One of the many tasks left undone on my to-do list is to tally the amount of half marathons I have done since I began running in 2009. I have no clue, but I would guess it somewhere around 50+. That being said, on Friday night before my first half marathon of 2019 John and I were exchanging our goals and expectations for our races. I honestly had no clue what to expect, or what I was capable. My easy runs lately have felt too fast for what my mind has labeled as an easy pace.
I recall saying something like, “Maaaaybe an 8:20 pace is reasonable? But then again my long run last weekend my splits were XYZ, and this, and then that,…Probably 8:40. That’s reasonable”
The next morning I entered the race with no expectations except to run strong and give it my best. The first split was 7:58. Whoa girl, slow your roll! I took the second mile to settle and find a steady, smooth strong pace that I could hang onto for two hours. I paid attention to my breathing, kept my arms loose, and most importantly resisted the urge to follow those passing me. Run your own race, you do you.
The next few miles my splits were faster than what I have ever experienced during a half marathon, but it didn’t feel out of reach. It felt right. I felt strong.
The half marathon course is an out and back on a gravel path in Cottage Grove, WI. I love the ease and familiarity of the course, plus having my girl squad, friends and familiar faces to see on the out and back is always a great pick me up! You’ll notice on the splits image above the 7:59 at mile 8 is when I saw friends.
I normally check my Garmin at mile 10 to make decisions about how to run the last 5K but I didn’t remember to check it until a little after mile 11. The Garmin read 1:33, I was confused.
You’ll finish under 1:50? No, that can’t be right.
Mile 12, 1:38:something. Omg, the wheels are falling off, I am running in slow motion. The wheels on the bus are supposed to go round and round, why are they falling off? Keep going. Keep going. You could break 1:50. Hurry up!
There is one hill on this entire course and it is placed right at mile 13. I slow motion ran up and over it, and then flew down the hill towards the finish.
9 minute half marathon PR
4th in age group, with 2 of them being overall winners
In the past I’ve always felt like I couldn’t say things like, “all my hard work is paying off!” because I didn’t follow a plan. I still don’t follow a plan, but my first reaction to this finish was “all my hard work paid off!”
A winter of 4:00am alarm clocks, treadmill runs that I did not want to do, hill repeats, speed work, core work, yoga, strength training, rest, and my number one priority of good nutrition… That all showed up for me on race day. These things are not easy! They take effort day in and day out. Every day, I show up for myself. On race day, I amaze myself.
Since I don’t usually share numbers, whether it relates to weight or splits, I did get a few messages and questions about the splits that I have shared above. They are great questions and I’m an open book.
“How in the world did you get so fast?”
First, fast is relative and that’s why I generally don’t share my pace during training. My slow/easy pace is someone else’s fast pace. My recent paces are a result of lots and lots of really hard work. it’s not easy! It wasn’t conversation pace during the race. It takes getting out of the comfort zone.
One of my go-to workouts is half mile repeats. Warm up for one mile, then run a half a mile 1:30 minute per mile faster than my normal, for example: normal: 9:00, run 7:30 minute mile pace. Recover for either a quarter mile or two minutes. Do 4-6 repeats. You have to run faster to get faster.
“Have you added/subtracted anything from training/your lifestyle since last year to bring on more speed at this distance?”
I stopped worrying about the miles everyone else around me was doing. Keep the joy in it. Work hard, but skip misery. This is vague, but to elaborate and contradict some of what I said above I’ll provide an example. In February I was fed up with the treadmill, (weren’t we all?) and I decided “Nope, not today”. Instead I went to a field with my snow-shoes and blazed my own trails on 6 inches of fresh, new snow. It’s harder than you would think! I did this for 45 minutes, only covering 3 miles. It was not a traditional run, but I was working so much harder than I would have on the treadmill. I know this because my heart rate was crazy and my breathing was heavy.
I also get creative and incorporate group runs into my long runs. Last weekend my girlfriends and I met at a path, each with our own long run distances and paces. We did 2-4 mile out and backs and got to see each other a couple of times. We were in it together. You just have to get creative and find a way to keep the joy in it, which often means coloring outside of the traditional training plan box.
Making these accomplishments on my own terms is such a confidence boost. There are bigger picture goals that I have and have been told there is only one way to do it. You know how I feel about that? Challenge accepted.
You do you, boo.