Coming into this race, I hadn't trained the way I wanted to. I'd only run 36 miles in February. I had a bad case of the winter blues. I ran a very hilly half last weekend. My list of less than desirable circumstances could go on and on but, bottom line- I wasn't expecting too much from this half marathon.
When we'd first signed up, I had secretly wanted to break 2:30. I didn't tell many people about my goal because I honestly didn't think I could do it. My PR was 2:36 and that was in October. I hadn't done the speed work that I wanted after Dopey so I went into this weekend just hoping to finish somewhere between 2:35 and 2:45.
Sunday morning I lined up with 9,000 other people in 40 degree, windy weather. I had run the 8k the day before and felt pretty good at the starting line. I thought to myself, "Just try to run as many miles as you can at an 11:30 pace." I knew that I was good for about 6 miles at that pace but past that, I had no idea if I could continue. My strategy was to keep an eye on my splits and try to get to each subsequent mile within 11 minutes and 30 seconds of the last one.
|Starting line in a garbage bag!|
I started running and almost immediately I started smiling. I felt great. I passed mile 1 and looked at my watch. Just under 11 minutes. I knew I needed to slow down just a little if I wanted to keep my goal pace. I focused only on the mile I was running, carefully calculating what time would be on my watch after every 11 minutes and 30 seconds. It was really windy at miles 7 and 9- both times I worried I was going to lose time because it felt like I had to work extra hard running into the wind. I kept finding someone running near me that was moving at a pace a little faster than what I usually run and then I did my best to keep up with them during my running intervals. I ran 2:1's for this race.
Before I knew it, I was coming up on mile 10 and my watch said 1:53. I knew that to beat 2:30, I'd need to run the last 5k in 37 minutes or less. My normal 5k time is just around 35 minutes- and that's without a 10 mile warm-up! I wasn't sure if I could run those last few miles at pace this late in the race but I was going to try like hell.
I was tired. My legs were aching. My lungs were burning. Every step required all of my focus and energy. I just kept telling myself "One foot in front of the other. Keep your feet low. Back straight. Deep breaths." I saw the mile marker for mile 12- my watch said 2:16. I just had to run 1.1 in under 14 minutes. My goal was in reach.
I started crying. Ugly, sobbing tears. I thought about my mom-mom. How I wished she was still around so I could tell her all about this race. How she'd tell me I was crazy but also proud of me. I sent a quick prayer up, asked her to watch over me and help me get to the finish. Then I put my head down and got to work. Just 1.1 to go.
We turned onto the Boardwalk. The sun was shining. The wind was whipping off the ocean. There were hundreds of people lining the boardwalk and cheering- some of them for me because my name was on my bib :-)
I could see the finish, just a few minutes away. Those few minutes seemed to stretch on forever but also seemed to pass by in an instant. I mustered whatever strength I had left and raced towards the finish line. Watch time- 2:28:50. I couldn't believe it. The goal I'd never thought possible had just happened. I'd finished a half marathon in under 2:30.
I immediately grabbed my phone and texted Matthew- "2:28!!!!!!" Then he called me and didn't even say hello, instead exclaiming- "You have a new PR!" That I did.
To most runners, a 2:28 PR isn't worth a blog post. But to me, to the girl who always walked the mile in gym class, the girl who's been overweight most of her life, the girl who used to hate all physical activity, this is a pretty big deal.
I was fast (for me) this weekend. I passed a lot of people. I dug deep and pushed through to stay on pace. When my body hurt, I relied on my mental toughness to get me through. And when my mental toughness wavered, I talked to my mom-mom.
My first half marathon took over 3 hours to complete. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I could take almost 45 minutes off that time. Never before have I believed that I could get faster. Never before did I think I had the courage to challenge myself. On Sunday, I did things I thought once impossible. And it felt phenomenal.
|I'm having the worst time ever, can't you tell? ;-)|
Thank you, wonderful readers, for all the support and love on social media over the weekend. It meant so much to me to have all of you cheering for me from a far. And a very special thank you to Matthew (who also rocked a 2:06 this weekend!) for always believing in me, even when I find it hard to do so.
|Happy and proud finisher.|
I can't wait to share all the other fantastic moments from this weekend with you- spoiler alert- we had lots of good times with lots of good friends. Stay tuned throughout the week for more of the "Shamrock Marathon Weekend Love-Fest." :-)
In continuing with the "achieve the impossible" theme of this post, I want to hear from you! What's something you've accomplished that you once thought impossible?