Luckily she was bringing a large contingent of her own running friends from California. And just before the race, Geoff and Bryan's girlfriends, Corle and Monica, signed up as well. Then we learned there were a few extra bibs floating around. Kati's sister forgot to train, and Paul had injured his ankle and couldn't run. After some grappling it was decided that Jamie would run with Kati's sister's bib, and I was going to be Paul. Thankfully for me and my anxieties about breaking rules, Monika had registered Paul under the name "Bubu," which I presume is a Slovakian-type spelling of the pet name "Boo-boo." Still, it was better to run as "Bubu" than "Paul."
As we huddled around the picnic table shoveling in instant oatmeal and coffee, two rather strange women — strange to the point of being creepy — walked up to us holding hands. They offered to "stretch" Corle and became insistant when she declined. When I asked if they were running with us, one replied in the most sing-song voice possible, "No, we don't like to run. We like to drink tea." Turns out they were friends of friends of friends who someone invited out to our camp late the night before, and were still up after apparently "drinking tea" all night long. Rudeness of inviting them aside given how loud they were all night and how many children there were in camp, it was reminiscent of the kinds of encounters that used to happen with humorous frequency when I was 21. I had to laugh about it.
The Other Half Marathon begins at the Dewey Bridge, north of Moab, and continues contouring the Colorado River corridor on Highway 128 for 13.1 miles to Sorrel River Ranch. Of all of the highways I've traveled, Utah Route 128 is one of the most scenic. Thirteen miles of desert scenery, combined with the silly fun of running with friends, tempered my reluctance to run so far on pavement. The more serious California runners lined up with their pacing groups, but six of us started off the back near a guy holding a 3:00 pacing sign. "Just stay in front of that guy, and you'll be fine," I said to a couple of the newer runners who were nervous about finishing. The gun went off and we started fresh at about 12 min/mile pace, still joking and giggling.
Beat, however, told me that because I'm a "runner" now, I really need to get my half marathon time under two hours. Boo. I really enjoyed myself in The Other Half, and I doubt I would have enjoyed myself as much if I made a concentrated effort to shave a half minute off of every mile. When Beat asked if I *could* have shaved at least a half minute off of some of those miles, the answer was emphatically yes (certainly in the first 8 miles, but not in the last five.) "So you're not really trying," he replied. "It doesn't count if you're not trying."
This gave me an idea for a future blog post — examining the emphasis on getting faster solely for the sake of getting faster, and why this value has to be a prerequisite to being a "runner." I'm never going to win and sometimes wonder why it's so important to pick my way up through the middle of the pack. I do understand the satisfaction of personal improvement and the competitive spirit, but I feel the need to examine just how much these increments mean to me, as an individual, before I commit to something like training specifically for a faster 50K, for example. Sometimes I wonder if I get caught up in the peer pressure of "faster is always better" without acknowledging which aspects of the running experience really mean the most to me. Or maybe, as Beat says, I'm just being lazy. :-)
Either way, I had a great time at The Other Half — excellent scenic-yet-challenging compliment to the rest of the weekend. Thanks, friends.