Sooo on Saturday I ran my third (official) half marathon. As you may know, the top of my left foot had been bothering me for a while, and so I skipped my last 3 long runs, and have run very minimally the last few weeks, with nothing above 7 miles. It was a tough choice for me as to whether to run or not on Saturday, as this is a race I’ve been looking forward to the last few years and have never been able to run it…this year was my chance, I got a free entry because I was volunteering, and (prior to my foot hurting), I had been doing speed work and it was looking like a PR might be possible. Long story short, I decided to go for it, knowing that there were a number of aid stations and if I had to stop, I would. I wore my old Mizunos, with the left foot laces tied to the side, to avoid too much pressure on the top of the foot. Now, as a competitive person, this was really hard for me, to go into the race forcing myself to have zero expectations, but I preferred to run easy then not run at all.
As I mentioned, I volunteered at packet pickup prior to the race, which was actually really fun! I would urge any runners out there to give it a try – you appreciate them so much when you’re out on the course, so why not give back? It’s fun to see another side of racing, and for me it was a great way to build camaraderie and get psyched up about the race.
This was a local race for me, which was fun in that I saw a number of people I knew. At the starting line, all of a sudden I felt a tap on the shoulder and turned to see someone from the grade below me who swam with me in high school – she was running her first half, and first real race since freshman cross country! In any case, it was fun to have someone to chat with at the beginning of the race as we tried to shake off pre-race jitters…and then we were off!
The beginning of the race was much the same as the finish of the Father’s Day 10K I did in June, but downhill, which was nice until I realized this was an out-and-back race (yes the same uphills came back to bite me in the end!) The course was, as advertised, gorgeous as it went all along the coast with gorgeous water views. A couple times I really wanted to jump into the ocean, but decided it would be better to keep running :) At one point, the road ended and turned into rock and sand, which seemed like a cruel trick, as did the bikers who cruised by us as we climbed uphill (that happened twice during the race…I just wanted to hop on for the ride!)
Around mile 4, I saw some familiar faces…the wife and kids of someone who used to be the minister of my church! I yelled out, asking if he was running the race, which he was. I kept an eye out for him as the course was out and back and he is much faster than I, but it wasn’t until the end that I was able to catch up with he and his family at the finish, which was a great surprise and a lot of fun!
Back to the race – I kept trying to get myself to slow down, to get a good 7 or 8 miles under my belt at a somewhat comfortable pace before stepping it up. But as my runs have been short lately, they’ve been short and fast, and so the whole pacing yourself thing was kind of rough…thank goodness for the swedish fish I brought with me, fabulous water stations, and Stinger energy gels to give me an extra kick I needed. Looking for familiar faces and cheering on fellow runners near the turn around point also helped me mentally to keep my mind off the hills and pain. Going forward, I’m definitely going to start trying to figure out how best to fuel for these races…I broke that “never try anything new on race day” a few times but luckily it ended up okay. And by okay, I mean that I was able to hang on the last 3-4 miles (when I really felt that I couldn’t make it) and pull out a race I didn’t think I had in me on one of the hilliest courses I’ve run. (Let’s be real…my first half was on airport runways aka super flat). I ended up having to stop to tie my shoe once (ugh) and then walked through the last two aid stations, which was really a good choice retrospectively. The last mile, I swear, was straight uphill, and I owe a huge thanks to the woman running in a pink shirt and black running skirt who patted me on the back and urged me on to the finish, which was deceptively far away. Going into the last mile, I knew that I could hold on and was set for a PR, which was exciting and motivating. I kept repeating “smooth and strong” and “up and over” and just tried to focus on keeping a quick tempo and a clear head, pushing out all the negative thoughts telling me to pause or slow or give up. Running, I’ve learned, is a lot more mental than you think. Sure, you have to be in good shape, but you’d better believe it to. Long story short, I was absolutely dead upon crossing the finish, but in a good way, and crushed my previous time by about four minutes for 1:46:59. I downed some water, hung out with my minister and other friends, and just spent a lot of time wandering around, cheering on strangers, and enjoying the absolutely beautiful day with a smile plastered to my face. I still haven’t come down from the high…
Did you race this weekend? Best race story?
P.S. I was just sent the race photos, but seems like they missed me at the finish :( And as I was flying solo (friends sleeping in, my sister volunteering at a youth triathalon, one parent recuperating from surgery and the other caring), I was counting on race photos to document the race! So unfortunately, no race photos to share, although I can assure you I make some wonderful faces while running :)