When I signed up to run the Chosen Half Marathon, I was burned out with a capital B. I’d finished a string of disappointing races with a string of injuries that left me frustrated and feeling like I’d done a lot of training for nothing. I planned on breaking 1:30 in the San Antonio Rock and Roll 1/2 Marathon, but I’d ended up running 1:34 and shuffling through the last 5k.
I decided to take some time to run for fun, and casually entered this race just to stay motivated. I’ve been teaching group fitness a lot this fall, and though I followed the Hansons half marathon plan pretty closely, I didn’t stress about training. I even did all my speedwork on the treadmill and chose a pretty conservative goal time of 1:33.
Needless to say, my expectations for race day were pretty low, but *spoiler alert* in the end, my “run for fun” attitude paid off in a BIG way!
I woke up at 5:30 to drive 50 minutes to the race finish, where buses would drive us to the start. Along the drive, I had a Lara bar and forced a couple sips of coffee to stay awake. The unusually warm temperatures had dropped overnight and it was in the mid 40s and clear, a factor that would help me greatly throughout the day. I felt mostly calm and relaxed. I thought that if everything went well, I could run around 1:33, but I knew the course was hilly and wasn’t sure how that would affect my speed.
Thirty minutes before the start, I choked down a Gu. The race director sent us to the start with 20 minutes to spare, which I was not psyched about because it was about 45 degrees. But I reluctantly shuffled to the start and found a spot a few rows back. I sadly shed my pre-race sweats (goodbye, old college swimming shirt), and after one false start, we were off!
In theory, my half marathon game plan is to run the first two miles about 10 seconds slower than goal, hold goal pace until mile 11, then hammer the last two. In actuality, this has never happened because I always start too fast and struggle to hold on. So when I saw that mile 1 was 6:58 instead of the 7:18 I’d planned on, I panicked and tried to slow down. The perfect weather and relatively flat first 5K made 7:18 feel painfully slow, so I focused on keeping my breathing steady. 6:58, 7:15, 6:48
By this point, two other women were a fair distance ahead of me, and I was playing leapfrog with another woman. She passed me several times, but I decided to wait until mile 11 to surge and catch her. I hoped her heavy breathing indicated that she was getting tired. This part of the course was stunningly beautiful and mostly flat. I began to think that I’d read the elevation map wrong because I’d expected to see some major uphill by this point.
Miles began to fly by (and I read that all the time, yet it has never happened to me until this race!) and I started to allow myself to think that maybe I’d finish under 1:33. I tried not to get excited and to just hold steady, not looking at my watch much, but focusing on feeling like I was still holding back.
6:59, 6:55, 7:04, 6:48, 6:57
Somewhere in the middle of mile 9, we turned left and started to climb. And climb. And climb. Mile 9 and 10 were almost entirely uphill. The woman who I was playing leapfrog with passed me on every uphill, and I passed her on every downhill. My left psoas has been tight for the past week or so, and I felt like I couldn’t get going uphill and she’d pass me like I was standing still. By this point in the race we were in full sunlight and I started to feel a little negative for the first time all day… Maybe I wasn’t going to break 1:33 after all.
At the mile 11 water station, I passed the woman again, and a volunteer told me that I was the third female and that I was close to second. I winged up a prayer that the race would finish downhill, because I knew that I could keep my lead if I wasn’t climbing. There was a little bit of climbing in mile 12, but mile 13 was entirely downhill with a few turns. Unsure of how much of a lead I had, I pushed through mile 13 as hard as I could. I began to close the gap on the second place female, and saw the first place just in front of her. In the finisher chute, I saw the clock turn to 1:31 and sprinted as hard as I could before it turned to 1:32
7:04, 7:28, 6:51, 7:13, 6:21 (.2 at 5:56 pace)
Finish time: 1:31.24, 3rd female, and a two minute PR!
I think my success in this race was due to three factors:
- The weather. Obviously this is not anything I can control, but the cold front that happened to break through that morning helped immensely. Chosen races directly benefit adoptive families, and I’d like to think God smiled a little on the runners running for a great cause.
- The Hansons half marathon training plan. I was a huge fan of this plan and loved the consistency of running six days a week and the tempo miles run at race pace.
- Strength training. I teach four strength classes a week and felt like all those squats really helped. My legs didn’t feel tired at all until the next day.
As for what’s next: a year ago I would have signed up for another half on an easier course as soon as possible. Part of me thinks that I could have at least gotten under 1:31 without the hills, and there is a race in January that is known for being a PR course.
But I think that I just don’t run well under pressure, and I don’t want to keep up a high level of training with no break because Boston is next. So I’m taking a few weeks to run easy and cross-train, and then I’ll start Boston training December 12. I have a 10-miler in January that I’ll run for fun instead because running for fun worked out so well this time!