Last Friday one of my co-workers asked me, “Have any plans this weekend?” He asked me in the way one would ask, “How’s it going?” Or, “It’s sure been rainy lately, hasn’t it?” (Yes! It has been seriously rainy lately!)
I found myself replying with, “My Dad is in town for a beer festival so we’re going to meet up with him for dinner tonight. Running a half marathon, a bunch of laundry, just taking it easy…”
It makes me chuckle a little bit, thinking about how different this half marathon was from the last one I ran. I trained with Team Challenge for the Las Vegas half marathon. Since I was fundraising everyone knew about it. My friends, family, co-workers, hair stylist and orthodontist. (Okay, I don’t actually have an orthodontist, but if I did he would have known.) I followed a training plan, went on organized group runs and was unwaveringly focused on finishing under 2 hours.
The Oakland half marathon was, well, about as eventful as doing my laundry. Instead of training, I ran. On race day I did the same. And before you go thinking about how boring that sounds let me tell you this – it worked.
I ran Vegas in just under 1:57, and had a goal of 1:55 in the back of my mind. But my training had been somewhat “non-traditional”, and I wasn’t feeling especially confident going into the race. I may have even told Jason, “I still haven’t decided how I want to run this race,” on my way to the start line.
As soon as the gun sounded and the confetti rained, I knew it was going to be a good day. I was swept up into the excitement. I felt like I was in yoga class, drawing energy from those around me. I had to hold myself back to my goal race pace, and immediately decided to go for it.
Thirteen point one miles later I finished feeling exactly the way I wanted to. Like I had given it everything I had, yet far from the brink of death.
I am certainly far from being an experienced runner, but I am slowly getting to know my inner runner. And she was most definitely there with me in Oakland, helping me run a smart race. I have her to thank for finishing in 1:53:58. Here’s a few of her tips:
Run with a Garmin
This is the first half marathon I’ve run with my Garmin, and it made a world of a difference. Without it I would have definitely started out too fast, and I wouldn’t have known when the mile markers were as much as 0.3 miles off.
Know your capabilities
After running a few of these races I have a lot better idea of where I’m at, what I can realistically expect out of my body and when I’m selling myself short. It’s a lot easier to set a goal pace (and put that Garmin to work) when you can predict your finish time to within a few minutes.
Know what to expect
It’s taken some time, but I’m starting to learn how I should feel at different points in the race. I had to hold myself back a bit for the first 4-5 miles. I would describe miles 6-10 as “feeling my pace.” I could tell I was running faster than I usually do and it took some effort to keep it up. But I wasn’t praying for the end, and that was a welcome change.
Have a mantra
I have heard about these, but never had one. In fact, I didn’t have one before the race. But apparently my inner runner did. “Light and relaxed.” This helped me get through miles 6-10.
I grabbed a Gu from the most conveniently located volunteer hand about halfway through the race. I usually do this. Then I typically take a bite, feel as if I am going to throw up and throw the Gu away instead. Since I know this about myself I opted to, instead, take very tiny bites every couple minutes over several miles. I also happened to pick up the most awesome, yet somehow uncelebrated flavor -Just Plain.
I feel like jumping up and down for joy and praising the marathon Gods! I have finally found a fueling method that works!
Run in fear
I checked out the elevation chart before the race. I knew about the hill at the end, and my knees were shaking in fear (and exhaustion) long before I reached the start line. I purposely threw some hills onto the end of several long runs in preparation. And I fell apart every time.
That hill was staring me in the face the entire race. I started to get excited around mile 10. We were nearing the end, and I couldn’t see a wall up ahead. I wanted to speed up. But the hill was still out there, waiting to destory me. I told myself to settle down and wait until I reached the hill.
I never did. Sure, there was the ever so slight slope up to the finish. But it wasn’t a hill. I have a funny feeling that hill would have showed up if I hadn’t kept my pace in check all the way until mile 10.
And there you have it. My magical marathon. (And a little bling!)