Weinstock Runs the St. Louis Track Club Half Marathon

By Daniel Bodden

7:30 a.m. 34 degrees. 13.1 miles.

Alex Weinstock joins the group of hundreds of runners ready to take off on a half marathon race through the Clayton area and Forest Park. It’s early, cold, and a Sunday but he’s come out to run along with junior Clayton Kohler and his mom Leslie in his first half marathon. He has run in several 5K races with cross country and individually, but this will be his longest race yet, and it’s about to start.

“In the beginning of the race while we were standing waiting to start it was cool to look back and see all the people behind us,” Clayton, Alex’s cross country teammate, says. “It was pretty crazy.”

He hears the announcer say ready, set…

An air horn blows.

He starts.

Alex has been running for five years. He started in sixth grade after his mom encouraged him to try it out. He began with a few miles around the neighborhood every couple days, but he started to build up the mileage as middle school went on. It took some time for him to grow as a runner and learn to enjoy the sport, but after a while it became fun to him.

“I decided to try to get Alex to become a runner because it’s a sport you can do for the rest of your life,” Leslie, an experienced runner, says. “You can do it anytime you want to, it’s inexpensive and I knew he would be good at it. And I’ve always wanted a running partner.”

In 7th grade, Alex competed in his first 5K race (3.1 miles) in Creve Coeur Lake Park. His time was 23 minutes, which is about 7½ minute miles, a respectable time for a first 5K. He’s completed more than a dozen 5K races since then as a part of FHN’s cross country team, averaging about 20 minutes with his personal best being 19:20. He joined the team in his freshman year.

“Cross country is what got me running competitively,” Alex says. “It used to be I just ran to run. But now I can run against other people and improve my pace more.”

Today, as he finishes his first 5K of the half marathon, he hears a man say that they’ve completed it in 19 minutes. But he doesn’t get to stop here today. He has 10 more miles to run.

“The difference between a half marathon and a 5K is in a 5K you run a lot faster,” Alex says. “In a half marathon, you have to watch your pace or you get really, really tired.”

Fatigue isn’t the only thing he has to worry about. As he nears the sixth mile marker, he realizes he has a problem. He needs to make another restroom stop, his second in this race. This puts him even further behind. With seven miles to go he’s beginning to doubt his goal of 1 hour and 30 minutes, since that would mean running 10 minute miles.

“I thought I had no chance at getting anywhere in the race anymore so I was about to start slowing down,” Alex says. “But then I remembered I wasn’t really that far behind. I still could make up for lost time.”

Alex knows how disappointing it can be to stop running. Last August, he got a stress fracture in his right knee and had to sit out for the whole season. The whole time he was on the bench he wanted to get back out there and run some more. He has also had other injuries in the past that have kept him from running, but after healing, he’s come back to the sport each time.

“To stop feels like you just quitting and giving up,” Alex says. “It doesn’t feel too good to give up on something you’ve been trying for.”

As hard as running gets for him sometimes, Alex has been on many memorable runs that remind him why he enjoys it so much.

“I was running with my friends once through a forest in Waplehorst Park and we kept getting off trail and running wherever we wanted to run. We got completely lost, so we had to find our way back. It’s a fun way to see new stuff and explore new areas,” Alex said.

Alex will run year-round outdoors in the sun, rain, or snow. He doesn’t like treadmill running since he has to stay in one place and doesn’t see anything new. His favorite runs are the ones when he gets to go places he hasn’t seen before.

“It’s just the wind in your face while you’re running,” Alex says. “It feels so nice to be moving somewhere faster than most people do.”

Today, in the clear and chilly weather, Alex has made it to the last mile in the race, and he finds that finishing it will not be easy.

“The hardest part of the race was at the 12=mile marker when I heard someone say ‘you’re going uphill’,” Alex says. “I just thought of my mom yelling at me to get over the hill.”

With less than a mile left to go, Alex begins speeding up until he reaches his sprint to the finish. He rounds the final corner and hears the announcer say his name just before he crosses the finish line in 1:46:55. Clayton crossed the line a little more than 10 minutes earlier at 1:34:20 and secured his place as second in the males 19 and under group, but Alex is still proud of his own time and believes it is a good one for his first half marathon.

“To cross the finish line, you feel such a big sigh of relief, but at the same time you feel all that pain that you’ve been going through the entire race just come down on you and it hurts at the end,” Alex says. “You’re almost completely dead but you’re so full of joy that it makes you want to keep walking.”

After Leslie crosses the line a few minutes later and finds out his time, she congratulates him.

“My dream was that he’d beat the pants off of me, which he did,” Leslie said. “Nothing makes a mom prouder.”

Alex and Clayton are already talking about registering for the Frostbite Series Half Marathon, a run in the middle of January when temperatures are about 35 degrees. What seems crazy to some people is exciting for them. Alex feels he’s ready to take it on both physically and mentally.

“You have to be ready for whatever comes ahead,” Alex says. “Expect the unexpected. You have to know you’re taking on something big and know in your heart that you’ll finish no matter what.”