This is my first half marathon, and in a way, I feel like I’d been training for this one forever. Originally, I planned to run the Hangover Half Marathon on January 1, but it was postponed a week and then ultimately canceled because of extreme cold. The race organizers offered a couple of other races I could switch to instead, so I ran the Sweetheart 10K race in February, which was also postponed a week due to a snow emergency.
I used Hal Higdon’s advanced half marathon plan, not because I’m such an advanced runner but because the distances were about what I run each week anyway. To be honest, while I’ve run most of my life, I haven’t trained or competed until this last year. There’s a lot I don’t know how to do yet (running well downhill for example) and I’m pretty inexperienced with the mental side of racing.
I gotta be honest—it was FREEZING out. I don’t have much insulation any more and have zero shame in wearing layers to run. Those runners who wore shorts and singlets? Insane! I did the tiniest of warm up runs but honestly was shivering so much, I didn’t run more. See that yellow headband I'm wearing? I almost didn't bring it and I'm so glad I did. The wind was just awful and that headband kept my ears from freezing off.
Because I’m inexperienced, I decided to find the 2-hour pacers and stick with them. I didn’t want to go out too fast and I thought it might be good to run with a group (I always run alone). They explained their strategy: slower to start, walk through every aid station, speed up downhill. Stick with us, they said, and we’ll get you there. OK, sounds good to me except I don’t drink or eat during a 2-hour run, so I figured I’d see how I felt at the first aid station and take it from there.
Our first two miles were pretty slow, which was good since I was running with a lot of people and dodging elbows left and right. But when we got to the first aid station, I though hmm I don’t really want to stop and walk, I’ll get even colder so I kept going. I figured they would probably catch up with me later and I’d run with them then. I never did see them again as it turned out.
Around mile 9, a friend was out cheering and that just warmed my heart—she braved some nasty weather to do that and I felt so encouraged.
Then somewhere around mile 11 and right after it started sleeting, a man on my right side who was slightly behind me said “Hey don’t slow down, you’ve been my pacer this whole race—I’ve been following your yellow head band and I want to break the 2 hour mark.” Say what? Someone is using me as a pacer?? So we ran together. Wow did that help—every time I even thought about being tired or cold, I reminded myself that I too wanted that sub-2 hour time and that I’d worked hard for this for months. At the 12 mile mark, Richard (that was his name, we were best buds by now) asked if I had anything left in the tank for the downhill stretch. I don’t know, I said, but I’m sure going to try. And I ran my little legs off until the end.
I found my husband, who is the best crew a woman could ask for, grabbed a banana and a beer (really odd pairing to be honest) and went to get the print out of my results. I was pretty confident I’d broken the 2-hour mark according to my watch, but I wanted to see the official results. When I got the print out and saw 1:57:04, I started to cry. Now you have to understand that I’ve been (accurately) called a velvet covered brick, and tears are not normal for me. But I just stood there in the freezing wind blubbering while my sweet husband told me what a great job I did.
Next weekend I run the second of three half marathons for the Heartland 39.3 challenge. It’s supposed to be upper 40s and rain, of course, because apparently I bring crappy weather to races.