By Tom Bone
For The Register-Herald
Once he was in front of the half marathon field in Charlotte, N.C., last weekend, Lance McDaniel reassessed his prerace goal.
Instead of hoping for a top-five finish, why not go for first?
That’s what the Athens resident did on Saturday, finishing ahead of the field of 2,353 runners in Charlotte’s Thunder Road Half Marathon. His time of 1:14:30 was more than a minute faster than the next finisher.
He participated as part of a five-person team representing the Princeton Church of God’s running club.
“It’s not really how I finish, it’s to give God glory,” he said. “I was prepared to do whatever God wanted me to do.”
He had run half marathons before, including the Charlotte race, but wasn’t in it to win it in prior years. The change of heart came after the quintet of running club members decided to take on the streets of Charlotte.
“We were looking for ways we could do something as a group,” he said. “They all did very well. I was proud of them.” Four ran the half marathon, while one competed in the 5K race.
McDaniel wasn’t sure about what he would be able to do.
For a year and a half, starting in 2010, “I was in and out (of running), injured,” he said.
To keep his edge, he had been running around 50 or 60 training miles a week.
“It was kind of a slow buildup,” he said. “Six weeks ago, my training had been doing well and I was fairly confident about a top-five or so, but I went through some injury and sickness since then.”
On the day of the race, he told himself, “I don’t have any confidence in my body right now, so if I do well, it’s going to be confidence in God. I just showed up at the starting line.”
His inexperience at pacing himself for a 13.1-mile trek started to cost him as the miles wore on.
“The first few minutes I was kind of running with the lead pack group,” he said. “After the first mile, the pace really started to slow down. I was trying to hold back, because I didn’t know if I could maintain the pace we were running.”
He decided then to speed up, leaving the pack behind. “I kind of gapped second place. From there, I was in the lead,” he said.
Near the end, he admitted, “I got a little scared. I wasn’t feeling real good. I remembered what one of our pastors said, ‘run like someone’s chasing you, you might run faster.’ It worked. I definitely felt like I was being chased.”
His competitive running in recent years had been primarily in 5K and 10K races. He also originated The Athens Mile race, first run last summer through his adopted hometown.
The Charlotte experience was different.
He said, “I would say I learned a lot during this race. It’s a lot different than other races I’ve run. Just really long, a whole other beast. I definitely learned a lot.”
At half-marathon or marathon distances, he said, “I think it’s more surviving. To me it was. Maybe I ran out too hard. It seems easy at the beginning, and then there’s a slow set-in of fatigue.
“It’s easy to say, ‘I don’t think I’m going to finish.’ At one point I ‘hit the wall,’ as they say in running. But it was not like a smack, it was just bumping up against it, trying to survive.
“It’s a really hilly course. It’s not what you would call a fast marathon. At mile 6 or 7, it really started getting to me. It started to wear me down. I tried to be mentally prepared for it, but it was tough.”
He still is reminded of how tough. Interviewed by phone on Monday at his job as a Concord University graphic artist, he said, “My quads are really suffering.”
He said as the runners finished on Saturday, “It was a fun time. There was a band playing and stuff. (The awards ceremony) wasn’t super-extravagant, but they put on a good event.”
But for the time being, he said he won’t convert his success on Saturday into an aggressive schedule of races.
He said, “Right now, I’m going to take two weeks off and not do anything. I’ve been dealing with knee issues, that God took away right when I was starting on Saturday.
“I’m going to rest up and let it heal. I may be back on the track in the spring, but I’m going to pray on it and see where God leads me.”
And his chances of revisiting the Charlotte race next year?
“I’ll have to talk myself into that one,” he said.
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