This story of this race report does not simply begin in January when my training cycle started. The roots of this race travel back to 2015, where a very cocky version of my former self bombed multiple half marathons after not properly training for them. In the last few years, my half times deteriorated thanks to my swollen ego after running my first marathon.
This is a series I liken to a soap opera called, “Humbled by the Half Marathon.” Train for a half? Who does that?! My last three half times were slower than my first three for no other reason than lack of effort and training on my part. Then in late 2015, I got a stress fracture. I did not run a single race in 2016 besides a 5k.
I feel like calling the Malaga Half Marathon a comeback is somewhat of an understatement. I pulled it together mentally and physically and returned to running in 2017 feeling like a brand new runner! A runner that wasn’t egotistical about time and distance! A runner that went into her training cycle with a race strategy and came out on the other side with a new PR!
If you read any of my training logs, you would have read of my excitement about this race. I threw my heart into training, and I was finally running a long distance race in my adopted city of Malaga, Spain. The half marathon is definitely the sweet spot for me, and in a way I felt like I was coming home; the half marathon being the abstract home that connects me to my location.
I went into the cycle with a race strategy, which is something I have never done before. I’ve always gone in with a goal time, but having a pace chart in my hands gave me something to work toward realistically, step-by-step. A wise Salty (Salty herself) once said, “A consistent season of training and tempo runs and boom! 1:50!” I took that to heart.
Tempos helped me mentally more than anything. I had on weeks and off weeks, and I loved my body through it all. Bad run? That’s cool! Take a shower and have some tea! Good run? That’s cool! Take a shower and have some tea! In this cycle, I rolled with the punches and tried not to linger on good or bad runs. I found humor and progress in it all.
It was a crisp 46°F on race morning. The weather has been unseasonably cool this year, lucky for the runners. The start and finish were located three-ish miles outside of the city. I hitched a ride with a few other runners, and we sat in traffic for 30 minutes before we got parked. Because of the parking disaster, I did not have time for a warm-up.
This did not sit well with my nerves, as I had planned on a 10-15 minute warm-up, just like I had done for each workout during training. I only had time to check my gear and wait in a bathroom line. I did jog from the bathroom to my corral though at least.
I had questioned the organization of the event beforehand because, well, this is Spain. They’re a little too laid-back about everything here. However, they did have corrals, and they were organized very bizarrely, as well as the age groups. They had volunteers enforcing entrance into the corrals, but after athletes entered, they opened the gates from within the corrals, and runners of all paces got mixed together. It was kinda a mess, and the start was pretty unclear and disorganized.
Miles 1-5: Feelin’ Good – Dance Party – OMG Can I go faster?!
8:55, 8:23, 8:20, 8:23, 8:22
I knew that my first mile was set to be 9:00 pace, so I decided to regard that as my “warm-up” and spare myself the worry. The first three miles felt like a warm-up as I spent them running around and passing people who got mixed up in the corrals. My first mile was exciting at 8:55, just under pace. The rest of the first half were a bit too under pace, and I can’t decide if that helped or hurt me.
The plan was to go 9:00, 8:35, and 8:30 through mile 8. As you can see by my splits above, I got a lil too excited by my rockin’ playlist and ran a little too fast. It felt so good that I questioned my plan within those first five miles. OMG can I go faster than this?! I seriously debated it, but decided to harness my energy and save it for the end.
Even though I trained largely without music, I designed my playlist so I had “cruising” songs in the beginning and “workin'” songs at the end. With Hall & Oates serenading me it was hard NOT to run too fast! I specifically remember taking in the mountains in the distance during mile two to “You make my dreams come true.” I smiled like the big nerd that I am.
Miles 6-9: Survivin’
8:24, 8:33, 8:28, 8:26
Since I ran my first five miles way under pace, I knew I had a little time to spare. I used a couple seconds on water stops, as it was in the mid-60s and verrrry sunny. (Hello, Costa Del Sol!) I finally shed my gloves and arm warmers, and I took a gel as practiced between miles 7 and 8. Approximately 10 minutes after my gel, I started vomiting in my mouth. Mmm, yummy.
