Tuesday, March 18, 2014

My Luckiest Half Marathon Yet

This weekend, I completed my 12th half marathon as part of the Yuengling Shamrock Marathon Weekend in Virginia Beach, VA. It was one of the most memorable and enjoyable weekends of my life. I will write race and expo recaps later this week but I wanted to write a short post while the half marathon is still fresh in my mind.

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.

All smiles.


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?

23 comments:

  1. I'm not going to lie -- I got a little teary. I am SO PROUD OF YOU! It IS a a big deal worth a blog post, probably worth a sky writing plane if you ask me. You've come so far and you should unabashedly celebrate every.single.victory. As you do :) Love ya!

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    1. You are the best, thank you. You are such an inspiration to me and I've loved reading your blog and seeing you get faster and faster. You give me hope that I can get a little faster too. Can't wait to cheer you on for Pittsburgh!! :-)

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  2. Congratulations! I'd love to get a sub 2:30 half. My PR is 2:43, and I haven't come even near that in the last year. You did great! Cute sleeves, too!

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    1. Thanks!!! My first non-Disney PR was 2:48 and I've been slowly chipping away at bringing that number down. It's taken almost 18 months but I'm really excited to have finally broke 2:30. I know you can do it- just keep trying :-)

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  3. Congratulations!!! That is so awesome. I can only imagine how that last 1.1 felt for you, knowing you could do it!!!

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    1. Thank you! It's the best kind of high! :-)

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  4. Awesome! Congrats on digging deep and hitting a PR. Always an amazing feeling when you push yourself harder than you thought you could ever do. Getting verklempt over here *sniff* Must uh, must be something in my eye... allergies...

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    1. Damn those allergies ;-) Running does strange and awesome things to a person, for sure :-)

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    2. And thank you!!! I am so grateful for your support!

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  5. ANY PR is worth a blog post! Congrats on crushing your goal! This was a weekends for PR's that's for sure!

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    1. Yes it was! So many of my running friends smashed their goals at RnR DC and Shamrock- cold weather and flat courses make for good running :-) And thank you! Congrats to you as well!!

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  6. You have worked so hard!! You deserved that PR! Not gonna lie, I was cyber stalking your race!! I am so excited to run Pittsburgh with you in six shorts weeks!!

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    1. Lol! I welcome the cyber stalking :-) And yes, Pittsburgh is going to be awesome! I have just enough time to get in some more speed work- maybe I can break 2:25?!?! Can't wait to see you! :-)

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  7. Happy tears for you miss Sarah. Congratulations on making a PR happen....they don't come easy and you gave it everything you had. And I love your photo with the sand sculpture....aren't the J & A races amazing?

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    1. Thank you! They absolutely don't come easy- my whole body is still sore today!! And yes, J & A races are just so awesome- I can't wait to sign up for another one! Professional, organized, and focused on the runners- you can't ask for much more than that :-) Congrats on all the BQ/PR goodness on your end too! :-)

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  8. Congratulations on your PR this weekend! PRing is AMAZING, isn't it!? :)

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    1. Pretty much one of the BEST feelings I've ever felt :-)

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  9. Congratulations! You should be so proud of yourself! A PR of 2:28 is absolutely worth celebrating :) Just because that might be slow for some, it's also quite fast for others, but all that really matters is that you did your best during the race and accomplished your goal! You're an inspiration, and I dream of the day I can finish a half as speedy as that :)

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    1. Thanks so much! I always have to remind myself of that- someone's bad race is someone else's PR. Either way, finishing a race (especially with a PR) is an awesome accomplishment, no matter the time! Good luck with your training :-)

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  10. Way to go Sarah! The smile on your face says it all! Most importantly, be proud of your accomplishment. Your PR time might seem slow to some, but you've made so much progress since your first half, and that's the most important thing to celebrate.

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    1. Thanks, Kathryn! I am super proud and super shocked! I never thought I'd see anything less than 2:30 on the clock. Congrats to you also for your PR at RnRDC- way to go!! :-)

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  11. Fantastic job Sarah! I'm chasing down that 2:30 half right now myself. My next half is in a couple weeks and then another 4 weeks later. I'm hoping that I can get there by the second half on May 4th. February was an awful month training wise for me. Reading this post of yours gives me hope that I can do join you in the sub 2:30 half marathon club by May 4th. We shall see. Congrats again on a fantastic race!

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    1. Thanks, Greg! I think February was a bad training month for a lot of us! Good luck on getting to sub 2:30- you'll get there, I'm sure of it! :-)

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