(This post is overdue — this half marathon happened over 3 weeks ago — but I’ve been swamped with so much of this and this, lately.)

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The night before the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon, my friend Tim and I were discussing the race. “Are you ready?” he asked.

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“I didn’t train as much as I planned,” I said. (Life happens.)

“What was your longest training run?”

“Eleven miles.”

“Oh. You’ll finish, no problem.”

“Yeah, I know I’ll finish. I ran a half last year, in Wisconsin. This time it’s about how fast I can run it.”

“Ah, so it’s an ego thing.”

“Yep.”

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I suck at sports, and most athletic endeavors, period. My limbs have minds of their own. You should see me throw a softball — my own dad laughs at my form. I can be persuaded to play beach volleyball only if I know everyone else has already had a few beers. It took me a year of practice skating around campus on my longboard to get from one class to another without skinning a knee, gashing a palm or colliding with a fellow student.

Running is different. It’s easy. (“Maybe that’s why you like it,” my sister said.) If you can walk, you can probably run. It doesn’t require any specialized muscle movement or equipment. It’s simple.

After running on a regular basis for a couple years now, I’ve felt like I’ve been getting better at it. Both my stamina and speed have improved. After a 7-mile run, I no longer feel like a wounded animal dragging itself back to its den. I feel good. Tired, sure, but I feel invigorated, too.

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This newfound degree of running prowess — nevermind minuscule — shifted my mindset from I’m-aiming-to-finish to it’s-PR-breaking-time!

I ran last year’s half in Wisconsin at a pace of 9:15 minutes per mile. Before I started training for the Rock ‘n’ Roll half, I blindly threw a dart at the pace chart declared that I’d shoot for an 8-minute mile average.

This turned out to be rather ambitious. I didn’t get to train as much as I planned. I might have made the 8-minute pace if followed my training plan to a T, but I know I wouldn’t have enjoyed it much. As it was, I was burning out in the last few weeks, only running half my planned miles. If it’s not fun anymore, what’s the point in doing it?

So, I dialed it back, but still set a goal — aiming for an 8:30 pace on race day.

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Over 20,000 runners ran the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon. Talk about high energy. At every mile mark a different band was cranking out live music. Thousands of people lined the streets. Groups of school kids cheered us on. Signs and banners hung from fences and telephone cables over the street. Some guy was handing out tequila shots.

By the end, I was feeling pretty good. Don’t get me wrong, I was ready to be done. I thought about the marathoners running double what I had just run and didn’t want anything to do with that. (One day. Maybe.)

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This is me spotting Kirk near the finish line. I hadn’t expected him to be there — parking was so terrible downtown that he had planned to drop me off and head straight to Ocean Beach for a quick surf. He ended up finding a spot at a nearby grocery store and spotted me running by during the last half mile.

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I was very excited. Seeing him inspired a final burst of energy: OK, let’s do this! I thought and took off sprinting to the finish line.

My overall pace was 8:32, a chip time of 1:51:40 — a full 10 minutes faster than my first half. (Not quite 8:30, but close enough.) I was happy.

But man, my feet were f-ed. Sore, tired, achy, full of blisters. I couldn’t walk without grimacing in pain.

“We’re passing Costco on the way home,” said Kirk. “We could use a few things.” It’s ingrained in us both to save gas and time in the car by combining errand stops, half marathon just completed, or not.

“There’s no way I can walk around the store, though.”

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Not a problem. ☼