It took two years and two months. Finally, I reached my goal of a sub-2:00 half-marathon. If I’d done it on my first half or my second or my third, I don’t think I would have appreciated it as much.
And I didn’t just squeak under 2, either. I blew it out of the water. Official time: 1:55:20.
All my training was based on 9:00 miles. I think 9:02 would have gotten me in just under the wire, so I wanted some breathing room. My plan was to start out around 9:15 and gradually pick up the pace. But by the first 5K, I was already closing in on 9:00. Too fast too soon? History says yes.
Half #1. Jan. 16, 2011. Phoenix
My first-ever half, and I was rockin’ the nerves. I didn’t time my bathroom breaks or my water intake very well before the race, so I was doing the peepee dance as I crossed the start line. I hit the first bank of Porta-Pottis at around mile 1. After, when I was already a few minutes behind, I felt as if I needed to make up all the time all at once. I think I pushed too hard and ended up crashing at mile 10. Time: 2:08:15. Not my goal, but not bad for a first half-marathon.
Half #2. Dec. 4, 2011. Las Vegas
I worked this road trip into the training schedule for my first full. I should have known that training times for the full would not prepare me well for the aggressive pace needed for a half. I didn’t crash, but I did fade toward the end. Time: 2:02:49. Better, but not good enough to get to my goal.
Half #3. Dec. 2, 2012. Las Vegas
Another half thrown in while training for a full. How could I think I would shave off almost 1:30 per mile just like that? I was feeling great until mile 8 or 9, on pace for 2:00, when everything fell apart. Time: 2:04:49. Disappointing. I know I’m better than this.
Half #4. March 16, 2013. Washington, D.C.
So I’m feeling good for the first 5K. Really good, in fact, but I didn’t want to get ahead of myself. Still cruising through 10K. Breathing is steady.
I look up to see this steep uphill, maybe a quarter-mile or more long. At this point I’m glad I didn’t study the course beforehand, or I might have psyched myself out. It’s good that I’m not overthinking. I’m taking things as they come. And I attacked that thing! Lungs and legs burned, but I didn’t let that stop me. I caught my breath at the top and quickly picked up my pace again—even enjoyed a few stretches of downhill to gain the confidence back.
By mile 10, I’m still feeling strong, and I allowed a few thoughts to creep in about what it would be like to finish under 2:00. Then my mind naturally drifted to What am I going to do as my next challenge? I forced all those thoughts aside. I needed to keep my focus. You can’t work on your next goal until you achieve the one you’re working on right now.
Inside 5K left, I’m starting to fatigue, but I’m not concerned. I’ve broken the 10-mile curse that plagued me in every other half-marathon.
With about a mile or so left, I know I have it. My pace times steadily dropped throughout the race, so even if I had a collapse, I could probably limp to the finish and beat 2:00. I had energy to spare, so I kicked it into gear. As in KICKED IT. (I averaged 7:35 per mile for the last 1.2 miles.)
For two years I imagined what that moment would feel like, crossing the finish line in less than 2:00. Would I raise my hands to heaven? Would I ham it for the camera? Would I crumble to the asphalt in exhilaration?
Turns out I called on an old Vince Lombardi-ism: Act like you’ve been there before.
That was damn fun.
It was fun. It was easy. Within minutes of finishing, I was fully recovered. You couldn’t wipe the smile off my face if you tried. It was the kind of race that makes me want to race for the rest of my life. No joke.
Then I started thinking, What am I going to do as my next challenge? I can allow myself to think that now.
Oh, the weather. What started out as a cold and rainy forecast changed to (relatively) warm and dry and changed back to cold and rainy and stayed there. For days leading up to the race. Cold and rainy. Yuck. Even the morning of, as I gathered the last of my things and got ready to leave the house, the forecast was cold and rainy. But rainy never happened. Cold, yes. But not a drop. It was the best weather I could have asked for. Hands to heaven.
» What About You?
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