It is always hard to pick a favorite race out of all the ones I run each year. The task is no exception for 2014. I ran some great and fun races this year. I did manage to narrow it down and highlight five races out of the thirteen that I ran. I’ll start reviewing them in chronological order.
The Crystal Coast Half Marathon on March 1st made the list as a favorite is because it was my first sub 1:20 half marathon. I had ran eight half marathons before this one with five resulting in sub 1:21 but not under 1:20. The course is flat, minus the Atlantic Beach high rise bridge, which you go over twice at miles 5 and 11. The race has had bad luck with weather in the past. It has usually been windy and rainy and even some strong thunderstorms and monsoon like rain and wind the first year. This year we got a break from the rain but it was windy and in the mid 30s when the race started. I went straight to the lead when the race started following the Race Director, Butch Robertson, as he was leading the race on bicycle. From mile 10-11.5 the wind was at its strongest and we had to run uphill on the Atlantic Beach high rise bridge into the wind. I led the race until 12.7 miles when I was passed. I kept running hard though and finished 2nd overall but with my first sub 1:20, clocking 1:19:33. I think I would have broken 1:19 if it hadn’t been so windy. I was thrilled I finally got the sub 1:20 half marathon time.
The Boston Marathon is always a favorite race for me because of the atmosphere, the amazing crowd support the entire 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to Boston, and having to earn your way in by qualifying. This year was my third time running Boston; my previous two were 2011 and 2012. The 118th Boston Marathon on April 21. When I got the news Sonny passed away five days before Boston I wasn’t sure if I would run or if I could run. I was upset at the news and it did shock me. After talking to Sonny’s daughter Kelley and his sister, Christina, they told me I had to run in honor of Sonny and he would want me to run. My goal for Boston was to break 2:50 and I had a great training cycle despite several snow storms that we are not accustomed to in Eastern, NC. As a tribute to Sonny, I had my girlfriend Jamie write his name on my arm race morning. I also wore my neon green Capital RunWalk singlet. Neon green, also known as Sonny green in Carteret County, was Sonny’s color of choice in running apparel. The weather was a little warmer than ideal for me but I ran determined to reach my goal. The first time I heard a spectator on the course “Go Sonny” it surprised me because it hit me that they were talking about me because I had “Sonny” written on my right arm. It was emotional hearing the crowd say “Go Sonny” as a way of cheering me on during the race. I ran the first half in 1:23:30, right on my planned first half goal of 1:23-1:24. Once I hit Newton, I had one of Sonny’s favorite songs in my head. The song, “I Won’t Back Down” by Tom Petty, helped get me through the Newton hills and famed Heartbreak Hill. I slowed down more than I planned during the final 5K but I think some of that was due to the temperature being in the low 70s. I knew breaking 2:50 was going to be close when I made the final left turn onto Boylston St. and ran straight to the finish. I ran what I had left in me because I wanted the sub 2:50 so badly for Sonny. I finished in 2:49:52. As soon as I crossed the finish line I said out loud repeatedly “That was for you Sonny. That was for you.” Then I lost it emotionally for a few minutes before meeting up with my Dad and Jamie. It was a very special day for me. I felt like Sonny was running beside me the whole way and the crowds were cheering him on as we ran together.
The Historic Beaufort Road Race was my very first road race in 1997. It is also one of the races Sonny and his wife Taylor started. It’s known for being hot and humid as it is held on the third Saturday in July. I’ve mostly run the 5K at Beaufort but have run the mile twice and the 10K six times counting this year. I’ve been 2nd overall in all three races but did not have an overall win at Beaufort. My one goal for this year’s race was to win for Sonny. I had his name written on my arm for this race. Sonny’s daughter Kelley had her dad’s name on one arm and her mom’s name on the other. The heat and humidity this year wasn’t as bad as previous years. It was 75 degrees and 90% humidity for the 8am start. I was in 2nd place in the 10K when the 5K leaders made the turn around and we kept going. The leader was about 40 seconds ahead of me after 1.55 miles. By mile 2, I was only 20 seconds behind the leader. I caught the leader at 3 miles and passed him shortly after. I felt like I was starting to pull away from him after 3.5 miles. Before making the turn back onto Front Street I saw Sonny’s daughter Kelley in the 10K and she cheered me on. I next saw my friend Eric Rowe and he had the loudest cheer I heard all day when he said “Go Tyler”. He knew I was leading and that a win would mean a lot to me. As I neared the finish line I got excited and raised both hands in the air. I shouted “For you Sonny” and “Finally” over and over again while raising my arms and pumping my fists in the air. That win was a long time coming and I was thankful I was able to do it and honor Sonny at the same time.
The Magnificent Mile Race in Downtown Raleigh is a must do race. This was my first year running it but it is a great event. It is typically the NC-USATF mile state championship race. State records for the men and women have been set at this event. The course is flat minus a slight gradual uphill the first quarter mile that I didn’t really notice because you’re fresh and the excitement of the race starting gets you going. I had only ran two previous mile road races and those were on an out and back course which can add seconds to your time. I was training for the State 10 Mile Championship in October and had not done any mile specific training so I didn’t know what I would run. It was a congested race, especially around the turns. Everyone was cutting the tangents and you had to be careful not to trip someone or get tripped. I started passing people as we neared the first half mile. Some kids went out really fast and would suddenly slow so you had to make a quick move to get around them or run them over. I picked it up the second half of the race and was just running all out. I finished in 5:05, good enough for 23rd overall out of 248 and 7th in my age group out of 15 (30-34). It was a fun race and fun to do something I’m not used to. I would do this again with the goal of break 5:00. It’s a great mile race and one everyone should do.
The American Tobacco Trail 10 Miler on October 25th was my main fall race for this year instead of doing a half or a full marathon. I had only ran one 10 miler previously. I heard great things about this race from friends and had wanted to do it for a couple years. The American Tobacco Trail is a Rails-to-Trails converted course which consists of low impact, compacted soil surface. It’s a flat course with some gradual inclines. I ran my first sub 3 hour marathon on the American Tobacco Trail in 2010 at the Tobacco Road Marathon. My goals were to PR and break an hour. My previous 10 mile PR was 1:02:18 on a warm December afternoon in 2011. The weather was great for racing. It was in the mid 40s with calm wind. I went out fast, chasing training partners Ryan Laytham and John Barry. I was doing my best to stay close to them as we clicked off the miles. I ran the first 5 miles in 29:23, right on goal pace. I never caught John or Ryan but I did finish 6th overall with a new PR of 59:26. The race was well organized and the shirt and pint glass for all finishers was nice. It’s a PR course and the weather was great. I highly recommend doing this race.
2,465.18 miles run
Total Running Time: 305 hours, 21 minutes, 52 seconds
Ran 13 races including one in each month: 1-1 mile, 5-5Ks, 1-4 miler, 1-8K, 2-10Ks, 1-10 miler, 1 half marathon, and 1 marathon
5 New Personal Records: 5:05 road mile at The Magnificent Mile Race, automatic PR for first time running a 4 miler, 59:26 10miler at the American Tobacco Trail 10 miles, 1:19:33 half marathon at the Crystal Coast Half Marathon, and 2:49:52 marathon at the 118th Boston Marathon
Won 3 races: Fitness Connection New Years Day 5K, 10K Beach Run on May 6th, Historic Beaufort Road Race 10K.