I ran my half marathon this morning. I was in a bad place leading up to the race. It just seemed like 13 miles at 8 minutes wasn’t something that I was capable of, and the prospect of running 13 miles is always intimidating no matter what the pace. Leading up to a race, my mood generally descends until hits a nadir the morning of, when I’d rather get a root canal whether than run the race, at least in the case of long races. This race was true-to-form. I was not a happy camper when I got up this morning at 5:30 to get ready.
The weather was predicted to be mid-30s at the start and low to mid-40s at the end. Fortunately, parking was easy, and so about 20 minutes before the start, I was pacing back and forth, trying to stay warm without actually expending energy (obviously impossible). I had expected there to be a 1:45 pacer, and I’d been planning to tuck in behind them and ignore my watch. However, at the start, I found out there would be a 1:35 pacer and a 1:50 pacer, and I was asking myself what to do. Stick with the 1:50 pacer and just accept that a 1:45 wasn’t going to happen today? Try to pace my own race by eyeballing my watch? Starting at 1:35 pace would obviously be suicidal. I decided to just try and run my own race.
Finally, we were off. Things were quite crowded at the start, and I did a bit of weaving around, trying to settle in. I wanted to go faster, but I couldn’t get around people without expending a ton of energy, and when the 1 mile marker came at 8:01, I was shocked and happy. A 1:45 half marathon is exactly 8 mpm pace, so I was right on schedule. I noticed, however, that the mile marker came a bit after my watch thought it should be – a significant bit.
Entering the second mile, I was glancing at my watch, but I don’t know if GPS coverage was bad or what, but my pace was all over the place. I picked a couple women to follow, guessing that they were probably shooting for 1:45 if they’d gone through mile 1 at 8:00. That was basically my strategy for the rest of the race – to try and pace off others who looked like they were running steadily. Miles 2 and 3 came quickly, and I was delighted to continue to be on pace.
- 1: 8:00
- 2: 7:56
- 3: 755
At this point, my effort level was very low. I was feeling great. I always find it amazing how big of a difference race-day adrenaline makes. On a random day by myself, I would find it borderline torturous to attempt to run 3 miles at that pace, but during a race? It felt easy. Miles 4 and 5 took a bit longer to come, but I was still feeling good.
- 4: 7:54
- 5: 7:52
Before the race, I decided to break the distance mentally into three sections – the first five miles, the next four miles, and the final four miles. I was determined if nothing else to run the first five miles at 8 minute pace. Hitting mile 5, I was delighted to have met my goal and also to have a mere 8 miles left.
Meanwhile, the mile markers had “drifted” with respect to my watch. By this point, they were about 0.3 miles off. This is a huge differential, and it was the difference between being spot on for meeting by goal time and being 2 to 3 minutes over. I was pretty demoralized, but hoped that perhaps the mile markers were off and/or I could make up the time. I started picking up the pace a little, and at the same time, this thing started getting painful. The mile markers took longer to come, and my pace stopped feeling comfortable and easy, and began to drift towards painful.
- 6: 7:41
- 7: 7:39
- 8: 7:40
No doubt the reason things started getting uncomfortable had a lot to do with the fact that I’d sped up. Despite speeding up, though, I was pretty sure the discrepancy between the mile markers and my watch would put me over my goal time. Mile 9 took a while to come, and I was just telling myself to make it through the second section.
- Mile 9: 7:54
Throughout the race, I was just trying to hang onto other runners around me. I’d pick someone or a better yet, a couple of people, who looked like they were going well and just try to stick with them. By mile 9, I stopped looking at my watch and stopped thinking about pace, and just tried to hang on. I started really taking things one mile at a time. At mile 9, I just kept thinking, get to mile 10! Get to Mile 10! Then you can slow down if you want. Similarly with mile 11. My pace slowed a little, which reflects how I was feeling.
- 10: 7:53
- 11: 7:52
The consistency of my splits overall kind of amazes me. Anyway, miles 12 and 13 were, as expected, very tough. During mile 12, I just couldn’t stop thinking about the now 0.35 mile discrepancy between my watch and the race and how I wouldn’t meet my goal time and, more importantly, how I really had an extra 0.35 miles to go beyond what I thought I did. The thought of running that extra 0.35 miles was really disheartening. Mile 12 came, and I focused on getting to Mile 12.5. The course in general had little or no crowd support, but there were some people cheering about a mile from the end, and that definitely helped. At mile 12.5 I could basically see the finish, and I started thinking maybe I wouldn’t have to run an extra 0.35 after all. Mile 13 was only about 0.05 off my watch, and I finally ran through and it was over.
- 12: 7:50
- 13: 7:49
- 0.14: 7:20 mpm
As I ran through the finish I saw the clock said 1:43 and change, and I knew I’d done it. My chip time was 1:43:04, and I came in thirtieth in my age group and eighty-first woman. Obviously, a lot of people show up at this race wanting to run fast times.