Despite the mild vomit, I was feeling okay. There was really no GI distress or bad feelings in my stomach. I was definitely not feeling as chipper and fresh as the first half, but I was not feeling bad either. I was just okay. At this point we had reached the historic city center where I run everyday past the historic, Renaissance cathedral.
My watch started screwing up, which it does sometimes in the city center. I tried to focus on how cool the route was and ignore my malfunctioning watch and digestive system. By mile 9, I knew I was going to have some work to do until the end.
Miles 10-13.1: Fighting for it
8:38, 8:08, 8:11, 8:23, 0.15 @ 1:00
In mile 10, I struggled a bit with my stomach, and I allowed myself a few extra seconds for water for the last time to wash the vomit taste out of my mouth. Because I didn’t adhere exactly to the pace chart, I was unsure of what my finishing time would be, but I still had faith. I knew I had to pull it together in miles 11 and 12 to make it, so that’s what I did!
I listened to the whacky but wonderful combo of the Hamilton Soundtrack and AC/DC, and I did not throw away my shot! I was feeling foggy and warm, and I was trying to focus on the task at hand, running at 8:10 pace, instead of doing any math. I looked down at the overall time on my watch for the first time with .35-ish to go, and saw that my watch said I was at 1:47:xx. I couldn’t believe my eyes because it was that moment I realized that I COULD do it if I trucked along bravely!
Wise Salty was right. My tempo runs were absolutely integral for when I started to fall apart in the last few miles of the race. I just told myself it was just like a workout. I had done this many times. I repeated to myself the mantra of this training cycle, “Fight for it,” over and over. I reminded myself that I had less than 15, 10, then just five minutes to go and I was done!
Finally, I was in the homestretch and I felt so exhilarated. But also like I might vomit… A lot. It happened. It had to. I stopped with less than 100 meters to go and threw up real quick. I realized I had just thrown up in front of a Spanish lady and her two kids who were watching the race. This woman was the best representation of her people, and cheered for me in a sympathetic way that said, “I know this hurts, but you’ll be okay!”
She cheered in Spanish, “Let’s go!! You have 20 meters left! Finish!” And I looked at her, straightened up, and sprinted to the finish where I PR’d and vomited again!
I crossed the finish line, and my watch said 1:50:32. I was obviously very thrilled, but also desperate for some water. A volunteer gave me the finishing medal after watching me hurl in the finish chute. He looked less than thrilled. Days later the results were posted, and surprise! I was classified as a man, despite registering as a woman. The name Jamie does not exist in Spain, so I guess that fact overruled my actual gender?
Despite being classified as a man, they did not adjust my speed accordingly. Darn! My “real time” was listed as 1:51:02, super close to my watch time. But my official time is listed as 1:53:02. I have no idea where the two minutes came from or why I am a man according to the results. So I’m taking it with a grain of salt. Either way, it was a PR for me, a great race, and a hell of a lot better than my previous efforts. I’m going to focus on really Snailing it next time as Salty advised. She’s a good one, you know!
What I Learned
There are three solid things I’ve learned from this race.
What race effort feels like. I would actually classify this as the first half marathon that I’ve truly raced. Before this one, I was training blindly in hopes that I somehow beat my PR on race day adrenaline alone I guess.
I want to be a pacer sometime! Now that I know what race effort feels like, I definitely don’t want all races to be that intense, although it was immensely satisfying. I’ve been wanting to try pacing for a long time, so maybe I’ll give it a shot this fall!
I want to do another marathon this year. I was logging 45-mile weeks for around a month, and I feel like I could easily fall back into that for marathon training now that I have a rhythm, but it depends on my new law school workload! I don’t know if I’ll try my hand at that sub-1:50 in the middle of my marathon cycle or if it will be a separate goal itself. We shall see! I’m just so excited that I have a new PR to beat and some tangible goals for the books!
This training cycle was such a valuable experience to my running life. I will never again underestimate the power of a half marathon and just how tough training for them can be.
This season was a roller coaster. I have jogged home, trembling, after being assaulted on my run. I have run intervals after vomiting. I do not recommend this, but I will say I was well-prepared on race day, haha!
But still, I pulled through it all, more determined than ever. No matter the numbers that could have been on that watch, I have never put so much work into a training cycle. After being humbled by the half marathon several times, I came back home.
Have you ever staged a successful comeback following a bad race?