Saturday, November 10, 2012

Manchester (N.H.) half-marathon round-up:
13.1 miles on Sunday, Nov. 4

Yes, that's me running in front of Manchester's iconic City Hall. All that's missing is a zig-zag black stripe on my shirt to make me a dead ringer for Charlie Brown.

Time for a quick account of the Manchester (N.H.) Marathon before the details as remembered are completely swallowed by the onrush of the holidays and everything else.

My hometown marathon, run this year on Saturday, Nov. 4, was of special interest because it was scheduled for the same day as the New York City Marathon, which was abruptly cancelled thanks to Hurricane Sandy.

So hundreds of NYC Marathon refugees, many of them international runners who'd come a long way for their bite of the Big Apple, came a bit further to the Queen City instead. Organizers were on the ball, too, allowing late registrations and somehow handling it all with nary a hitch.

Race morning dawned clear and cool, with a chilly wind occasionally kicking up out of the northwest. Earlier, it wasn't windy at all at my house, hence my decision to run the half-marathon (13.1 miles), in just shorts and the official Manchester Marathon long-sleeved t-shirt.

My usual "wear a sweatshirt" point is 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and the morning was somewhat above that. But when the wind began gusting downtown, I felt it, especially when out of the sun. Brrrr! Things never truly warmed up, although that wasn't a problem considering how we all were spending the morning.

And I have to say, if you just showed up for this race, you'd get the impression that this was one small city that really had its act together. (Those of us who live around here know better.) The event was well organized, the streets were clean, and the course took runners through some of Manchester's most distinctive cityscapes, parks, and suburban enclaves. A festive air prevailed.

I took it slow -- slow enough for the trailing police cruiser to be burbling along behind me at one point, holding back traffic. Even so, I was surprised when my right Achilles tendon flared up just four miles in. Damn! It gradually worked its way out, however, and by the time we were descending Campbell Street towards Livingston Park, I was back to full form.

The half-mile through Livingston Park was a new part of the course, and it was one of my favorite segments. The place, with its rambling trails and ledgy outcrops, reminds me of the more remote sections of New York City's Central Park, and is a nice break from the street-running that makes up most of the course.

A long stretch on Belmont Street was made bearable by local residents cheering on runners, and then we veered west onto a quiet section of Bridge Street for a loop out underneath Interstate 93 and back.

At about the 10-mile mark, two things happened. 1) My feet really started to feel it, and 2), the marathon runners kept heading east while we half-marathoner cut off to the right, looping over to Hanover Street to head back to downtown and the finish.

The genius of this shortly became apparent when the marathon runners rejoined us on Hanover Street, only they were now at Mile 17, while we were working on Mile 11. The result was that us plodding half-marathoners were now carried up and over the last big hill on Hanover Street by a wave of marathon runners who were keeping much faster paces than we were.

So the half-marathon's last two miles were run concurrently with Mile 17 to Mile 19 of the full marathon, which was a nice way to keep us pushing. The half'ers split off to the left only on Elm Street, right before our finish line, while the 'thoners (is that a word?) peeled off to the left for their final seven miles.

I finished in an elapsed time of 2:32:19, a mile pace of 11:38 -- pretty slow for me. I came in 730 out of 816 finishers, pretty near the back of the pack. Despite this slow pace, I was surprised to find that just three full marathoners completed the course before I finished the half.

Post-race wrap-up: I felt okay that afternoon, but later in the day began feeling the effects of what amounted to serious chafing on the inside of both thighs. Ouch! Must be the shorts I was wearing, as the same thing happened (same shorts) in Chicago last month, even with a generous layer of BodyGlide.

A night of rest and Gold Bond Medicated Powder helped quell that, but Monday morning brought severe cramping in my left foot, to the point where it was hard to walk without hobbling around. Wearing an icepack (attached to my ankle with a rubber band) helped a bit, and later I felt reasonably well.

In an example of extremely poor planning, that Sunday and Monday were the days when we moved my mother from one assisted living home to another. Ouch! I'll try to avoid such a situation in the future.

One bonus of the Manchester City Marathon is that it allowed me to claim my home state of New Hampshire in my quest to run a 10K or better in all 50 states. This brings me to a total of nine, so I'm almost one-fifth of the way there. Baby steps, I know, even when running 13.1 miles.

Another postscript: I just learned from Andy Schachat's running column in the Union Leader that while the number of full marathon runners increased by several hundred this year, the number of half-marathoners went from 815 up to 816 -- an increase of exactly one. I take full credit! Andy did a great job as announcer, by the way. I associate his voice so much with New Hampshire road races that they just don't seem complete without him.

The images in this post, by the way, are courtesy of, the marathon's official photography partner. Their Web site allows you to search for images of yourself by bib number, and you can download them for no charge. Nice!

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