Saturday, June 04, 2005

South Bend Half Marathon -- June 4, 2005

WOW, was that a cool event!!

I got home just a while ago and what a fun event this race in South Bend turned out to be. It went every bit as well as I had hoped...and things often don't turn out that way. But this one did.

The T Shirt just blew away everyone I told the story to. Each and every person was speechless at first, then would say "Now, let me look at that again!" and then they just smiled and said "Now THAT is SO COOL!" Most really got the fact that this was a wonderful family event for us.

Wow...who did I tell the story to, let me think. On Friday, I wore my gold version on the way up. At the pasta dinner in the College Football Hall of Fame (CFHF, as we say in the trade...) I got talking with a couple about it. He was a prof of Electrical Engineering at ND, she taught freshman composition in the Dept of English at St Marys. Very nice couple and they thought the shirt was amazing. Then before the race, I asked a guy to take my picture next to the main CFHF sign and he was just amazed. We got into the race and (as always happens) I found some folks running at the same pace I was comfortable with and we glommed on to each other. I got to tell them an extended version of the story (hey, it took over 2 hours to complete the race...) and they were pretty astounded. After the race, (more on this later) I got my camera back and was sitting in the south end-zone seats of ND stadium, kind of just enjoying/absorbing the atmosphere. Got talking to a guy who was born in SB, now worked in Atlanta, and flew up just to run the 10km event today. He was a HUGE ND football fan and he just thought the story was awesome. He took several photos of me and the photo from south end zone, looking down on the field. While waiting outside the stadium for the shuttle bus to come back and give us a ride downtown to the starting line where we had left our cars, I got talking with two female cousins who came down from Chicago about the shirt. Had a long talk with them, as it turned out we had a lot in common. But they just thought it was a marvelous and appropriate and creative tribute to Dad. After I had talked with you, Geege, (more on this later) I was eating some pancakes in a Bob Evans and writing down my splits from my watch and writing down my initial impressions of the race. And a couple came up and asked me about the race, as they had run the 5km event. She was a St Marys grad and there was a Very Large Reunion of St Mary grads today as well. Then she looked at the back of my (now gold) T shirt and asked about it...and, yep, same reaction. ND people in particular really "got it" and just thought it was so cool.

As I told the story, so many were so impressed that all four of us were involved and, in particular, the terrific job Karen did in setting up the photo. And, that we did it over large distances, digitally, seemed really cool. More deeply, several folks seemed really impressed that four siblings got along so well to pull something like this off in such a short time. And I said, "Yes, and that's a tribute to the guy on the back of the shirt and his wonderful bride!"

So, all of this was cool.

The race itself?? It went well, as well. Far differently than four weeks ago in Indy. I felt strong throughout the race, ran the entire distance, and, as I wanted to do and had really tried to plan for, I was strong at the end. The race started downtown, then went north along the St Joe River on Riverside Drive for about 4 miles, then turned around, retraced the steps to downtown, then flipped to the other side of the river and kept going south, flipped again, retraced more steps and then cut north to the campus. Some hills but not bad. There were about 1,700 people running the half where nearly as big as the 26,000 in Indy, but still I was with people all the way. Lots of nice conversations with people along the way. The weather started out reasonably (start time was 7:15am) but it really warmed up and was well over 80 by the end. So the last three miles were pretty hot but I was careful to take water at the plentiful water stops they provided (one every mile...well done) and I never came close to dehydrating. I was glad that I didn't wear a cotton shirt but rather got Dad's image onto a very lightweight synthetic running shirt. This was a major error I made in Indy and the shirt worked well today. And I knew the whole objective was to finish strong and be able to fully absorb all that would happen at the finish. But I didn't even dream it would be as amazing as it was.

The big draw for me in this race was, of course, the finish, and it was the same draw for most of the entrants. There was a lot of talk among folks during the race and you knew this was a big deal to finish in ND stadium. The drama really built over the last two miles. We approached campus from the south and then ran up the street immediately west of the stadium (lots of new buildings stretching south there along Notre Dame Avenue). And all the familiar sights drew closer and closer. It built and built and then we then rounded to the north side of the stadium, went up a ramp and down the tunnel leading to the field. I have to tell you, entering that tunnel, going down the ramp there, seeing the daylight from the field at the end of it was a HUGE rush. We were almost sprinting at this point, yelling and whooping and living it up. They had the ND fight song on a continuous repeat on the loudspeakers in the tunnel and it really felt wonderful.

We got to the field and I just let out a whoop, with both arms in the air as I got there. Pure joy. And then, almost overwhelmed by it all, I slowed to a very slow jog to cover the last distance to the 50 yard line. I was thinking so much of Dad, looking all around at that huge, famous stadium, reflecting on the many blessings I and we have received and I just was in no mood to let it pass. The race was interesting but rather irrelevant at that point. So, I jogged slowly down the field and it was an awesome moment. It is impossible to fully describe, but it was a very, very special moment. And I thought a lot of all of you as well. What a flood of I was in no mood to rush it. Thanks for all your interest and support...that made a big deal of it too!!

I crossed the finish line and the sponsors were well organized (as was the entire event....very well run). They had medals for all the marathon and half marathon finishers, so I can add that to my (now growing) collection. They also had hand-towel sized towels, soaked in ice water and gave one to each finisher and man did that feel good to put on my neck at that point. I congratulated a few of the folks I ran with and then just walked around on the field for about 10 minutes. It felt good on the legs to walk after running for 2:09+. But it was more of just soaking up the atmosphere. There were over 7,000 total participants in all the races today. So there were a lot of people there and it was fun. Picked up water and they were handing out Popsicles liberally as well. The medical tent was doing quite a bit of business, looked mostly like dehydration cases. The massage tent had a long line waiting there...I didn't bother.

One nice well-organized thing they did for the full and half marathoners was to let us drop off any extra gear we had at the start and they took it to the finish area. I've done this before and have learned that a dry shirt and dry socks are the most welcome thing at that point! So, I put a bag together for the event and threw in a disposable camera, hoping not to lose it. I took a number of pictures with it at the start, then dropped it off and, right on cue (queue?) at the end, there it was. So, I picked that up and the snapped a bunch more photos of the event as I sat up in the south end zone, just absorbing it all. The organizers just did a super job on a big event. I just took the camera over to our local drug store and discovered that for a mere $3 more, I can get all these regular photos scanned in their machine onto a CD! So, I might have pictures tonight to post. We'll see.

The race organizers also had a company there to take Official Photos To Offer To Participants For Sale Later. I saw at least three of them on the course, plus at the finish line. On two of the occasions on the course and again at the finish line, I turned around and ran backwards for a while, wanting them to take a photo of the back of my shirt. I don't know if they did or not, or if they will link those images to me, but we'll see.

Anyway, got done with the race, I hung around the stadium for another 45 minutes or so just to enjoy it all. Got back to my car, went to the motel, took a shower. Had a nice drive home and here I am.