This past weekend, I ran my third Malibu Half Marathon. I’ve run it every year since they offered a special low registration fee through the Los Angeles Roadrunners. The event is a terrific local race which very generously supports athletes with disabilities. Every year they have donated a bib to my guide runner and they treat us both like elites at the finish line. The royal treatment is great incentive for my guide to keep coming back.
As a tune-up race, Malibu’s hilly course helps me get mentally and physically ready for the USABA National Marathon Championships in early December. After a few months of not racing, it is very useful to work on my race weekend routine that includes getting enough rest, getting the proper nutrition, and having my clothes and running accessories ready to go the next morning at 4:30am.
Although the forecast called for windy conditions, it was still a shock to have my racing hat blown away when I stepped off the shuttle that morning. My guide Angel and I were also pelted by sand as we made our way to the start line area. It kind of felt like we were in a desert storm even though the Pacific Ocean was just a few hundred yards away.
After the starting gun went off, the real fun began. The first quarter mile is a steady climb onto Pacific Coast Highway. I hadn’t realized in the corral that the gear bag trucks were shielding us from the 20+ MPH headwinds. The gusts on the course were twice as strong as they were in the corral. They were even stronger than the gusts during the 2007 Boston Marathon which we ran in a Nor’easter. This was the first time in 13 + years of running marathons that I had to tuck my hat away and run without it.
Early on the conditions kept us from getting into a rhythm. This was no surprise since I’ve run in winds like this on training runs out in the high desert where my parents live. Experience told me that maintaining a faster, steady pace would be impossible. At Mile 2, it felt as if were running in place in a wind tunnel. But that couldn’t compare to Mile 10, where it felt as if the deities had unleashed relentless winds to steer us off course. Fortunately, the course was out and back so after the turn around we received a little help from an intermittent tailwind.
Besides the wind gusts, we also had to contend with oncoming runner and car traffic on the way back as the course was only one and a half lanes wide. This was definitely a challenge for my guide. Despite him asking oncoming runners to stay to their right, I felt as if I were running on a plank. On the right I had the traffic and on the left, I had oncoming runners who didn’t see or hear us.
One near miss involved a runner who was fighting the headwind with her face down. She couldn’t even hear people on her side of the course warning her. Lucky for her, we weren’t a car or a cyclist because she ran right into us. In the words of Stephen King, she split us like an amoeba — forcing us to let go of the tether. She was pretty embarrassed when she realized she had crossed over to our side of the course and could have ended up flattened on the pavement like Wiley Coyote.
Our hard work paid off and we finished strong in 1:26:09. Our time was good for 2nd place in my age division and 8th overall. I’m extremely grateful for Angel’s great guiding and pacing on yet another adventure.
I dedicate this hard fought race to my dear friend and guide William Korthof whose memory inspires me to live life to its fullest.