Running in the Surf City Half Marathon

Updated on November 21, 2020
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By Carolyn Slayback

SURF CITY HALF MARATHON, female runner age 73 (70-74 age group category)

“Snarky.” That’s what my friend Peggy called her 2/4/17 Lazyracer blog entry.

I’d emailed Surf City Half Marathon organizers, “I’m flattened by fever, chills, headache…I’ve placed in your last 5 events.”  I asked refund of the $147 paid for the February 5th race. NOPE. Not even “Sorry.” “They don’t care about me and I don’t care about them.”


Five feverish days—freezing under piles of blankets are over! 

Saturday, collapsing into a nap, I awoke, recovered. “I can race,” I said.

Time healed the body, but the brain? Scrambled! Overslept through Saturday class; screwed update of a cherished friend’s birthday party, missing it. Arriving at the race, my friend, Evelyne, pointed to my running shoes. “Where’s your timing chip? Forgot it, flunking “elementary race-prep.”

Got a new chip. Lined up with 40,000 other lunatics who’d paid $140+ to run along Pacific Coast Highway, Super Bowl Sunday morning.

I know this racecourse, my sixth Surf City. I’d spent the last weeks, rolling into bed, rehearsing every step—a nightly visual video. The rhythmic remembrance of footfalls on asphalt is relaxing, meditative, sleep inducing. 

In running, the brain’s importance matches the feet. As a beginning racer, I longed for each mile marker, worrying over the distant finish. Trusting the coordination of my mind and my old trusty shoes I got from ShoeAdviser, sometimes I forget the big picture. I find that on days, where I perform best, is when I forget the miles and just enjoy the activity.

Now, retreating to my nightly fantasy run, I “go interior,” allowing feet to carry me, sweeping away emotional resistance.  

Also, strong parental messages of welcome acceptance of fellow humans are hallmarks of my everyday life. But the devil takes over when racing. “Get a haircut,” I snarl, as the guy with dredlocks passes. “Out of my way, weirdo,” I think, dodging around a lumbering runner. Reading a shirt: “I Run Because I Like Beer,” I whisper nastily, “You look like it.”

Being quietly cruel steals energy from forward motion, so my rule is, “Don’t look at people/read shirts.” Instead, I repeat, “Fast, Fast, Fast!”  Though I look at the road ahead, my radar hones in on “senior” female runners. I accelerate past.

So 7:30 this morning, pressed between runners—all shapes and heights, I awaited the start. Our moose-horn sounded, bidding me to move stiff legs, knocking against moist marine air.

Struggling though that first long mile, I piled up three more rapidly, leaving Pacific City, Main Street, PCH stores, beachfront condos. Ran along the oilfield fence, watching my timing device. A pace of  ten-and-a-half minute miles slow to 11:50 then 12. RUN!, I commanded, turning up Seapoint, the race’s only hill. “Faster.” “Nothing hurts, you’re not tired.” 

Working hard to ignore a port-o-potty visit, I thought, “I can wait til the finish.” But could not—jumped in. 

Never before needing a potty stop, I lost minutes. However, a world of relief opened as I worked to regain time lost.

Salty ocean smell rewarded as we crossed the bridge over Bolsa Chica Estuary..

Approaching the Mile 8 turn-around, I was chagrinned. The expensive race ticket didn’t include a chip reader at the turn. I’ve experienced cheaters in my age group who didn’t run the entire race. 

Bringing it on home, not tired, I raced, hard. A gray haired lady sent me into a sprint at Mile 11. Friends yelling, “Carrie!” at Mile 13 motivated a surge to the finish.

My sick week? My daughter’s scolding text sums up the reasonable question, “What are you doing racing? You’re still recovering!” 

Never felt weak, never had that dreadful dead-legged syndrome. I’ll go with my brother’s comment, “Comes a time when you get better by getting out.” Time was today.

And here is why I sat down to write:  A feeling of gratitude overrides the hard racing effort, previous illness, hostile responses to runners, profit-making marathon organizations. Today, my slowest half marathon, is the first time I have not made the top three in dozens of races. Potty stop put me in fourth, two and a half minutes behind third. However, my memory of the race is infused with light and joy and an acknowledgement of my mastery of the distance. 

I am so lucky to be capable of picking myself up and racing 13.1 miles. At 73, post flu, I did it.  I did it smiling. That is the point.

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