenue where we could see the fast runners coming in towards the finish line, and the slow ones still working their way towards the half-way mark. Sounds cruel when I put it that way. 

We also saw the "Balloon Dude" (he didn't like being called a "Balloon Lady" -- the official last place finisher. He was strolling to the finish line at his 14:00 minute pace, not breaking a sweat or out of breath. He was also without a group of people keeping up with him. Other than the last cyclist, he was a good bit behind the other last place person. Maybe word has gotten out that this is a tough course. Beginners should aim for the Trenton Half Marathon or something more walker-friendly instead.

As Don was truly coming home from the hospital that day, and I had last minute things to do, I left Stacey and Jasper to head to the finish line while I drove home.

I missed actually running. I know it would have been a challenge that week, but I was jealous of the runners. With that said, I only saw them on the parts of the course I do like. The other half is (seemingly) all uphill with pretty leaves, but not much else of interest. I would love it if PHM would have a 10K option, but that seems unlikely. I love the Perfect 10 and Trenton Half Marathons. No reason to do three long distance races that close to each other.

If I had friends running the race, I would have enjoyed playing the "I Spy" game, but short of that, I would rather be in it than watching and waiting.

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