Hi friends! The big 3-0 gets closer every day and I’m still working on checking things off my fun 30 before 30 list. Today’s story came completely unexpectedly. One of my fitness goals for this year (and really, if any runner is being honest, a goal since the last time I set a PR) was to set a new PR in my half marathon distance. My previous best time is 1:47:36, set on the St. Jude course in Memphis, TN one December morning over 5 years ago. I was young, I was coaching running and I had a pace mate Russ who leisurely jogged along beside me taking all the shots of beer offered while keeping me company and dragging me through the last two miles.
This racing season has been so rewarding to me. I trained specifically for the 5k distance and finally nailed some PRs down in the St. Patrick’s Day and Spring Fling races. I did not at all feel trained or ready for the half marathon distance. Rather, I chose this race because it was local, free to me because of Oklahoma Sports and Fitness membership and it was a good time to start building mileage up before the July marathon. I was absolutely not expecting to PR or even try for one. Right up to the start line.
On race day I was all on my own. It’s not often that I race alone but I don’t mind it either. I run this sport for me and while it’s so wonderful to have company and share the miles, going alone will never stop me from doing a race. I worked late the night before again, and was up way earlier than I normally would have been to take Chap to the airport. This completely threw off my rest, my eating schedule and my coffee plans. But, I wasn’t worried about it because I just wanted to enjoy the race.
I waited until the last minute to trot on over to the start line. I was so glad I did because it was freezing in the high 40s in just my shorts and a tank top. I’m pretty sure my teeth chattered the first two miles. I got my app all set to track (Strava), Maren’s Deluxe album pulled up on Spotify (country music to keep me from going too fast), and stuck my phone in my beloved side pocket. Got the GPS started on my watch, waved to some friends and waited for the gun. We were off and I still had no plan. Since it was a smaller race, I was near the front. I felt myself getting swept up into the lead runners and made a mental note to slow down. It was a beautiful day, I was loving my side-pocketed-shorts and the basking in the anticipation of a new flat course.
Eventually my app talked to me and said, previous mile in 7:45. WHAT? Way faster than I felt like I was going, and way too fast to maintain for 12 more miles. The next mile ticked by in the neighborhoods of Jenks: 7:32. DAMN! Still way faster than I thought I should be going. But, it wasn’t hard. I was in a good rhythm and hanging stride for stride with a fellow OKSandF teammate so I thought I’ll just keep this pace as long as I can.
I expected to hold it maybe to halfway, or just a little past. I remember texting M saying “I’m running 7:30s!”. And texting my dad, “racing a half this morning, just did 5 in 37:45”. I like these longer races because they allow more time to really hang around a group of runners. I had several women that hung around me (or me around them) for many of the middle miles. Miles 3-6 I hung behind a duo that were super chatty. I didn’t listen to them but stayed one stride behind. Then I passed and was passed, passed and was passed another gal for a few more miles. Every time I shifted positions with any of these people, there was also a positive energy transfer.
Finally we made it to the turn around on the riverside trail, just a little over halfway. I was ready to slow down but was also in my favorite part of the race – the heavy-traffic part of an out and back. I cheered for everyone that I could as they passed. Sometimes I ran out of breath but it’s fun scanning the lines of runners for friends and Insta running buddies. I really started to slow down a mile or so into this turn around and my friends I drafted on for a while passed me again. One gal said, “come on you can hang with us” and I just waved them on.
The last three miles were a struggle. Between doing the math in my head of the average minute per mile I needed to run to break 1:40, then to PR, then to stay below 1:43 and trying to actually stay moving, my brain and body were hurting. I noticed the fatigue in my arms (yes, still), and a blister forming under the ball and big toe of my right foot. My right knee was getting stiff and tight and my lungs and ribs were tired of breathing. But the road was flat and the weather perfect so I tried to keep moving. I thought about my Fit Camp girls, my running girls, Teresa and Steve and my family. Thought about mimosas later in the day and a nice nap.
I am not ashamed to say that I walked a good part of the last three miles. I tried to take 100 deep yoga breaths running to every 6 deep yoga breaths walking. Not sure how the numbers fell that way but they did. I was walking along when a gal I’d been behind for a while earlier came up behind me. “We’re so close, let’s go” This got me running again, but I couldn’t stay with her even though she was so encouraging. We were able to quickly talk about our sub 1:45 goals and she powered in to a strong finish. I did not have such a strong finish but I got there! I ran it in too but man did it feel like I was running fast and not going anywhere! But I made it. I killed my PR and beat 1:45. I was so, so surprised (even though that math back towards mile 10 pretty much secured a PR in my head). My official time was 1:43:38. I was so surprised because even though I’d been training fast for the 5k distance, I had only done one long run since the last half in October. That partially explains why I bonked out at mile 10, but it doesn’t explain to me how I was so strong for 10 miles. I’m pumped though!
I would have loved to hang around and search down my new friends from the race but instead had to jet off to teach. I could not have asked for a better day to run and ease into the routine of weekend long runs. I’d highly recommend this race to local Tulsans!
Next up on the race calendar: Boston 5k on April 15 (have decided to run for fun, not race), Garmin Half Marathon on April 22 (not trying to PR, but guess I know how that can go now!) and that’s it for April. Next main focus is the big mileage increase for July, and then will target another September PR.