That was a rough one. I can’t even say it felt awful. Sure I didn’t have much verve over the first half, but then I started to find a bit of rhythm and was able to push hard over the second half. Felt like I was moving well, like maybe that 34:42 split at halfway was deceptive and I was going to burn to the finish like something returning to our atmosphere. Ahead along the great arc of the seawall I could see third place, his white cap, 50 seconds up at the half, now down to 40 seconds, and I was detaching myself from fifth so I felt confident I could stay in the money. Maybe even move up. I thought this is a good pace. If I hold this to the finish and run low 1:08 that’s a good sign, and I’ll probably buy a ticket to my fast race. Then 5km went by and I hadn’t really gotten much faster. The wind was blowing in off the Georgia Straight now, but it was nothing someone knife-like like me would have to worry about. The forecast was for something horrific, maybe rain but more likely snow, and three degrees with an objectionable wind, but we didn’t get anything like that. I think it was five degrees. Some wind off the Straight but nothing fierce; it seemed to be mostly at our backs. The sun broke through.
With 2km remaining I saw Kelly Wiebe standing at the side of the bike path, banged up from slipping on the Seawall early in the race. Left knee dark from blood and dirt. He ran with me for a bit but he was in too much pain to continue. There’s stands a guy with a 1h04’ personal best, who could have jogged home and stayed ahead of me. Jeremy Deere was now in second and I was in third. He wasn’t far ahead but I’d gone glacial, barely moving now, splitting my slowest 5km yet. At the turn for home he looked behind and he knew he’d get this one; we’d had some good races in the past and if we were close he would always outkick me. Every single time. He’d turn on the jets and it’d be over. At the 2001 World Athletics Championships in Edmonton his fans stood in the stands with a sign reading Nothing runs like a Deere.
1:09:39 at the finish. My last two half marathons have been my two slowest. I’m 41 and know I won’t be getting faster, but I still refuse to believe I’ve lost nearly three minutes in a year. That’s fairytale stuff. And on the bus ride home with these recent races stinging, it should be criminal to feel this good. Rain strafing the bus. Passengers so tightly stuffed that four near the door have to step off just to let those whose stop it is disembark. Just to make room for movement. Rain striking so hard now it feels like summer, so stormy and humid with these exhausted passengers and the dead bus air. Ben Howard on my iPod singing Black Flies, and it’s lifting me like I’m discovering music. These are the first lyrics I’ve heard. The first time a man’s voice breaks. I don’t have any races planned. I’ll just keep working at this.