Angelica and I both ran races in Philadelphia in November 2019. Since we only saw each other in passing at the expo, we decided to interview each other about our respective races. First up, let’s hear about Angelica’s race!
When did you decide to do the half at Philly?
Philly had been on my radar since summer with the caveat that I wouldn’t sign up until after Chicago because I wanted to see how that race went.
What was your goal(s) going into the race?
Partly I was on a scouting mission to see if I wanted to run the full marathon in Philadelphia in 2020 (verdict: no). I also wanted to run a half marathon somewhere around 1:45 without a pacer. I had run 1:45:45 in June 2018 with a pacer and I ran 1:44:48 in Sept 2019, but randomly ran into a friend on the course mid-race. I wanted to see if I could hit 1:45 on my own. Also, I love the city of Philadelphia, so I wanted to have some fun with friends.
What were you thinking race morning?
I am pretty business-like on race morning if I am racing for real, and this was no different. I walked over to the race with friends and did some warming up on the way. I don’t care for the starting situation at Philly – too much chaos – part of the reason I decided against the full in 2020.
What was it like to run this after Chicago, where you had a pacer?
Very different, but that’s part of what I was looking for. I’ve been super blessed with fast friends who are excellent and generous runners and willing to pace me at lots of races. But I wanted to run Philly on my own to be sure I could do it and to see if I could run mid 1:40s alone. It turns out I could! That actually means quite a lot to me.
What are you most proud of from the race?
I’m proud that I raced well despite some mental darkness. I’ve been working on accepting that when I run hard, it’s not just going to feel “bad” – it’s probably going to feel like “failure”. So when those feelings came in Philly, I remembered that I was there to learn. I kept chanting the word “process process process” in my mind. I negative split the race and it was overall a very good race execution.
Can you explain more of what you mean by mental darkness?
Weirdly, this happened within the first couple of miles. I was thinking, “What the hell am I doing here?” One of the worst moments was when we ran by a subway station. I had an internal conversation that went sort of like:
“I could just stop running and take the subway.”
“You’ve never taken the subway alone in Philadelphia and you don’t know how it works.”
“How hard could it be? I’ve taken the subway in NYC, Berlin, Madrid and Paris. I could figure it out.”
“But you decided not to carry money – you can’t buy a ticket.”
“Damn! What a mistake! Allie Kieffer dropped out of NYC and someone swiped her into the subway for free.”
“Last time I checked, you are not Allie Kieffer so you have to keep running.”
Of course I did keep running, even though I didn’t really feel much better. I remembered that when I am running hard, I am often pretty convinced that I am going to miss my goal and that is certainly how I felt. But then something turned. I didn’t feel any better, also not mentally better, but two things came to mind. First, I remembered my coach saying, “When it gets hard, channel your inner self. I’m not worried about your mental toughness.” Then I also remembered: Your goal here is execution more than time.
So, how did you do?
When I crossed that wonderful, blissful finish line, my watch said 1:45:18, actual time 1:45:14! My second fastest half ever! No PR but I about 98% didn’t care. Very high marks for executing the race I wanted to!
What were your important lessons learned?
I can race through the mental darkness and still perform pretty well.
Takeaways from the race?
The time here for me wasn’t about the seconds, it was about the minutes. I needed to prove to myself that my other 1:45 or thereabout half marathons weren’t flukes. 1:45 isn’t something that happens for me on magical perfect day. It’s a time I can hit if I run hard and run well. My brain really needed to catch up with this new reality and the Philadelphia race did that for me. I’m a1:45 or so half marathoner now. So, let’s see what’s next!