This year Rendy Geminaro, race coordinator for the Pohnpei Liberation Day half-marathon encouraged an open registration. At his suggestion, I signed on with Kolonia Town.
On race day I discovered I was the only runner representing Kolonia town – I was their last best hope, their only shot at half-marathon glory. Fortunately the mayor was not there as I was three times the age of the rest of the field. Combined.
The day was sunny, hot, and humid. With a 4:00 P.M. start, the heat was going to be a factor in the run. The weather, however, brought everyone out along the road. Nett and U had the deepest fields of runners. With the race headed out into Nett and on into U, the spectators had a strong interest in the race.
Madolehnihmw fielded three runners, Sokehs and Kitti did not field any runners. I had thought I had heard that a local fleet footed Japanese runner was also running for Kolonia. I had seen him doing some workouts on the causeway, but he was not there.
The runners were cautioned to run the official route and to be visible at all times along the route. Any disqualification due to attempting to gain an unfair advantage would disqualify not only the runner, but the whole municipality from the Monday and Tuesday track and field events.
The route started with a lap on the track and then headed down to the intersection of Kaselehlie and Elenieng. A right turn down past Pohnpei campus, and then another right out of Kolonia and into Nett. The turn-around was just shy of The Village in U. The return was along the same route, and again included a lap of the track. Factoring the start and finish line points, my calculations put the route at just a hair over 21 kilometers, or 13.1 miles. I would like to get out with a GPS and confirm this as I do not have a solid measurement on the turn-around point.
I started off a tad dehydrated in part from walking around the Spanish wall ball field where the Kosraean community celebrated their Liberation day. I opted to double cup water on the water stops and by U I was well hydrated. At the turn-around I tossed down half a Gatorade, adjusted my right shoe, and headed back to town. Having run the route a number of times before and what with all of the people out along the road, the run was definitely simply a whole lot of fun. I know, the run is supposed to be a race for bragging rights for the rest of the year. For the young men this is do or feel shamed stuff. A race to bonk for.
The lead runner, however, was a second generation half-marathoner whose father knows how to run and win half marathons. He ran a strong race finishing in 1:29:51, six minutes ahead of the second place finisher. On this route a six minute lead means you cannot see the runner in second, my guess is that he was running inside his comfort zone. Images of him crossing the finish line suggest a runner with fuel still in the tank. My son said the same, noting that the lead runner did not appear tired.
Along the route in U former students called out my name, families invited me to join them at sakau. Kids called out asking for one ball. There was a festive feeling in the air.
Coming into Nett I felt something, a mental sensation. A sense of a bow shock wave of power and energy pushing past me. And for some reason I thought of former president Leo Falcam. I was puzzled but I went with the flow. The energy kick felt good. Thirty seconds later Andrew came up from behind me in his venerable old pick-up truck and headed on into town driving President Falcam towards town. That was eerie.
Being in last place, the cone retrieval crew pick-up truck followed me into town, catching up with me near the state hospital. The crew included an Olympian who ran the 100 meter in the London Olympics. They shouted encouragement. I realized that not many older, slower half-marathoners get to have Olympians and their running partners shouting encouragement. I felt honored.
Trundling in past Ace Hardware I could not help thinking, why would I want to run anywhere else?
When I reached the track I could see my son at the finish line equipped with a digital camera, taking after his father and getting the photo first, watching second.
In twelfth place I came across the line in 2:13:10, a good time for me at the distance. Too much fun on a Saturday afternoon.