Me: Didn't you hear? Carmel Indiana was just declared the Best place to live in America.
Me: No seriously... click that link up there. Or this one.
You: Niche.com? What the hell is Niche.com? And how much did Carmel pay Niche.com?
Me: Wow... you're cranky today.
Besides, Carmel Half Marathon (run in conjunction with the equally great Carmel Marathon) is a fantastic event. It has a big-time race experience but in a small town.
And not just any town... my town. The course wraps around my neighborhood.
And even better, I walked to the start... in 7 minutes. How often do you get to have a start and finish a race just a short walk from your front door? Some people walked farther that I did just to get to their car, and still had to drive home.
The day was perfect... 40s at the start (and finish), overcast, light winds. I just doesn't get any better.
And the course is a nice one... rolling, flowing. The kind of course that, unlike last month's course, let's you find a groove and cruise. When that happens, when things are feeling better, just generally going better, when you aren't full of dread of the hundred tight turns to come, your mind can wonder. And that can be entertaining.
In the first couple miles, I invented toss-a-way long sleeve shirts for those races, like this one, when it's a little chilly standing around the start, and for the first mile or two. You'd pick one up at the expo for $3, wear it until you got warm enough, and then toss it to the side of the course. Later, the vendor could sweep the course, retrieve the shirts, and donate them.
By mile four I realized that that is what old race shirts are for... but still, the gears were turning!
A little later I came up behind a guy wearing a shirt he got from the expo, one that has every runner who entered the race printed on the back.
I asked him if he'd mind holding still for a minute so I could find my name.
He didn't think that was nearly as funny as I did. Like not at all. I guess he wasn't having as good of a day as I was.
When I got to the 8-mile mark, I was on very familiar ground. I'd run this part of the course, the last 5 miles of the half, a few times already this season for training. The last time, just 2 weeks before the race, it didn't go so well. In fact, it was pretty much a disaster.
That day, for the first time since September, I aborted a training run. And for no good reason. I just quit. I wasn't feeling particularly bad, nothing hurt, and I wasn't sick. I just failed mentally.
My brain, actually my mind, not my brain, just shut the whole thing down.
It wasn't a good day.
But race day was.
I felt way better at mile 8 than I did at any time during that aborted training run. In fact, I was having fun!
Looking pretty happy on thetrail between miles 8 and 9
A short time after, as I was scaling the longest hill* on the course, a quote, from a corporate wellness program of all things, came to mind:
Exercise should be a celebration of what your body can do, not punishment for what you ate.That started a new train of thoughts...
No shit! Look what my body can do! Sure, I'm not as fast as I used to be, but this bag of water and protein has been kicking around this rock for half a century, and it can still cruise a half marathon... a half marathon every damn month. Pretty remarkable!
Then I thought how ironic it would be if I'd dropped dead right then.
And how sad it would be that only I'd get the joke.
Up that last "hill", just passed 11 miles, I passed a woman. Her phone rang, or sang, some pop tune. As she fumbled for it in her little gear pouch, I semi-scolded her, "Don't you dare answer that, you're kinda busy."
"It might be a cheerer-onner", she said.
After a few more seconds of probing her pouch, slowing, but not breaking stride, she found the wailing little thing, "Nope. Uhg! I don't even recognize the number... and I broke a damn nail."
Just past the Fountain Round-a-Bout
We passed 12 miles on Main street. I don't if I subconsciously read it on a sign board or if it simply popped into my oxygen-deprived brain, but I started to wonder why "Quesadilla" wasn't spanish for "What's the deal?"
Then, the last turn, and the finish. 1:56:15
I've been faster, way faster, back in the day, but it's been a while. And, I haven't had that much fun in a half for a long time.
The finish area was filled with, and I promise I am not making this up, teen beauty contests. With sashes!
They were cold, but they were cheery, and smiling, and genuinely nice. Only in Carmel, IN... best place to live in America!
I got a really nice medal from one pageant teen, a space blanket from another, and from another a serious bounty in an easy to carry, pre-packed goodie bag. Perfect for a fumble-free, short walk home.
Nice haul from the goodie bag
But, before I walked home, I hung out at the finish line for a bit to watch other finishers. My favorite was Janice. It was Janice's 100th half-marathon. She had a support crew, some on the sidelines and some running by her side as she trotted in, arms raised, fists pumping, with a smile that warmed the whole finish shoot.
"Look what her body can do!", I thought, "Celebrate that shit, Janice!"
You: Good for her! That's pretty awesome. Are you gonna do 100 halfs?
Me: Easy cowboy... one quest at a time. Next month, Geist Half-marathon.
*Carmel Indiana doesn't have any real hills. We flat-landers call any incline more than a degree or two a "hill".