Running United: Half Marathon Recap

I had an entire post about the Boston Marathon tragedy written, but just couldn’t bring myself to publish it. There aren’t any words or profound revelations I can write here that haven’t been said by so many already (and more eloquently, I might add) to truly express how I feel. Simply put,  as a runner I feel like my friends were attacked, and as a human being I’m horrified… and I know I’m not alone in that feeling.

The running community really is something special; there seems to be an unwritten understanding between runners. We’re able to be competitive with one another, while simultaneously lamenting in each other’s pain, and celebrating each other’s success. I know a lot of other runners feel the same way, but that little nod, wave, or half smile you get from another runner while you’re deep into your own run is so much more than a simple acknowledgement. For a brief moment, it’s a shared connection with a complete stranger. I think I love these encounters because I am usually running by myself.

So when I toed the line for the RU Unite Half Marathon this past Sunday, the race’s name had even more meaning. This race was my goal race for the Spring, and based on my training and racing throughout the winter, it seemed like I would have little problem setting a new PR. The last two weeks of training were lackluster due to super tight calves one week, and an pinched nerve in my neck the second, that was still around on race day. So of course, I started to doubt myself and my ability to run as fast as I had hoped. But I knew that I needed to try as hard as I could, while also being smart about the race. I go into races a lot with “plans,” but rarely wind up sticking to them. I swore to myself this time would be different.

Pre Race!
Pre Race!

Race day started like they all do – peanut butter & jelly, and some Nuun. The race is only about 10 minutes away, so I’m lucky that I don’t have to get up super early for the 8am start (but let’s be honest, 5:30am IS early). It was chilly, but thankfully I had a spectator with me so I was able to wear a fleece and sweatpants until I got into the corral. There is only one corral and it’s self-seeded, so I tried to position myself more towards the front than I have in past years, and wound up in front of the 8 minute pacers. My ultimate goal was to run a sub-8 average, but I did want to start out more conservatively. Remember when I said I had “plans”? Well, you can imagine those went out the window once the race started. Before we took off, there was a moment of silence for Boston and our troops, and they played “Sweet Caroline.” Of course I teared up and vowed to remind myself of that moment when the pain started to set in later in the race. Next thing I knew, it was go time.

I started out conservatively with my first mile at 8:05, while trying not to weave and expend any extra energy (though cut-offs make it inevitable). As with most longer runs, the first few miles flew by and when I checked my watch at mile 3, I realized I had definitely dipped under the 8 minute pace earlier than I had wanted. I felt good enough, though, so I decided just to go with it. The next 7 miles were a combination of me running too fast, then slowing down too much, and having waves of feeling awesome with waves of feeling like death. I’ve run this race every year since it started (in 2010) and it was actually my very first half marathon… so I have a special place in my heart for the course. So you would think I’d know how to best pace myself.

Homestretch Pain Face!
Homestretch Pain Face!

By the time I got to mile 10, I wanted the race to just be over. The thought of another 5k made me cringe. But I powered through the park I’ve spent so many summer mornings doing marathon long runs, and over to the final stretch. I actually saw Oiselle Teammate Jess right around mile 11, and she was the push I needed for those final 2 miles… with the most hills. Mile 11 was my slowest (well over 8 minutes), but by the time I got to 12 I tried to dig as deep as I could – especially once on College Avenue. Of course the home stretch felt like it went on forever, but once I crested the hill and saw the finish line I knew it was only a matter of seconds to get there. I couldn’t spot a clock near the finish, so I crossed and stopped my watch – 1:43:01 (which turns out was my official time, too)!

My time works out to be a 7:52 average, which I’m very happy with. After running my PR 10k race at the end of March, I plugged in my results to the McMillan calculator, which projected a 1:43:22… so I did a little better than expected! This wound up being a 4 minute and 42 second PR… and quick math made me realize that in the last three years since I started running half marathons (I’ve run a total of 6), I’ve managed to shave off 20 minutes from my first half marathon! The next big thing I need to tackle is my marathon time… hopefully I can get a good training cycle in this summer and rock out a killer PR in the fall.

After the race I headed to a newish (and new to me) coffee shop a town over with Oiselle Teammates Jess and Kate to talk running and enjoy a latte. Of course I headed to Red Robin a few hours later for my celebratory veggie burger, a tradition I’ve kept since I started running this race back in 2010! All in all it was a pretty great day, and I’m SO thankful to be part of such a great community. It might sound cheesy, but running and its community really is something special.

I’m running another half marathon this coming weekend, the Nike Women’s Half in Washington D.C., and I’m planning to enjoy the race with Krissy. Can’t wait for the Nuun aide stations, post-race Tiffany’s necklace as a medal, and post-race delicious cupcakes and museum visiting in D.C!

So tell me…
Who raced this weekend? PR? 
Anyone racing this weekend? Anyone running Nike?

A Long Time Coming

I ran my first half marathon two years ago at the RU Unite Half Marathon. Up to that point, I had run three 5k’s and a 4 mile race – that was it. Considering my newbie status, I finished with a respectable (for me) time of 2:02:15. From that point on, I went through a vicious cycle of injuries, keeping me from really “racing,” and touching that PR. I ran the Disney half in 2011 with shin splints in 2:03, had the second RU Unite get cut short to 9.55 miles due to flooding, and my only other half marathon up to this point was this past year’s Disney half which I ran as part of the Goofy Challenge.

So, when I signed up for my third attempt at the RU Unite Half this year, I wanted to PR. With the training cycle I had, I knew it was possible. Most of my runs had been just around the 8 minute/mile pace, and I figured that unless I broke a bone, I was likely able to get in under 2:02 – I mean, that was my FIRST half marathon time!

The race started just as they all do; me whining as I choked down half a peanut butter sandwich and worrying I didn’t spend enough time in the bathroom. Our timing was perfect this year, as we were able to get to the start, check our bag, take a trip to the port-o-potties, and wait only about 5 minutes in the corral before starting. I lined myself up just behind the 8 minute/mile pacers, and waved my husband off who planned to run closer to the 7 minute/mile pacers. The race was rather uneventful – I kept myself between 7:50 and 8:20 paces, varying depending on when I looked at my watch. The temperature was perfect, and the rain was able to hold off despite a menacing forecast.

When we hit the mile 10 marker, I realized that all I needed to do was keep a 10 minute/mile pace, and I’d finish at about 1:50, a solid 12 minute PR. Obviously I didn’t have any intention on slowing down, but a nice side cramp, similar to the one I experienced during the St. Paddys’ 10 miler decided to come out and play, forcing me to walk for a bit. This time, I listened to my body, walked for about 10-15 seconds to make sure I was comfortable, and then started running again. Thankfully the cramp didn’t return, and I was able to slowly pick up my pace over the course of the last 5k.

I crossed the finish with an official time of 1:47:43 – nearly 15 minutes faster than my previous standing PR, from the very first half marathon I ever ran. To say I was overjoyed would be an understatement. I finally feel like I’m at a good place with running, and am no longer in the constant push and pull struggle that I’ve experienced over the last year and a half.

Me & the Hubs!

Per tradition, the hubs and I met up with my parents at Red Robin for lunch, and gorged ourselves on a (veggie) burger and fries – a perfect Sunday if you ask me!

I know my blogging has been a little lackluster this month, but it’s my last week of student teaching, so I’ll be back to regular scheduled programing this week!