Last Sunday morning, I listened to my husband tell me that I should wear my race bib to the Chilly Half Marathon upside down. “Be 999,” he said. “That’s a fun number.”
“No way. This is the number that I was assigned so this is the number that I am going to wear. Besides, now if I have a bad race, I can blame it on the number and everyone will understand.”
Even though I had the worst number imaginable, I didn’t really care. I actually thought it was a little funny. In fact, it helped me to relax a little; I knew that this wasn’t going to be one of my faster halfs, but I did want it to be a respectable race. In November, I squeaked under 1:40 on a downhill course (1:39:59), and I raced in 1:42 on the Chilly course last winter. This year, anything under 1:40 would be good. Maybe Bib 666 would let me run like the devil.
Knowing how a lot of people react when they see or hear ‘666’, I wore my jacket to Burlington and I kept it on as long as I could while warming up. Just before the start of the race, we listened to race director Kelly Arnott, the mayor of Burlington who welcomed and thanked Kelly for the fundraising that her event does for the city, and a minister who wished us a good race. I was tempted to ask the minister to bless me before I ran, thinking a bit of divine intervention might counteract the devil’s number. Instead, I just took off my jacket and hoped that no one would notice.
My race plan was to go out at an 8 minute mile pace and bring it down to 7:30 by the 3rd mile. Even with a windy start, my first mile was 7:38. “Too fast,” I told myself. “Bring it down.” The next few miles were under 7:30 but I was feeling strong. On this out and back course, I was really looking forward to turning around when the wind would push me home for the last 5 miles, but that did not happen. If anything, the wind seemed stronger; surprisingly, my mile splits stayed fairly consistent. I was having a good day.
I picked up my pace quite a bit in the last mile, dropping down to 7:19. When I made the last turn before the finish line, I could barely see the time on the clock change from 1:36 to 1:37. I was excited that I was finishing under 1:40 but also knew that I had some work to do if I wanted to keep my time under 1:38. I tried and, while my legs felt like they were turning over faster, they were just holding steady. Regardless, I finished in 1:38:12, fast enough for a third place finish in my age group and 88th of 1200 women. I was especially happy as this was the fastest half marathon that I have run in a long time; maybe there is a bit of a speed demon in me after all.