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Commentary: Whole day of memories from OC Half Marathon

May 06, 2013|By Carrie Slayback

It's 4 a.m. Sunday. Evie calls.

Worried about street closures, she summons me to her house on Bayside Drive earlier than our 5:30 a.m. meeting time.

My Saturday night had been a lovely 50th wedding anniversary party, bedtime past 11 p.m. Evie's call subtracts a precious hour of sleep.

Turns out to be a day of timing.

Before I met the "Serious Saturday Runners," I raced with the goal of finishing and eating. They stressed time — complete a half-marathon in under two hours.

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Working hard, I did finish in under two at Long Beach, Orange County and Surf City. However, lately, my times had dropped to 2:0l, 2:05 and 2:03.

OK, we slow with age. Maybe.

At 6:15 a.m., Sunday, I stand at the start of the OC Half Marathon, hearing the "Star-Spangled Banner," willing myself to finish in under two hours.

The gun sends me off, following the "2:00 pacer," a guy grasping a dowel with a "2:00 card" mounted atop. I review my strategy: Run with the two-hour finishers, then pull ahead in the last .1 mile to finish at 1:59-ish.

Seconds matter.

After a panicky, breathless quarter-mile, I fall into rhythm with a 9 minute, 10 second pace per mile, enjoying the soft beat of synchronous footfalls — shoes hitting asphalt. We turn corners through Corona del Mar, conquering Mile 1, 2, surprised by 4. Where was 3?

Then, disaster: the bottleneck. Thousands snake under the Coast Highway Bridge. In the crush, my pacer evaporates. I fall behind as we climb Dover. Circling Castaways Park, I get my final peek at the 2:00 sign ahead by the Soldier Statue.

My goal: Catch him! Looking at my race record, I increased from a 9-minute pace to an 8-minute-50-second time.

Fueled by a big chocolate bar, I spot a fellow racer with graying hair.

Suspecting she's in my age group, I run past her in a burst of speed.

At Mile 8, I celebrate, "More than half way!" After another infusion of melting chocolate, washed down at a water stop, I turn up Irvine Avenue.

Curses!

Driving up Irvine, I love views of Saddleback above the Bay.

On foot, I slow, due to the incline, my two-hour-finish a distant dream. The pacer, long gone.

Discouraged, I walk through the next water stop. But then there's different runner with that "AARP look," wearing a shirt that says, "Body by Ed." I surprise myself by leaving "Body by Ed" convincingly behind. Suddenly, my friend and mentor Jake is on the sidelines; he waves and I call a greeting. No stopping for hand slaps or hugs.

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