Showdown in Motown: Completing the Race
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Tim. 4:7-8)
(Part One of this post can be read here.)
Well, I did it, praise God. Successfully ran a half-marathon in Detroit. I’m glad to say that I finished the race and did so reasonably well, all things considered, finally getting to run across the Ambassador Bridge, through the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel and across the finish line.
I’m more of a night person, so falling asleep before 11:30 p.m. or midnight is a challenge for me, unless I’m unusually fatigued. Had to get up at 3:45 a.m., after only about 3.5 hours of sleep, to meet up with friends in Pittsfield Township, nearby my home in Ann Arbor, so that we could arrive in downtown Detroit before they started closing the roads in advance of the 7:00 a.m. start for the international marathon and half-marathon. I had wanted to get a hotel room downtown with another buddy for the night before the race, so that I could sleep until 6:00 a.m. or so, but the hotel rooms with runner discounts filled up more than a month before the race, as well as the non-discounted rooms, and paying $500 for a swanky room at the MGM Grand Detroit was a bit too pricey.
Just before the start of the race, race organizers got the crowd revved up with native Detroiter Eminem’s “Lose Yourself,” which became the soundtrack of an epic Super Bowl commercial for the Chrysler 200, and which ironically is now being phased out by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, at least for a good while.
Fine commercial, though. And I enjoy the cleaner version of “Lose Yourself” and would love to rewrite the lyrics for a Catholic reboot with Eminem’s permission. The concept of losing yourself is very adaptable to the life of Christ (cf. Mt. 10:39; 16:25). Perhaps integrate some liturgical scenes, including footage of Eucharistic adoration, all to appeal to and attract the Generations X, Y and Z. Seriously. If done well, I think it could be a worthwhile implementation of the New Evangelization. But that’s another column, and a bigger project.
For several days, it looked like we were going to be running in the rain, which runners generally don’t like, and had me, at least, thinking of “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” in which an animated writer humorously scolds the sun and a few clouds for disturbing him through their early-morning calisthenics.
Lest there be any cause for scandal, this theologian would like to disclaim that he doesn’t endorse unequivocally this movie and all its contents, and those who claim otherwise have been dutifully “sacked,” as our British friends like to say (skip ahead to 1:38 of this link).
Well, the forecasted rain didn’t show up until almost 11:00 a.m., which was great, though it was a little on the warm side at 66 degrees at race time and the temperature gradually increased, though a periodic breeze helped out a bit.
Running across the Ambassador Bridge was a new experience for me, and I was focused on attaining the summit, not sightseeing, and some runners even stopped to take photos.
I had the audacity to dream, based on my training, that maybe I could break two hours, which would’ve required slightly above a 9:09 mile pace. But it’s one thing to do that on a flat 12K course with good rest, as I did in early September, and it’s another to do it in a race that’s close to twice that long, has some decent ascents with the Bridge and the Tunnel and doing so while a bit fatigued.
I was within striking distance of my dream goal for about the first half of the race, but I gradually slowed down. Legs began to feel heavier, it just wasn’t my best day, and I didn’t want to risk an injury by pushing too hard. “Embrace your finitude, or it will embrace you,” as I like to say. Had I gotten more sleep and perhaps skipped my final pre-race training run of six miles—or slowed it down and shortened it this past Wednesday—I think I could have averaged 9:40 per mile, maybe a little better, based on my performance in a long training run three weeks before the race.
Three weeks ago, with good rest, I had a fairly comfortable ten-mile run at a 10:08 pace over some fairly hilly dirt roads that collectively rival the Detroit course’s topography in ascent. And I didn’t go easy on myself in Detroit, as my average heart was 167 and my fatigue and bodily soreness, including the morning after, reaffirmed that reality (and the impact of asphalt is cumulatively tougher than that of dirt roads). I finished at 2:13:34, a 10:12 mile pace. Ah well, a good effort expended in any event.
But to break two hours in a half-marathon will take more training. And my one-time dream of qualifying for the Boston Marathon seems like an unattainable bucket-list goal at present, as I’d have to run a 3:40:00 marathon somewhere between the ages of 55-59, which will begin for me next year. But perhaps after a year or two of committed running and avoidance of significant injury, who knows? However, it’s certainly not essential to pursue, let alone attain, Boston. We’ll see how much I decide to train in the long term.
Bottom line, it’s just good to be back running, doing so with new friends and remembering that training for and running a half-marathon is a useful analogue to our “race” of faith with Jesus Christ in his Church. Indeed, finishing this race in Detroit gives me encouragement to press on in finishing that most important race, about which St. Paul writes so well (2 Tim. 4:7-8).