2014-08-14 / Sports
Writer conquers half marathon
Editor’s note: Acorn sportswriter Gilberto Manzano attempted to relive his high school cross country glory days by competing in the Arroyo Creek Half Marathon last weekend in Simi Valley. Here’s an account of his experience:
I needed a positive sign to keep me going.
The cramp on the right side of my stomach during mile eight of the Arroyo Creek Half Marathon in Simi Valley last weekend told me to slow down.
My feeble calves almost brought me down while I attempted to snag a cup of water at mile 10.
Completing my first half marathon seemed impossible until an orange sign gave me hope.
The bright sign, held by a woman in black running attire, flickered “2:00.”
I was within striking distance of the two-hour pace. The idea of finishing the 13.1-mile race in under two hours motivated me through the final three miles. Entering the race, my goal was to cross the finish line in 2 hours, 30 minutes.
After passing the 11th-mile marker, I made my move. I sprinted to the pacer and stayed next to her until the 12th mile.
I then made the foolish mistake of leaving the two-hour pace. I kicked too soon.
My knees ached and my lungs gasped for oxygen. I shifted into a jogging stride. The pacer left me. I was defeated.
I crossed the finish line in 2:01:25. I was disappointed in my time, but the large crowd cheering me on near the final straightaway at Rancho Simi Community Park put a smile on my face.
* * *
Completing a half marathon is crossed off my bucket list.
The majority of the 700-plus runners at the fourth annual Arroyo Creek race weren’t battling for time or place. It was about completing the rigorous journey across the Simi Valley bike path.
“There’s a special feeling when finishing a half marathon,” said Ken Sherman, a Moorpark native. “It’s about completing a personal goal for yourself. Most people wouldn’t dare run this many miles.
“I love this community event because we all supported each other. You had people locally and from all over. We all had the same goal of getting to the finish.”
The friendly environment is one reason most runners return to the Arroyo Creek race.
Sherman, 70, has participated in the Simi Valley event the past three years.
He has completed 11 Los Angeles Marathons and countless half marathons.
I have a long way to go before catching Sherman, but I’ll definitely be competing in another half marathon in the near future. I’ll consider attempting a marathon.
* * *
I didn’t feel ready coming into the race. I trained for six weeks but had never run more than 10 miles during any workout.
Shin splits and tight ankles the morning of the race didn’t help my confidence.
Long lines to the portable restrooms took away from my stretching time. It was finally my turn to use the bathroom. It was 6:58 a.m. The race started at 7 a.m. sharp.
This wasn’t good.
I was in the third group start, the 10-minute-plus per mile crew. The faster runners were already four minutes ahead.
Once the race started, my competitive side kicked in. I was back in my high school cross country mode.
I felt great during the first eight miles. I had a steady pace and slowly passed runners from the earlier starts.
The thrill of racing brought back memories of my cross country and track and field days at Pasadena High. I wasn’t nearly as good as top long-distance runners in Acorn country during my salad days, but I was decent. I proved to myself that I still had something left in the tank.
* * *
The excitement of racing was one reason I decided to take on the half marathon challenge.
I also did it to lose weight. I didn’t want to become the next overweight sportswriter. I only lost about 6 pounds, but that’s because I had too many cheat days.
One double-double burger from In-N-Out set me back two days of training. Running, however, made me feel good about myself. I wasn’t waking up with heartburn and stomachaches. I slept better. I had more energy. I was healthy.
Sherman is in great shape for 70. The Moorpark resident probably would have zoomed past me if he wasn’t dealing with a nagging back injury, which sidelined him for two months.
He only had five days of training entering the race.
“I was running about five or six miles,” Sherman said. “I knew if I could complete six miles I can do the race. I’ve been running for 27 years. I knew what to expect.”
Sherman’s personal-best time at Arroyo Creek is 1:48. On Sunday, he clocked in at 2:06:47.6. He placed first in the male 70 to 79 category.
“The guys in my group gave me a good battle,” Sherman said. “I would give them words of encouragement. To the younger guys, I’ll talk a little trash. I’ll say, ‘Hey, don’t let this old man pass you.’ It’s all in good fun. We all support each other to the finish.”
* * *
Kim Conley, a Simi Valley resident, didn’t feel confident before starting. She just wanted to finish in under three hours. She crossed the finish line in 2:26:49.9.
She said she loved everything about the event—except for miles 11, 12 and 13.
“I hated mile 11,” said Conley, who completed her first half marathon. “The people were great. They cheered me on. They had water for me at the right spots. Once I got to mile 11, nothing was helping. I was on my own. It was brutal, but I made it.”
Conley said she’s signed up for the Disney half marathon later this month and plans to compete in more.
* * *
I thought about my time again.
I was so close to breaking two hours.
Checking the results on Monday morning, I hoped my mark would look a little better with time to digest the action. I scrolled down the computer screen. I did better than I thought. I finished the race in 1:56:53.9. I had forgotten that I was in the third group start.
I was ecstatic to see my official time. I placed 13th in the male 19 to 29 age group, and 80th overall.
All the training, pain and burgers I gave up were worth it.