By mile 8 or so the rain began to come down, which did not affect me significantly. What did surprise me was hearing someone else's footsteps and breathing just past mile 10. I wasn't going to waste any precious energy, or show my surprise or fear by turning around. I knew exactly who it would be. John Ngigi had shared the Crater Lake Rim Run course with me. He had passed me at mile six to go on and win the half marathon while I had gone on to finish the marathon. Today, however, we weren't just sharing the course, we were competing in the same race. In 2008 John won the Portland Marathon in a time of 2:31:22. Not too shabby. During the Grants Pass 1/2 marathon it was all I could do to match his pace for some time before he passed me with a relatively small but decisive lead. Although I wanted to keep up, I had to run my own race and listen to my body, I didn't want to push myself over into oxygen debt with 2 miles or so left to run.
In the end I was unable to get close enough to him to make a challenging surge. He ended up winning in a time of 1:16:35, and I crossed the line some 12 seconds later. I averaged a 5:52 minute mile, improving dramatically over my very first half marathon in 2012 by slashing 9 minutes and 24 seconds.
The race felt anticlimactic. As we finished the rain was coming down pretty hard, keeping the spectators to a minimum. If I am going to be honest with myself, which I am, I would have to say that I am only moderately pleased with my effort. I felt that I had too much left in the tank at the end and that I should have tried harder to match the pace of the surging John Ngigi as he came up on my heels out of nowhere. Although I didn't let him make the gap embarrassingly wide, I was left wondering if I could have found another gear in the last 2.5 miles. However, I'm grateful that I had such a seasoned and savvy competitor as Ngigi to push the pace and challenge me in the final miles. I'm sure that he squeezed a couple extra iotas of effort out of me that the rain and wind would have otherwise claimed as their own.
In summary, this race shows that overall my work is paying off, but there is a lot of room left for improvement. If I am ever going to get to approach the true potential that my body possesses I am going to have to add some consistent speed work into the mix. Certainly finding someone who is faster than me to train with, or having someone pace me on a bicycle would be invaluable assets. Alas, these are the facets of training that only the truly elite can enjoy and the rest of us only dream about. I have about two more months of training before my first 50k race on December 28th, with a couple shorter races in the mix before to keep things exciting.