- Tom Godfrey
- Atlanta, GA, United States
- When I suffered a lip injury that ended my career as a classical trombonist, I thought my life as a musician was finished, but I fell in love with music all over again when Santa gave me a guitar for Christmas in 2003. Even as I was struggling with my first chords, I was planning a new performance career. As a trombonist, I performed with the Heritage of America Band at Langley Air Force Base, the Ohio Light Opera, and in pick-up bands for touring acts that included Rosemary Clooney, George Burns, and the Manhattan Transfer. Reborn as a jazz guitarist, I sing and play my own solo arrangements of jazz classics, am half of the Godfrey and Guy duo, and hold the guitar chair in the Sentimental Journey Orchestra. I have been a freelance music copyist since 1995 and have been music director at Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation since 2011.
Sunday, March 20, 2011
Half Marathon Report
This morning I ran the Georgia Publix Half Marathon. 13.1 miles in 2:03:54, with an average pace of 9:28 per mile. According to my printed race results, I ran the first 6.2 miles in 1:03:21, which is a pace of 10:12 per mile. I ran the last seven miles in about an hour, for a pace of around 8:34 per mile. Those are the dry facts. Now let me tell you about the experience.
To understand what this race meant to me, we need go back to April 11, 2010. On this day, I stepped on the scale and was shocked to discover that I weighed 323 pounds. (I've included a "before" picture in this blog.) I reined in my diet and began walking…and walking…and walking. After a few months, I started peppering my walks with short runs. Over time, I was able to run a continuous 3 miles, then 4, then 5, and eventually 14.
Through experimentation, I've discovered that my Saturday long runs feel best if I take a short, easy run the day before. Sticking with this routine, I went for a short run yesterday. I deliberately ran the same 3 mile route that used to be a challenging walk, just to remind myself where I had started. As I ran the last quarter mile, my eyes welled with tears as I realized that what used to be a major workout was now an easy warm-up run for a much longer distance. The simple fact that I was running 13 hard miles the next day meant that I had already won my own personal race.
On race day, the weather couldn't have been any better. Overcast, with a high in the low 60s, it was as if someone had ordered up the perfect day for a long distance run. I traveled to the race with Mom (visiting from Branson) and Lynnette, my musical partner and fellow runner. I'm very much an early bird and wanted to leave really early for the race, but Mom and Lynnette voted me down. We arrived shortly before the start time, so I was glad that I stretched and warmed up at home. I had consumed plenty of liquid, so on the way to my starting corral, I had to duck into a nearby hotel and take care of some business. Coincidentally, this was the Embassy Suites near Centennial Olympic Park, where I played a corporate gig last year. For some reason, no one seemed to recognize me.
In a race of this size, the runners start in designated areas based on their estimated finish time. Elite runners lead the way, then super fast runners, fast runners, kind of fast runners, and so forth, with the snails bringing up the rear. Once I found my starting corral, it wasn't long before the race began. For my group, the race didn't begin until about 15 minutes after the gun went off. Fortunately, all of our race numbers had chips that were activated once we crossed the official starting line, so every participant was able to get an accurate finishing time. As we were slowly making our way to the starting line, I began to get choked up again. I was thinking that this time last year, I was knocking off a bag of chips a day with a Ben and Jerry's chaser, and this morning I was running a 13 mile race.
I was afraid that in the excitement, I would start too fast and wear myself out early in the race, but that wasn't a problem. With around 15,000 participants, this was by far the biggest race I had entered. (Back in my Air Force days, before I gained all that weight, I ran lots of 5Ks and 10Ks.) With the runners all packed in like sardines, I couldn't have started fast if I had tried. This worked out really well for me. I had no idea how long it would take to run this race. My plan was to start conservatively, and then to kick it up a notch if I felt good at mile 7. Well, I felt more than good at mile 7. I felt great, so I turned on the afterburners. After the fact, I was surprised when I discovered that I averaged 8:34 minutes per mile over the last 7 miles. This isn't elite runner speed, but it's faster than a snail.
The race itself is mostly a blur, but I have some random flashes of memory and observations. The music at the start was too loud. I covered my ears. I'm not good at drinking from paper cups and running at the same time. I got Gatorade up my nose and snotted myself. Runners, even marathoners, come in all shapes and sizes. You gain a lot of energy high-fiving the little kids who are standing by the side of the road cheering for you. Even though I ran the race alone, I had several chance running partners and competitors along the way. There are a lot of cute female runners. The Georgia Publix Marathon/Half Marathon has loads of hills. Whoever decided to put a hill in that last mile of the course deserves a punishment…maybe some sort of Sisyphean fate where they have to run eternal hill repeats. I'm normally not a competitive person, but I allowed no one to pass me in the last two miles. If you're meeting someone after a huge race, you shouldn't give them your phone before the race. It took longer to find my mom than it did to run the race! I can run faster than I thought. I have my own story behind the half marathon. There were 15,000 other stories.
Today's race was a terrific experience all around, and I'm hooked. I've signed up to run the Silver Comet Half Marathon on October 29, and I may look for another half marathon in July or August. I plan on working up to a 20 mile run on Thanksgiving, and next year I'll run the full Georgia Publix Marathon. Sometime in the next year or two, I'd like to take a trip to the American Southwest and spend a couple weeks doing nothing but running desert trails, and when I turn 50 in six years, I'm going to celebrate by running 50 miles.