“Dispatch” is an online column from Triathlete Editor-at-Large Holly Bennett that will feature pro updates, industry news, happenings afield and otherwise random reports related to multi-sport. Look for “Dispatch” every Thursday on Triathlete.com.
With the Ironman World Championship fast approaching and most triathletes’ seasons coming to a close, fall and winter provide a perfect opportunity to try something different sports-wise. We all need an occasional change of pace, and straight running events are an ideal way to stay active while not straying too far from the triathlon fold. They’re also a great way to share a portion of your passion with folks for whom triathlon participation does not yet register on their radar, but who enjoy endurance sports nonetheless. For me, those folks are my family members.
Last Saturday was the Sports Authority Rock ‘n’ Roll Denver Marathon & ½ Marathon, and with my family in town for a visit, my sister-in-law Laura and my nephew Cristian celebrated their birthdays by running the half marathon relay. I couldn’t resist the temptation of 13.1 miles minus a long swim and ride precursor, plus the allure of rock bands lining the course and the aforementioned family bonding, so I jumped aboard the race bandwagon and all three of us toed the line on Saturday morning. Our support crew consisted of my brother Page and my 10-year-old niece Marina, armed with coffee, cocoa and booming cheers.
Laura, who kicked off her running career in 2009 with a bit of coaxing from her endurance-addicted sister-in-law, now boasts several half-marathon notches on her race belt (at the time she had not completed a single mile jog, much less a 13.1-mile race). She was thrilled to share Saturday’s relay experience with her teenage son, tackling the first 7.8-mile leg while he anchored the team with the remaining 5.3 miles. At 13 years old, Cristian is steadily progressing through the running ranks, with his first 10K and 15K events planned for later this fall.
A post-race family debriefing proved that everyone enjoyed the experience equally, despite our different perspectives. According to Cristian, he sprinted the entire 5.3-mile stretch. “It was easy. I felt good the whole time,” he commented, coolly kicking back behind his oversized Oakley glasses. “It’s colder here so it was way easier to run hard than at home [in oppressively hot and humid Tulsa, Oklahoma]. And the altitude didn’t bother me at all.” Oh, to be 13 again!
“Let’s not forget who set him up for that PR performance,” said his mom, happy with her own solid 7.8-mile stint and thrilled that as a team they beat their estimated goal time by a combined 14 minutes.
For me, the race was a chance to quell my normal competitive drive and simply push myself through a few more miles than the single digit distances I’ve logged lately. And push was exactly what I needed to do as I hit a wall at the 10-mile mark and switched from running a comfortable pace to moving in slow motion. But my objective was to have fun, something I handily achieved and which inspired this post-race tweet: The slower you run, the longer you get to enjoy the race.
This is especially true at a Rock ‘n’ Roll event, where fist-pumping music peppers every mile of the course and it’s tempting to boogie down a bit at each aid station (or at the finish, as Page entertained us all with his rhythmically challenged dance moves, the video evidence of which will remain safely ensconced in our private family archives). A post-race concert provides entertainment for runners and spectators alike, and the electric atmosphere is entirely warm and welcoming to athletes of all abilities. I can’t think of a better way to spend a late September weekend, bonding fitness with family and taking a break from the usual intensity of triathlon training. If you have a chance, get out there and Rock ‘n’ Roll – you and your family will love it!