You know what’s cool about today for me? It’s the 2 year anniversary of when I ran 13.1 miles for the very first time. And now today I get to recap my new half marathon PR!
Earlier this year I started setting some goals for myself for the fall. These goals did NOT include running a marathon, but rather focusing on shorter distances. Ultimately I wanted to do more halfs and possibly run myself a new PR. My best time of 1:45:27 happened last September at the NCR Half Marathon, a small race that is part of my run club’s Grand Prix Series. I also did not intend to compete in the Grand Prix Series this year, but now that I have 3 of the 4 necessary races under my belt…hey why not.
This year the NCR Half just so happened to fall on the day when my training schedule told me that my long run should be a very convenient 13.1 miles. And even better? The race is on the very same trail as the upcoming marathon so I would be able to practice on familiar terrain.
100 people showed up to run on Saturday morning and as usual I loved seeing some familiar faces, especially my friend Michelle who I’ve been doing my long runs with lately. The Baltimore Road Runners are a fun and welcoming group and the weather was absolute fall perfection. In my tank top and shorts I was more than a little bit chilly as we walked to the start, but after jogging around for a half mile I felt warmer and knew I’d be comfortable for the race. It was set to start at 8am and right around that time we all lined up on the trail facing north. The course is a double out and back, which I remember really disliking the idea of last year, but it ended up not being so bad.
PR thoughts had been in the back of my mind, but during the first several miles they all went out the window. I wasn’t feeling particularly well and even though I was coming off a couple days of rest my legs felt like lead. I even debated calling it quits when I got back to the start. In hindsight, I should have considered that it just takes me a lot longer to warm up now that my long runs are getting into the mid-teens. By the time I was three miles in and nearing the first turn around, my energy level had started to improve.
Then I realized as the leaders were passing me going in the opposite direction that I was the second female. I got way excited and as a result mile 4 was my fastest at 7:25. After that I had to remind myself to rein it in because I still had a long way to go.
From mile 4 until mile 11 I was feeling pretty great. When I race I like to pick out another runner up ahead, pace with them awhile, and then try to pass them because it gives me something to focus on when I’m getting tired. No one had passed me so I knew I was still the second place woman, but this was reinforced by several people who screamed it at me as they passed me going the other way. Even though I already knew, it still gave me a boost to hear it.
There were plenty of water stops with friendly volunteers, but I hadn’t stopped at any of them until mile 12 when I was suddenly very exhausted. I drank about 3/4 of the cup and dumped the rest of it over my head; it was freezing cold and helped a TON. The trail was crowded with people out enjoying their mornings, but there wasn’t anyone from the race that I could follow for the last couple miles; the guy who finished in front of me was like 2 minutes ahead. Because I run that part of the course all the time and know it like the back of my hand, I entertained myself by running from one landmark to the next. When a familiar bend in the trail appeared up ahead, I knew I was almost done and when the red, digital readout of the clock appeared I literally said “OH THANK GOD” and sprinted as fast as I could to the finish on tired legs.
So I PRed by nearly 2 minutes, held on to second place and first in my AG which is great for the Grand Prix Series, but then this is also the first time I’ve run a half marathon with my average pace under 8 minutes. I don’t know which of these things is most exciting for me. All of them, I guess.
After sharing high fives and congrats with some of the guys who had finished at around the same time as I did, I visited the table that was set up with snacks and drinks. I helped myself to Gatorade and water and then there was also bagels, cookies and bananas which I appreciate for other people, but can’t eat without dire consequences. I had a lunch date and couldn’t hang out long, but it was nice to catch up with friends and cheer for other runners crossing the finish line.
Such a great day. 🙂
How do you pass the time on long runs? Did you run or race last weekend? How is your fall season going?