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A year older, 44 seconds faster
Finish line
Courier editor Jeff Benziger grabs a water at the half marathon finish line on the field of AT&T Park in San Francisco on Sunday morning. - photo by Courtesy of Sarah Evers

This column probably belongs in the Sports section. But, at the moment, I don't have the time or energy to write a second column that may be more fitting, such as politics or local taxes.

If you saw me hobbling into the Ceres City Council chamber on Monday evening, you might have wondered if I had been whacked in the thighs by a telephone pole. But I can assure it that it had everything to do with what I put myself through in San Francisco - starting at AT&T Park, going under the Bay Bridge, along the Embarcado, Fisherman's Wharf, Chrissy Field, and within the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge and back - Sunday morning.

I participated in my third half-marathon. More specifically, my third Giants Run.

The more I do them, the more respect I have for athletic prowess.

Malcolm Richards, 32, finished Sunday morning's Giants half-marathon with a time of one hour, seven minutes. That means he runs one mile in five minutes, seven seconds.

For those of you who are not runners, a half marathon is a distance of 13.1 miles. A full marathon, of course, is double that distance.

I went into the race wanting to improve my time from 2014 (2:04:31), and I did - by a mere 44 seconds though it would have been nice to be under the two-hour mark.

Richard's time beat mine by nearly an hour and I'm absolutely astounded how anybody could do it in that speed. How? I busted my keister out there and I eek out a finish at 2:03:47.

No doubt Richards is a professional runner. I did a quick internet search and found that he does a lot of half-marathons and his best time was in Houston at 1:03:26. His time was close to the half marathon world record set in 2010 when Zersenay Tadese of Eritea did it in 58 minutes, 23 seconds. That's insanely fast.

I didn't train. In fact, I sit perpetually behind a desk and only run maybe two to three times a week. Even at that, the runs are about two to three miles in length, sometime five.

The good news is that my finish was 968th out of 3,485 half-marathoners. That's the 27.77th percentile. So that means that while 967 runners did better than me, I was faster than 2,518 others.

That's not a fair apples-to-apples comparison, though, because female runners generally tend to have slower times than men. So taking the women out of the equation, I was 627th place out of 1,493 men. That's the 41.99th percentile.

To make an even fairer comparison, among my 50-54 age class I finished 51st out of 105. So so. That puts me right at a little better than in the middle.

Mortimer Landsberg is credited, once again, as being the oldest person in the Giants race. At 82, the Oakland man finished with a time of 3:17:58. Carol Pechler, 75, of Menlo Park was the oldest woman in the run and came in at a respectable time of 2:33:16.

I hardly think the point is for an 82-year-old to finish with an exceptional time. Just the fact that he ran is admirable. What comes to mind is the quote by Theodore Roosevelt who said, "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

There are a lot of "timid souls" living today - lots of people who complain if they have to get off the couch and walk to the refrigerator.

Running a half marathon is no small physical chore. It starts with a mental challenge that says, "I'd like to accomplish that." When you start out, it's no big deal; you have all the strength of a Tomahawk missile locked on its target. Then fatigue starts setting in. Your body just wants to quit, especially after going up three inclined blocks (this is San Francisco after all). Not only is it a physical fight but it's a mental one. Your mind says, "Stop dummy, you're killing yourself" (not really, but you feel that way) while you fight back, "Shut up. Stopping is not an option." Around Pier 29 I found myself chanting under my breath, "Push on, push on, push on..."

At times my head felt on fire as the cool ocean breezes just weren't there to fan hard enough. I saw at least two runners down on the sidewalk with medics standing by their side.

It was also a chore trying to maneuver between the slower runners or be aware of the one who is darting in front of you from behind.

The hill near Fort Mason was a huge obstacle. I ended up slowing to a brisk walk because my energy was zapped like a cheap toy battery. Then sweet relief came from the downward hill near Gashouse Cove Marina.

In case you're wondering, other locals ran the half marathon too, including Joseph Dostie, 53, of Ceres, who was behind me and who finished at 2:18:20; and Julian Rodriguez, 19, of Ceres, who finished ahead of me at 1:57:41.

There were other Giants runs on Sunday. A total of 6,778 signed up for the 5K (3.1 mile) race in San Francisco. Locals who ran it (in the order of speed) were: Javier Avila, 41, of Ceres, at 26:04; Jennifer Fry, 40, of Ceres, at 36:36; Gaby Carrasco, 14, of Ceres, at 42:02; Jamie Olvera, 11, of Ceres, at 43:50; Clarissa Gama, 12, of Ceres, at 45:05; Erika Hernandez, 27, of Ceres, at 48:38; Natalia Sanchez, 35, of Ceres, at 51:11; Janet Hernandez, 33, of Ceres, who finished at 52:51; Adrian Rosales, 17, of Keyes, at 53:40; Bianca Sosa, 26, of Ceres, at 54:16; Javier Rodriguez Giraldo, 46, of Ceres, who ran at 58:51; Nidia Angulo, 46, of Ceres, at 58:53; Stephanie Navarette, 48, of Ceres, at 59:13; Paul Blumberg, 56, of Ceres, who finished at 59:13; and Lynsey Hott, 10, of Ceres, at 1:05:31.

The 10K (6.2 mile) race drew 6,225 runners included a number of locals as well. They included (in order of speed): Jose Sanchez, 33, of Hughson, at 43:47; Nancy Nard, 28, of Ceres, at 45:05; Salvador Rosales, 47, of Keyes, who finished at 1:08:23; Lynnette Reveira, 48, of Ceres, at 1:08:35; Guillermo Sosa, 41, of Ceres, at 1:21:26; Cindy Manning, 58, of Hughson, at 1:27:55; La Donna Burnett, 27, of Ceres, at 1:37:59; and Christina Ruiz, 30, of Ceres, at 2:15:25.

At least six others from Ceres signed up for the race but they either didn't show up on race day or their bibs fell off.

If you think runners are crazy, think again. It is accessible and cheap to do. Running has been attributed to better overall mental health, strengthens the lungs, helps prevent high blood pressure, strengthens the immune system, burns calories and helps control weight, makes for stronger legs, relieves stress, gives you more confidence and increases joint strength.

According to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, more than 29 million Americans ran at least 50 days in 2012, and the National Sporting Goods Association says that more that nine million Americans ran on 110 or more days last year - both figures were up by about four percent over 2011.

Maybe you'd be crazy not to run.

How do you feel? Let Jeff know by emailing him at