The weekend before the Air Force Half I swung by the Columbus Running Company to pick up some energy gels. Granted, I have an arsenal of them in my junk drawer, but I always buy more because 1.) I like to tell myself that you can never have too many and 2.) I can never remember to check the junk drawer beforehand. So I guess 1 is dependent on 2 here. Anyways …
I got to talking to Mike and mentioned I was running the Air Force Half. He wished me luck and we talked about the joys of late summer weather and running in it. If it’s humid you get to experience the soupy air that is Ohio September air, but if it’s humid with full sunshine? Satan’s lair would be a preferable climate.
Isn’t there a Mark Twain quote about going to Heaven for the climate but Hell for the company?
So I walked out with the fuel gels (which I incidentally forgot in Columbus) and new sunglasses to replace mine that got torn up (and did not forget in Columbus.)
Come Friday morning I had all my running gear packed up and gave Marina a kiss on the head before rolling out. Even though I’ve been in Columbus for almost three years, I still think of the Dayton region where I grew up as being “local.” Part of what appealed about the Air Force Half is that it’s local to my folks, so in a way it’s a hometown race, and there’s the thrill of running in a new area that not many civilians get to traverse as freely, since the route started and stayed in the base for the first few miles.
I got to the expo in one piece and did my usual of grabbing a bunch of informational material for other races before getting my bag check bag. So by the time I needed to walk down into the arena my hands were full and I had to lean against the handrail so I wouldn’t trip all over myself.
I didn’t care for that part of the expo. I’m afraid of heights and stairs throw off my depth perception. So I picked up some cupcakes from Gigi’s for my family and I to enjoy after dinner. Carb loading and I figured sugar would make me feel better after seeing my life flash before my eyes on that descent.
The lodging was cheap this time. I woke up next to our little dog Max in my teenage bedroom and got dressed. Mom had already been up to go with me and we were working together to see through the fog on the way down to the base.
The marathon sent out quite a bit of information in the week leading up to the race, which was very helpful, although we were a little anxious about parking. To our pleasant surprise, a nice airman directed us to Gate 22-B and traffic was easy to maneuver, so we rolled into the base feeling like big shots.
Author’s note: it doesn’t take much to impress Mom and I, in case you haven’t noticed.
About 30 minutes passed and it was race time.
Mile 1 was a nice uphill that I ran in a little under 10 minutes, which I was happy about, and Mile 2 was a downhill through Huffman Prairie. The prairie was quiet with the exception of a bunch of runners stampeding through, and a quiet Mile 3 continued towards a golf course.
It was hot and humid, but also overcast with a nice breeze throughout the first part of the race. At the halfway point the sun came out and then it got rough. It was also around the halfway point of the race, during Mile 6 through what I think was housing for the officers – my inner architecture nerd was in heaven amongst all those big Tudor-style homes – that a nice family decided to have a free bacon stand.
I had to decline, but quite a few runners stopped to get some.
I also caught up with a duo I passed after the start of the race. There were two men, I believe veterans, running with an elastic tie between them. The guy on the left had a sign that said GUIDE and his partner to the right’s sign said BLIND. The tie was around their biceps to keep them together and I thought that was so cool. Then I looked down and saw the guide was an amputee, running with a prosthetic left leg.
When I caught up to them I tapped the guide and told him he was doing an awesome thing. He smiled and we fist bumped.
That last half was a hot blur over freeways, through Wright State University and back to base. On the 11th mile an ambulance was let through, which turned out to be the first of many for runners who had developed heat stroke. I had to walk-run the last mile to the finish line, as did a lot of runners.
In fact, this was the only race where the announcer was encouraging runners NOT to sprint to the finish because of the heatstroke concerns.
I finished ten minutes later than I was expecting – 2:27:18. I wanted to finish between 2:15 and 2:20, although for how miserable the conditions were I’m not unhappy with how I did. I later on heard from runner friends on social media that at noon the race was black-flagged from too many runners flooding the medic tents with heat stroke.
I ran more than I walked, which was my goal and wasn’t too far off from my time goal, so I’m optimistic for the Indy Monumental in November and the two halfs I have leading up to it. And I can confirm for the straight ladies and gay dudes: airmen really are where it’s at.