Welcome to the Next Level: The Columbus Half-Marathon

Ginger with a J wouldn’t fit.

This past spring, when I first began blogging for Salty Running, I wrote a post about getting to the next level in training. I wondered what it felt like to cross a finish line having reached a long term goal that you worked so hard for weeks on end. I wondered when the time would come that I would break through this physical (and mental) barrier that had been around for so long. Ten years to be exact.

20 weeks later with twelve quality long runs, eighteen track workouts, two minor injuries, and over 700 miles logged, I reached the gates of the next level.

The gun went off and I went out with the 3:15 marathon pacing team as marathoners and half marathoners stayed with each other leading up to 13 miles. 7:27 would be a challenging task, but I didn’t think it was out of question. I was also watchless. Going watchless usually lessens my anxiety and makes the race feel like an adventure. I was running by feel with the pace group but not feeling all that good. By the second mile, I had already dropped off.

Loosing the pace group so early was a burden to my mind but instead of getting down, I focused on remaining relaxed and as positive as possible. For all I know, they could’ve had a slow first mile and then picked it up significantly during the second mile.

Curiosity was my best friend. I continued to stay positive and before I knew it, by mile 4 I had caught back up with the pace team. This was just the mental boost I needed. Whatever pace we were going wasn’t feeling so bad now. Through mile 5, I was relaxed and in control.

So relaxed and controlled, I started to get this extra bounce in my step. I felt good enough to pass the group as we approached mile 6. I surely thought this was going to be the day that I would have an even bigger breakthrough than expected.

I bounce so much, my hair sticks up like a double mohawk. Image courtesy of Nate Stine.

Speaking of bounce. My form sucks. When my non-runner friends can notice how much I bounce then it’s something I need to work on. I know now for sure that my bouncing form is inhibiting performance because around mile 7, I started to feel blisters forming on the bottom of my feet, the upper area to be exact. The same thing happened at the Perfect 10 Miler.

That extra bounce disappeared, maybe to my benefit, and everything else started to shut down. I still didn’t know my time but I did know that it was going to be a painful march to the finish.

At ten miles, I saw the clock, 1:15:00. Having started 24 seconds from the gun time, I knew I had probably just PR’d at that distance. My mind and heart wrestled with each other. Should I call it a day and jog it home or keep fighting through the pain?

For a few minutes, I began to bag it up. Then I saw two of my wonderful friends, whom James and I stayed with the night before the race. Seeing friends is always a performance enhancer. I then committed to fighting through, even if I had to slog.

Miles eleven and twelve were the most physically painful experiences I’ve ever had in a race. But it wasn’t due to the standard lactic acid or side stitch. My body just felt beaten up. I thought for sure that my socks were going to be drenched in blood at this point.

Running through this pain was the last task I had to do before reaching the next level. At mile 12 the clock read 1:31:xx, and I somehow convinced myself to at least try to pick it up. This lasted about 600 meters. A woman passed me and asked, “When is this over?”

300 slogging meters later, we had our answer. The marathon split off sign flashed before our eyes and we made our turn toward the last .1 miles.

I thought back to all of those track workouts, specifically this one.

For all of the straightaways that were in the race, the finishing chute felt like the longest. I could see the clock ahead but could not yet read the numbers. 38? 39? It definitely didn’t look like a 40.

I picked it up. Different energy level, right?

Shocked at what my eyes could now see, I was going to run at least a 1:39:xx. All that pain went away for a few brief moments and then, I was done. I knew I wasn’t going to see James or my coach (as they were in the elite area) but wanted so badly to hug them both. Tears built up in my eyes as I tried to hold them in. Despite my many personal improvements over these last few months, I still worry about what others think of me. This ended up feeling and looking like an extreme asthma attack as I tried to catch my breath and sniffle at the same time. It was still one of the greatest feelings in the world.

Usually, I don’t care about the medals because everyone gets one. But this time, I gladly walked over to receive mine. And wore it for the rest of the day. It ended up being my ticket to the next level.

Flashing my ticket.

Extra stats

I PR’d three times in this race.


10k: 45:39

10 miles: 74:50ish

13.1 miles: 1:39:21

It was also an eight and half minute PR in the half marathon.

Who also reached that next level in training this fall? Feel free to share your experiences below!

I write about mindfulness, mental health, and the professional sport of running with the occasional poking fun at the sport. When I am not running, I'm either helping people as a counselor or trying to make them laugh as an amateur open mic comedian.

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  1. Woo hoo – the spice rack is breaking out PRs all over the place this fall NICE! You worked hard and you earned that big fat PR. I am so happy for you.

  2. That is so awesome Jinger!! I know how it feels to work so hard to break through the pain to achieve those PR’s! But, the glory is all worth it! Keep it up. Before you know it, you will shed even more minutes off those distances!!

  3. I love mid-race PRs!

    In consideration of your bouncy stride, it may not be a negative thing. Lots of Kenyan and other elite runners have choppy/bouncy strides. You are lighter on your feet and although your feet may blister (which I suspect is unrelated to bounciness), you are more durable. And with just a tiny bit of tweaking, you could have an efficient and optimal stride! Something to think about!

    1. Thanks for the advice. I think if I can just work on leaning forward a little more, the extreme bounce will go away but your are right. I don’t want to change too much of what is natural!

  4. Congrats on that big breakthrough, lady! I enjoyed this race report and getting a peak into what was going on in your head as you cashed in that ticket to the next level.

  5. Nice job Jinger!
    As a fellow “bouncer” or more accurately toe striker, I have had many problems with blisters, especially on the roads and indoor tracks. I finally found a pair of shoes that worked for me. From what I recall your stride is pretty good with a bit of an over-stride. Have James work on you with on some A and B skips and cycles to get that foot strike directly under your center of gravity and you should be great!