Runner's World Half Marathon 2001 (Pennsylvania)
was my first half marathon. I'd
up to 10.5 miles, and regularly running at
pace of less than 8 minutes per mile.
Until 2 days before the race, I was unsure if I'd be running at all. To my surprise, the race only allowed 1750 participants, and while less than 1000 ran last year, they had to turn away over 400 runners this year. I'd pretty much given up hope (and slacked off some on my training) when I learned I'd gotten a number from a friend.
I wanted to start slow, and gain speed over time, which is how I do my training runs and it seems to work well for me. Perhaps because I felt like I could really run well (for a change), I was a bit stricken with pre-race anxiety. The masses of people passing me in the first 2 miles (as I knew they would - my plan was to pass them later) kind of quelled my anxiety but it also made me run faster than I'd planned. At the 1 and 2 mile markers, I was right of where I thought I'd be. but then we were out on Martin Luther King Boulevard for several miles in the direct sun, and I started to feel sick from the heat. It as 70 degrees when we started (and over 80 when we finished). I'd only trained through the winter in temps from about 20-60 at most. 3 days earlier, I was wearing long sleeves and tights. I don't do well running in the sun. I started to cramp (which I never do anymore). I wanted to lie in the grass and vomit. At the first water stop, I walked as I chugged a cup of water and threw a second on my head. I felt a little better for a short while. At the turnaround at approximately 4 miles I felt better again - the sun was at my back and we had a headwind which cooled me some. I was getting into my groove and starting to pass people (as predicted). But I was still really hot and not feeling my best. Into the shaded parkway, I felt stronger still, and really felt like I was starting to open up and gain. Plus, I like running on the dirt path. I was passing quite a few people, especially on the uphills, but at the 7 mile marker I looked at the clock and realized I was well behind where I'd wanted to be. Probably the only reason I was passing so many people was because I was running with the Clydesdales and other slower-folk at that point. I drank and splashed water on myself at every stop, and I kept switching between feeling okay and telling myself that I would never do anything like this again. I was alternately euphoric and nauseated. I knew I was going to finish nowhere near my expected time. At 1:45 (my predicted completion time) I still had miles to go. I feared I wasn't even going to make 2:00.that realization didn't feel good at all. The last few miles seemed to go quickly and I didn't hit the wall or anything. I was just desperately hot. I remember rounding the final corner and seeing the finish line less than 1/4 mile ahead and wondering even at that point if I would be able to resist the temptation to lie in the cool grass BEFORE the finish line. I endured, but bit it was bittersweet. I'd finished a full 20 minutes SLOWER than I'd predicted. I really didn't feel like it was the distance that did me in - but the heat. My muscles didn't feel sore or tired - I just felt sick. And, emotionally I felt pretty lousy about the exceptionally slow race I'd run - because I thought I was well trained and hungry for something better. I thought I could do better.
I spent most of the race vowing to never run another race. Later in the day as I re-hydrated and looked at my stats, I felt a little better. By evening, I'd already seriously entertained the notion of trying again next year to prove I could do better. (Right now, I want to change my focus to bicycling for the summer).
2:06 (expected 1:45)
Lastly, I noted that the winner this year was 9 minutes slower than the winner last year. I'm not sure if it was the heat or the proximity to the Boston Marathon (last year it was before), or other factors. If I'd finished in the time I predicted, I would have been 6th in my age group - an unlikely result for me. So maybe I was just expecting too much.