Old Port Half Marathon

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Start of the Old Port Half Marathon, Ocean Gateway Terminal onto Commercial Street. My backpack was over to the left, just out of the photo.

Hadn’t been feeling very well in the three weeks following Grandma’s Marathon. I stayed off my feet a full five days before hitting the road again. But there was still an obvious lack of energy on a day-to-day basis. Could the heat, humidity and effort at Grandma’s have taken such a toll?

With this as the backdrop, expectations for the July 9 Old Port Half Marathon were, ah, reserved, shall we say. I was ready mentally. Physically, I felt fine. At the same time nothing felt quite right. On top of that, Ethan and I were going down to a ballgame in Boston the night before.

We arrived home about 12:30 a.m. I was asleep within 10 minutes, woke up about 4 a.m. Fell back asleep for another 45 minutes. Got up, went through the pre-race routine: bagel with jam and a bowl of oatmeal. I felt pretty good for 4 and-a-half hours of sleep.

Doria, who was to run the 5K, got up a little late, but was ready to go at 6 a.m. We were pushing the envelope. We arrived in the Old Port and were parked by 6:35 a.m. Doria caught the shuttle up to the Cutter Street start of the 5K while I started a truncated warm-up. Adrenaline was kicking in.

I felt OK.

One problem, however: My backpack. What to do with it?

Lines for the bag check were long and the clear bags were too small for my backpack. I chose a warmup over standing around. That left me with hiding the pack behind a power box next to the Ocean Gateway Terminal. My phone, dry clothes, some cash and keys were in it. I took the car key off the ring and tucked it into the little pocket on the back of my shorts. Insurance.

Still, felt pretty good.

Got in a natural break and had a few minutes to spare getting to the start line. I lined up in my assigned pace corral, but a little ahead of my expected time. I rationalized, telling myself that once out on Commercial Street, I’d tuck over to the left and let all the faster runners roll out.

As quickly as 2 miles or so, I realized I was feeling a little frisky on this cool and rainy morning. There were no real downpours. Steady at times with some breaks. Perfect, really. And, what passes for snap, crackle and pop in the old legs, had decided to show up.

I was holding a solid 8 minute to 8:20 pace (the only exceptions the hills of the Western and Eastern promenades) and felt no reason to change anything, even though my previous best half marathon pace was 8:50 per mile.

After climbing the hill at the Eastern Prom and still feeling strong, I knew something was cooking. There was no sign of fatigue and my breathing was still perfect. Once we got to the Back Cove trail, the thought of a sub 1-hour, 50-minute half surfaced and I started to mix in some short surges. I was focused on keeping it simple and not getting too excited.

About halfway around Back Cove, I pulled up alongside a gentleman I’d been near for a couple miles. We traded runner talk. I told him to stay strong and continued to push toward Tukey’s Bridge, the final little piece of elevation before the homestretch.

I was better than OK.

With about two miles to go, there was something left in the tank (unlike last year). The final two splits were the fastest of the day, 7:40 each. And it wasn’t until somewhere around the Narrow Gauge Railway that I noticed my breathing was becoming labored. Didn’t matter. The finish was in sight … 1:49:12.

Maybe there’s something to Gary Allen’s saying, “Don’t think. Run.”

As for the backpack? Race personnel swept the area and delivered it to the post-race festival area. What’s lost is found.

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Eastern Prom, Portland.

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About Daniel King

Began running the summer of 2010. Entered first 5K (Freeport Jingle Bell Run) in December 2010 and haven't looked back. Ran first marathon in October 2014.

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