Monday, March 31, 2008


I always try to run the Heart Mini-Marathon in Cincinnati. Until the Flying Pig Marathon started, this 15K race was for many years the “big” race in Cincinnati. It is an out and back course that starts in downtown Cincinnati and runs out along a parkway that overlooks the Ohio River. It is a tough course, with a couple of killer hills and many smaller rolling ones. You really feel your quads after this race from both the up and down hills.

I want to fit the race into my schedule, but at 9.3 miles, it is a little short for the long run in my marathon training plan. So this year I signed up to do the “2 Beat Challenge” which meant I would run a 5K race starting at 9am and then run the 15K race starting at 10am. I thought this would be a good way to get 12.4 miles in and use it as a bit of a race simulation. This included trying out the fuel belt that holds 3 energy gels, which looked a little odd in a 5K, but I wanted to see how it worked (it worked great).

The morning was overcast, with the threat of rain and 45 degrees F. I was planning on running an 8 minute per mile pace and using this as a race simulation. My marathon pace would be closer to 8:30, but I felt the 8 minute pace would give me a good workout.

At 9am the cannon went off for the 5K. There were 1,535 finishers in this race so the crowd thinned out within the first ½ mile. My plans for an 8 min pace soon went out the window. At the mile point I started to see that there were not that many people in front of me. I knew that the top 10% in each division won an award of some sort, so I thought maybe I had a chance. I picked up my pace a little and kept picking people off through the rest of the race (including that little kid who tried to pass me right at the end). I finished in 22:24 or 7:14 pace – way too fast, but it felt good.

I jogged back to my car, dropped off my finisher medal, gloves and hat, picked up an ear band, and went back to the starting area.

I once again told myself to run my plan of 8 minute miles, and I knew it was much more important to stay on pace for the 15K distance than for the 5K. The cannon boomed at 10am and almost 4 minutes later, I crossed the timing mat. The 15K race has 2,926 finishers, so it takes a good mile or two until it really thins out. I ran nice and easy through the first few miles and was right on pace. At the half way point I ran into a friend I occasionally run with on Saturday mornings. He had celebrated his 40th birthday the night before and he was looking surprisingly good under the circumstances. We ran together for about half a mile until I needed to pick up the pace and we parted ways.

I ran the last half of the race in a surprisingly strong pace. I concentrated on my form going up the hills and lengthened my strides going down. I crossed the line in 1:11:39 for a 7:42/mile pace. I felt good after the race though I do not think I could hold that pace for a full marathon. My splits were:

7:57, 8:10, 7:17, 7:59, 7:57, 7:43, 7:39, 7:03, 7:32, 2:19 (.3 mile)

I proceeded the two blocks to Fountain Square (the center of downtown Cincinnati) to check for my unofficial results. The volunteer checked my bib number, punched it into the computer and said “Go over there to that tent for your award” What? Me? Check the bib number again. I have never won anything in running.

To my utter astonishment I had come in 6th in my age group (out of 70 finishers) in the 5K and 3rd in the combined 5K & 15K time. I joked that there must have only been 4 people in my division – a fact I later learned was no joke, there were only 4 people in my division. But, my 5K time did earn me a $10 gift certificate at a local running store which I used that afternoon to buy a new pair of shoes. That was pretty cool.

What did I learned from this race?

  1. My marathon conditioning is right on target.

  2. I probably cannot run a 3:30 marathon (BQ), but a 3:40 is a good stretch goal.

  3. If you pick your races carefully, you can win something even if you are not that fast.

  4. Always check for an award – you may be the only one in your division.

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