Thursday, January 19, 2017

Are You Randall Harris? Ναι, ναι, είμαι.

(Editor's note:  We appreciate Randy's willingness to share his Chevron Houston Marathon race report with us.  Please consider, in the future, sharing your race experiences with all of us.  ~ NV)

Got up at 3. Couldn't sleep.  Had an oatmeal and a banana.

Traveled down to Houston with Derek Bailey and Gabby Westbrook.  We arrived around 5:30 a.m. and went to the George R. Brown Convention Center (GRB).

Around 6:00 a.m., I took four Advils with another banana.

Thirty minutes later, I went to the start corral.

The race begins and it is about 68 degrees with 95% humidity.  My plan is to run with the 3:30 pacer.  It starts well but it is crowded and hard to move.

I went to the first fuel station and as I did, a girl tripped me.  It was a soft fall and no injury. When I get up, I decide to run on the outside of the pacer to keep from getting tripped again.

The subsequent miles are around 7:55 and effortless.

Thumbs up from Randy near the 10K mark.  The gel must have hit the spot!
(Photo courtesy of Bill Dwyer)
I took a gel at mile 6 just to keep fuel although I wasn't hungry.  I was happy to finally see the half runners go as we split away.  Still the pace is 7:55.

I gelled again at 12.  Mile 12 was 8:02 but that was because we finished on the top of the overpass.

For some reason I expected the 180 degree turn to be sooner.  Things didn't feel right. I just couldn't tell why.

Mile 13 was 7:55.  So the pace was good, but the feeling wrong.

Miles 14 and 15, which went through the Galleria, were 8:09 and 8:17.  I had come to the conclusion it wasn't my day.

At mile 16 I decided to stop at the water station and go to the restroom hoping it would restart everything.  That mile was 8:50, which was good since I had stopped to go to the restroom.

Unfortunately it wasn't better.

I let creep into my mind if I saw my sister at the race I would ask her to take me home.

There was not going to be a Boston qualifying time. I convinced myself that in the warm conditions I had nothing to prove.

I had figured it out. If I walk the rest of the way I would finish in 4 hours and 15 minutes.

Starting at mile 17, I walked through the water station plus another 100 yards and then began to run.  My pace while running was good, around 8:15.

I saw my sister at mile 19 and told her "Take me home".  She said, "What?"  I told her, "Follow me around the turn."

She never caught up to me so I kept running.  Glad I did.

So the next three miles, I set small goals:  Run until I pass three stoplights.  Run till I pass that person walking.

There were two girls, Marcy (Wilkins) and Kim, who kept running and then walking.

We talked and played cat and mouse.  I would run for a while then stop.

Once they passed me I would start running again and pass them.

We encouraged each other saying, "Your turn."

At mile 23 I looked at my total time and it said 3:21.

While Mandi Fowlkes had her eyes on Boston, Randy's decision to run it in from here netted him a trip too.
(Photo courtesy of Bill Dwyer)
Suddenly I woke and realized if I just averaged 10 minute miles I would be sub 4 hours.

I was dealing with cramps in my legs and my tummy unsettled. It had been that way for 5 miles.  No more gels I said. I would have thrown up.

The last mile was happiness as soon as I saw the GRB.  About halfway down Lamar, the heavens opened and the rain began.

I crossed that finish line at 3:54:23.

I was happy that I didn't need to go to medical.  I kept walking and met the others.

While I was disappointed in the time, I knew that is what warm weather does.

Had it been 48 degrees instead my time would have been 3:34, but finishing the race was a triumph.

It was especially rewarding the next day when elite athlete coordinator Erin McGowan from the Houston Marathon Committee called.

She said, "Are you Randall Harris?  Mr. Harris, the Chevron Houston Marathon picks one male and one female that finishes UNDER 4 HOURS to go to Athens and run in the original marathon.  Randall, you are that person."

I cried as I thanked her.

Meanwhile my wife walks in the door and is scared to see me talking on the phone and crying.

When I tell her she says,"Is this for real"?

Stunned, I go to the computer and check. Sure enough, the Marathon sponsors the Athens Cultural Exchange program.

What I have learned from this race is that races are internal.

You have to trick your mind to accept the conditions and then beat your body up with positive thoughts.

In this case, because I did that, I get an external reward I could have never done for myself.

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