What is this parasitic blob that has taken up residence in my head?
Ooooh, yeah. It’s doubt. Hello, old friend.
I’d been riding my runner’s high for about seven months, right up until week 1 of my new half-marathon training regimen. In March, I turned in a fantastic race in Washington, D.C., finishing the half in 1:55 after training to break 2:00. I wanted more.
Heck, if I could break 2:00 by five minutes, why couldn’t I break 1:55 by five minutes?
I’ll tell you why: To shave 10 minutes off a half-marathon is to shave 46 seconds off each mile. And lemme tell you, it’s hard. At least for these legs.
Pace per mile
It took me two years to break 2:00, and that whole time I trained for right around 9:00 miles. These days, to get in under 1:50, I’m training for 8:30 miles—I know 8:30 gives me a 1:51 finish, not 1:50, but I’m expecting to surprise myself.
Well, here’s a surprise: 8:30, at least so far, has proved nearly impossible.
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.
I finished my third full marathon two weeks ago. I set a personal record, too, with an asterisk that says *Hit wall at mile 22.5.
Since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about Roosevelt Cook.
Cook finished second in the P.F. Chang’s Rock ’n’ Roll Arizona Marathon. It wasn’t because he couldn’t quite catch up to the winner. Rather, it was his race to win. He was leading the whole thing, comfortably, and then—BAM!—he crashed (bonked, hit the wall, etc.), allowing the eventual winner to pass him around mile 23.
I had a mental picture of Cook simply slowing up, until I saw a photo of him hunched over, hand on his hip and head hanging low. Full stop. An elite marathon runner stopped on the course?!