i read this quote this morning on my way to work, a mere 24 hours after accomplishing one of the biggest endurance goals of my life. it rang so true to me, and i highlighted it in my kindle immediately (fyi it’s from a story in “Going Long” from the editors of runner’s world).
these 13.1 miles were the culmination of months and months of training. after a disastrous performance at the bird-in-hand half, which i’d hoped would be my comeback race following a frustrating injury, i set my sights on a PR and finally breaking the sub-2:00 goal i’ve had in my mind since i starting running more than two years ago. i didn’t take any time off after BIH, so technically you could say i’ve been training for this since july (after signing up in APRIL!).
i’m not going to recap the race by mile, but i do want to highlight some key moments from the weekend overall:
- easy peasy expo experience, where i acquired some new kicks
- delicious pre-race dinner at core de roma on south street, with the most delicious risotto i’ve ever had
- staying with my bff jackie at her apt in the city, which made it super easy for us to just get a cab to the race rather than dealing with less-than-stellar SEPTA logistics
- awesome conversation with a fellow runner on the train back from the expo. we were all easy to spot with our green bags. she was running the marathon, and i hope she got the time she was gunning for!!
- easy gear check and corral situations, both before and after the race. this was seriously one of the smoothest races i’ve ever been a part of, considering the size
- amazing crowd support, which really made the experience so much better – SPECIAL SHOUT OUT to my wonderful bff/roommate/platonic life partner madeline (and rob) for coming out and supporting me at mile 10. i told her this already, but knowing i’d see her is what got me up the worst of the hills. SMOOCHIES.
for all of my previous type-A race planning, i really didn’t go into this half marathon with any kind of plan. i knew what i wanted my time to be, and i knew approximately what i wanted my paces to be. i knew there were two big hills, i knew i could bank some time in the flat miles, and i knew that i didn’t want to be comfortable. i wanted to push myself and really earn this.
spoiler alert: i did it. despite the fluctuating paces, this was actually my smartest and most well-run race i think i’ve ever had. there wasn’t a particular moment or mile that i blew up like i have in the past (usually around mile 9 or 10). my slowest mile was actually RECOVERY from a hill, not running up the hill itself. the worst hill (which wasn’t all that bad, considering what i’ve done before) was actually mile 9-10, so there’s that. in the garmin stats, mile 12 is one consistent even line – incredible for me, given that in the final miles i am usually dragging and completely over the place. i didn’t negative split (had about 1 minute more in the second half than the first. again, best i’ve ever done).
mentally i was super prepared. i’m not going to lie, i’d been visualizing crossing the finish line in under 2 hours for the past two months. sometimes i would tear up just thinking about it – that’s how big this was to me. i wanted it so badly. i knew that my mental state was very much to blame at bird-in-hand (i basically gave up around mile 6 and slogged through 7 more painful miles), so i wanted to make sure i had my head in the game this time around. and it WORKED.
HERE ARE THE REALLY IMPORTANT PARTS:
what really got me prepared was, obviously, my training. i approached this training cycle with a completely new attitude, focus, and method. first of all, i did the most challenging plan i’ve done to date – hal higdon’s intermediate training plan. this plan incorporated weekly speedwork, five workouts a week, and more mileage than i’ve ever done. before, i’d been doing plans that would get me to the finish, but weren’t challenging enough. this time i pushed myself to do something out of my comfort zone and to really learn how to train properly for a goal.
one of the biggest changes i had to make mentally was learning how to hold myself back in workouts, to keep myself from running too fast. most of my runs were done at paces that were very reserved (for me), rather than going all out and trying to top myself each time. i consulted the mcmillan running calculator, and YOU GUYS, i can NOT recommend this enough. it seriously takes all the guesswork out of pacing and gives you solid, realistic benchmarks to compare yourself to, and what you need to aim for in order to improve for any distance.
my regular weekly runs were probably around 9:20/9:30 pace. i kept my long runs consistent around 10 min/mi, and i ran tempo miles around 8:40 pace. my 400m repeats were around 1:40 each. that’s what worked for me, and even after a few speed sessions, i could definitely tell a difference. i raced a 5k a few weeks before the half, and mcmillan told me i should be able to do it in 26:1x at an 8:26 pace. i bested them with a 25:36 PR at 8:15 pace. SPEEDWORK WORKS. now i get a few days off, before heading into training for RAGNAR SOCAL in april, and the RnR DC (sandwiched in there in march) with a few of my favorite people.
after the race, i waited for jackie to cross the finish line (hey girl hey! great job!!!), and reunited with her for hugs and pictures. we went back to her place for showers and brunch, then i headed home for an epic nap. i wore my compression shorts all day and my legs felt pretty good by monday morning. this was seriously such a perfect race experience, i don’t think i could have asked for anything better.
me and philadelphia, we’re officially in love. see you next year xoxo.