The 2017 Columbus Half Marathon coincided with my first semester of law school. If I had to sum them up, separately but also together, I would say, “What a ride.” Wow.
I had always been told that law school is a different beast from undergrad, and that I couldn’t or shouldn’t even try to run. However, I’m stubborn, and I registered for a half anyway. I told myself that Columbus is my favorite race ever, and even if school caused me to toe the starting line a little less than fit, I would do it anyway because I enjoy the race.
As it turned out, I was fit, and I was prepared to take a risk to attempt a PR. I even give credit to my first-semester half marathon experience for keeping me sane and afloat.
The Training: Balancing the scales of justice and running
I started school with a strict schedule in place. There are two days a week in which I cannot do anything but law school because the schedule is too hectic. On those two days, I throw my heart and soul into law school. I don’t allow for any other distractions. I allowed myself one weekend day to focus on training and recovering, though sometimes I had to combine that with law school duties as well. As I put it not-so-philosophically, “What you prioritize will be your priority.” While I adore running, I don’t have much riding on this hobby right now. In contrast, the 6-digit price tag of law school means the scholarship that allows me to avoid full-price is my main focus.
- Training strategy: Weekend warrior. I knew that I would not be reaching 45-mile weeks like my previous training cycle. I accepted that immediately, and it helped. I incorporated speed into my long runs, and often did progression runs since speed workouts were hard to fit in during the week. My Saturdays were usually 5-8 miles, then my Sundays ranged from 10-12 miles for about six weeks.
- Running and Learning: The weekend of my last 12-miler coincided with a midterm. I spent my Sunday long run listening to lectures about criminal law. Later, I told my professor this and he was equal parts impressed and disturbed!
- Takeaways: It’s not running in law school that’s hard, it’s all the extra stuff that must be done (#extrasalt) like sleeping, eating well or even eating at all some days, stretching, strength training, foam rolling, injury prevention, etc.
I knew going into this training cycle that I wouldn’t be in shape for a huge PR, but I could attempt my current 1:50 PR at a minimum. This took a lot of pressure off, and as race day approached, I decided to go for it. This was a fun race, not necessarily a goal race. I decided I had nothing to lose. My goals were to (1) have fun and (2) not puke.
I only achieved one of my goals. It was not a good day to run long distance in Columbus, Ohio. On that mid-October morning, it was a steamy 65 degrees at 6:00am. It was my first time in the history of the Columbus Marathon to go to the start without any warm-up gear. I wore a crop top, and it was soaked by mile 5.
I decided early on to be conservative and go by feel due to the weather. Again, at mile 5 I started feeling nauseated, which was weird so early on in the race. So I maintained an 8:45 pace and decided not to try for 1:50 or less. I took lots of fluids and walked through water stops. I also poured water on my head several times. I was actually surprised at the pace I was able to maintain on a hot day; I definitely felt really warm.
Right before the finish, and I mean immediately before (probably 0.1 miles out), I saw my grandma, sprinted over to hug her, and then puked a few meters away. Apparently the very short sprinting effort to get to her pushed me over the edge, and I finally vomited. When I gathered myself, I trotted to the finish, so ready to be done. My finish time was 1:56, and five years ago that would have been a hard effort for me. This fall it was a reserved performance on my part, especially considering the walking and the puking. I’m very proud of that progress.
Part of my excitement for Columbus was based on my expectations of cool autumn weather. In the past, it’s been mild or even cold. (The day after the marathon, it was a cool, rainy 50 degree day, and the following weekend it snowed! Major facepalm).
I ran my 1:50 half-marathon PR in southern Spain, and vomited throughout that race as well. I trained in the heat there, which is why I think I subsequently performed well in the heat. I was excited for Columbus because I thought I might finally have my chance to cut loose on a cool, cloudy day. C’est la vie. Still, it was fun to enter a race without a tight grip on any expectations. I took it all in, and interacted with spectators and other runners. After the finish, I stood outside for an hour cheering for other runners (my favorite thing).
I wore my race t-shirt to class the next day and shamelessly got showered in compliments by classmates who wondered how I trained during law school. Toward the end of the semester, I wondered the same thing.