Just a few weeks before my recent half marathon, I was telling my friend that I was sure my PR (personal record) days were over. To be honest, I was tired. Literally tired and then tired of training. I had been “training” for over 3 months through a particularly trying winter and I was just ready to be done so I wouldn’t have to run for some time. And by training, I mean I had a training plan that I was intentionally *trying* to follow. I run at random times whenever I feel like but I never call it training till I am following a plan and have a goal race in mind that I’m ideally already registered for.
My goal race was the Borgess half marathon. It would be my second time of running it so not much cause for anxiety there. However, this time I decided to up the ante by signing up for the moderate intensity training plan. Last year, I did low intensity with it being my first half marathon post foot injury and all.
The other reason for choosing moderate intensity was that I hope to complete a full marathon this year (gasp! I know- I’m definitely crazy) so I figured I should try to get a little taste of what the torture might be like before I commit to the full marathon. Now on the other side of the half marathon training, I don’t think I even scratched the surface of what it might feel like. Oh well- I tried.
So here are some of my reasons for thinking I didn’t have another PR in me anymore:
- I had already PRed in my third half marathon (this was my 6th) by about 10 minutes (for those who don’t know, 10 minutes is a LOT of time to shave off). And I knew how hard I trained for that and comparing that to my current training, I didn’t think I had put in that much work.
- My last PR was a fall race. I prefer fall races. Spring races (which mean you train in winter) have just never been my best performances.
- I had run Borgess before and I know it is hard. It is not a flat course by any means.
- I was kind of lax in my training. My plan called for runs 5 days a week with some midweek runs of 8 miles. I never did those. The most diligent I had been was 3 runs a week (maybe 4 occasionally) with max mid week run of maybe 5 or 6 miles.
- I was just physically tired and felt that I was past my prime running years.
- My training runs weren’t particularly fast.
So my goal was just to beat my time from the previous year which was 2 hours and about 12 minutes. I had several conversations about this with my coach, Lanny, and he kept saying just remember- start slow, remember the start is downhill, you will be full of adrenaline and excitement, people will pass you, … but just start slow. I wanted to tell him I didn’t really want to do that because when I did it at Detroit, it felt so good and comfortable that I didn’t want to speed up later on. So I didn’t. Luckily, I was happy with that and still had a fun race.
I think one of the main things that led me to a PR was the 15 mile training run I did. Not only was it 15 miles, and the longest I had ever run (#distancePR), it was on a very cold, windy, rainy day. I am talking high of 30 F, horizontal rain conditions. I hate rain. I debated for so many days about whether I should go for that training run. I asked my family and facebook fam to pray for me. I prayed to God that it wouldn’t rain. But it rained and by golly, I got those 15 miles in. It wasn’t pretty and I was soaked to the bone by the end of it. I’m still not sure how I persevered but I did it- with Lanny and Tom running alongside me.
So after that, my anxiety about race day was even further reduced- I felt like the weather could not be any worse than that 15 mile day.
Now to race day, I decided to follow Lanny’s advice and I started [what I felt was] slow. I don’t wear the fancy garmins or anything so I can’t check my pace instantaneously- I have to rely on my [probably inaccurate] running app on my phone to yell out stats every mile (or is it every half mile?) So anyway, it’s about mile 1.5 or 2 and I glance over and see Lanny so I holler at him and he waves me over to come run with him and his son’s girlfriend (who is a boss by the way, she ran the Boston marathon this year).
It turns out it was Lanny’s birthday and she had a sign taped to her shirt saying the same with an arrow pointed to him. Obviously, they planned to run together the whole way with her on the right. lol.
I eventually realized they were running faster than I was and I thought “wait a minute, didn’t Lanny say to run slow??? And we are in the same training group so we should be at about the same pace.” But I said nothing and just tried to keep up. I couldn’t keep up and I didn’t even fight it. I just let them go.
Since I could still see them, I made my goal to not lose sight of them. My app told me I was under 10 minute mile. I felt pretty good and felt like I had more in me so I went faster. And then at some point I passed them! Then they passed me while I was at a water stop (which I now always walk at- otherwise all the fluid ends up down the front of my shirt instead of down my throat). Then I passed them again. We continued this dance.
At about mile 10 was a massive steep downhill and Lanny just took off while gravity helped him along. He even left son’s girlfriend behind! I was determined not to tumble down that hill though so I kept an even pace and till the end of the race, I never caught up to him. Son’s girlfriend did though- remember I said she’s a boss.
The rest of the race went pretty well, I was obviously tired, but not in pain, and not that hungry (unlike last year which inexplicably felt like I hadn’t eaten for 24 hours prior to the race). I tried to keep an even pace and then gunned it the last half or quarter mile or so. At this point, I knew it was a PR because I had been listening to my splits and even though I knew the app could be slightly inaccurate, I knew it was definitely less than last year’s time, and my previous PR of 2 hours 7 minutes.
I crossed the finish line a few seconds after Lanny, got my medal, checked the actual time- it was 10:02 am. Since start time was 8am, I knew I had to be at about 2 hours and 2 minutes- and I was! It felt so great to have a PR, especially when I wasn’t expecting it.
One lesson I learned [again] was never say never. Therefore, I am never going to say that I can’t beat this time and I am never going to say I can’t do a sub 2 hour half marathon. With God, ALL things are possible and I can do ALL things through Christ who gives me the strength!
So how about that full marathon, huh? 😉
n.b. I had the good fortune of being a local celebrity again. My picture from last year’s race was selected to be the promotional picture for this year’s race. I am talking race website (see header photo), poster, billboards, etc. I had several people come up to me in the weeks leading up to the race and even on race day, asking if I was the one on the poster. It felt awesome!