This past Labor Day, my older brother ran his first half marathon! I don’t say “older brother” to differentiate any assumption that I have a “younger brother.” I don’t. Just the “older brother.” And I say “older brother” only to reinforce the fact that this “older brother” is following in his “younger sister’s” running footsteps. That would be me.
See, Matt is a bit, shall we say, competitive. So, when I started distance running several years ago, he became interested in it. Then, when he accompanied me to the Boston Marathon as my support, he became mesmerized. And since my racing of the 113th in 2009, Matt has wanted to qualify for Boston.
Matt has always been a runner. In fact, it was he who got me interested in running as a gawky, 11-year old, middle schooler. First track, and then cross country. After he graduated high school, Matt almost always returned for my meets, thinking he would be able to motivate and encourage me better than my own coaches. Perhaps he did.
While I continued to run as an adult, I didn’t venture into the longer distances until the mid-2000’s when my best friend, E prompted me to run a half marathon. Since then, the rest has been history for me.
But I digress, Matt has wanted to qualify for Boston since watching my virgin race in 2009. He toyed with going directly into a marathon training program, after loading up on base miles. But when several injuries hit, he decided to opt for a half first, to see how it went and how his body responded. During the past couple of years, he has often discussed his training with me. Maybe because I was helping coach a high school cross country team at the time, and I really was a “coach.” Maybe because I had been fairly successful with my own training and racing. Maybe because I had proven myself to him. Despite some setbacks, when he had reached 3/4 of the way through his half marathon program, he was feeling healthy. It was then that we talked about a race. I immediately suggested the Boulder Backroads. Partly because it’s local, and I run that area too often; and partly because it was my first half marathon too.
Leading up to race day, Matt and I texted often. Should he carb load the night before? Yes. How early should he eat breakfast and how much? Oatmeal with banana. Water. 2-3 hours prior to the race. Did I recommend any kind of pace strategy? Take the first 3-4 miles and find a pace that feels right. Maintain through 6. A gradual pick up from 7-10. Kick it in for the final 5k. Don’t go out too fast and hit a wall. So should he start slower than goal pace? I say conserve. It’s my motto. Save yourself some energy for the end. Would he feel well enough to pick it up in the 2nd half? This is just your first half. It’s an experiment.
And of course…he wanted to know what MY half marathon finish times were. Always the competitor. Always needing the best the little sister. 1:39:02/7:34 pace
I know he says that he’d be happy with a 1:45, but deep down I think he is gunning for a 1:39:00.
Race morning, E and I bike to the Boulder Res from her house (2.5 miles away). We position ourselves at mile 2, swatting mosquitoes right and left. We cheer him on as he comes by, looking strong. We bike around the back side of the race and stop at mile 4/9. He has already passed the 4 mile mark, but I’m more interested in helping him up the slight incline at mile 9. I know my sister-in-law, Erica, and niece will see him at the 6.5 mile turn around. He will need the most support in the 2nd half. Erica texts me that he is hurting. Uh-oh. I run down to the bottom of the hill so I can run up with him. I have a water bottle, a cold, wet paper towel (perfect for a little cool down and wiping the face) and a Gu. I see him struggling. His hamstrings are tight. This is new. He says all the little hills on the course are killing him. I do my best to encourage. At the top of the hill I grab my bike that Erika has, and off we go to the next hill.
We are now at mile 10.5. Matt has slowed, and I run him up this gradual hill too. I tell him a silly story about how E and I ran into a skunk on one of our 5am runs. Anything to get his mind off the pain.
E and I reposition again right before mile 12. Another hill. I run up this one with him, too. He’s in a lot of pain. I know he wants to stop. We’ve all been there. I tell him to think about the finish. Eye on the prize. One mile to go.
We race back to the finish where we meet up with Erica and my niece. Matt crosses in 1:48:20. Not too much off the pace and overall time of my first half marathon on this same course.
I’m really proud of my brother. It was a major accomplishment and one to feel very satisfied with. I definitely felt honored that Matt had been picking my brain about distance training and racing these past years. I guess things have come full circle.