One of my goals for 2012 was to run a sub-2 hour half marathon. The Iron Girl Columbia Half Marathon was the race where I had hoped to do just that. As race day approached, I didn’t know if it was going to happen. I was doubting my abilities and if I really had it it me for this race. Even when I was waiting at the starting line chatting with my hubby, I actually asked him what I should do. Do I try to run my hardest and reach for my goal? Or, should I just take it easy and enjoy the race? It took me until halfway through the race to finally make up my mind.
When we arrived at the starting line, I did what every other woman there did – get in line for the porta-pots. This was an all women’s race with 2,000 runners and there were a mere 20 porta-pots. I think they needed closer to 200 of them. I ended up having to skip the bathroom break and going straight to the starting line.
For nearly the whole first 2 miles, we headed uphill. I’m familiar with those hills though as I’ve run them many times in training and also part of them for the Clyde’s 10K. I did my best to tackle them while my legs warmed up. I tried not to let the excitement of the race start force me into going out to fast.
Mile 1 – 9:38
Mile 2 – 9:27
Mile 3 – 9:19
Mile 4 -9:23
Mile 5 -9:14
Mile 6 – 9:08
The hills weren’t the only thing that kept my pace slower in the beginning – I had to pee! It’s really distracting and uncomfortable to have to pee during a race, especially when there are no bathrooms to be found. Finally, at mile 6, I stopped and asked a volunteer if any porta-pots were coming up. She told me there were some at the next water stop in half a mile.
What she didn’t mention was that for over half a mile, we would be climbing a freaking mountain to get to that water stop. I’ve run a lot of hills, but this particular hill was the biggest beast I’ve met. It was a little over half a mile long and it was steep. Nearly everyone around me slowed to a walk. I kept running, but I wasn’t going much faster than those walking. At the top, we headed across the halfway point timing mats and I spied the glorious porta-pots!
Mile 7 – 10:38
Mile 7 was my slowest thanks to the epic hill and bathroom break. Once I hit the pavement again, I was really to roll! I sped up quite a bit and made up for my lost time. That was the point where I seemed to finally make up my mind that I was going to go for my goal.
Mile 8 – 8:46
Mile 9 – 9:15
Mile 10 – 9:05
I kept trying to do mental math to see if I was going to be able to make my time goal. I have a 10 minute mile mentality. I was automatically calculating my time in my head estimating 10 minute miles. Trying to calculate with the pace I was actually going was too much for my long distance race brain.
Mile 11 – 8:50
Mile 12 – 8:27
I kept feeling discouraged that I wasn’t going to make it. I knew I could at least beat my previous half PR of 2:08 from the ZOOMA race last year, but I still needed to dig deeper.
Mile 13 – 7:26
This is the third time in my whole life that I’ve run a mile in the 7 minute range. I gave it all I had in that last mile. Thank God there was a good bit of downhill to the finish. When I saw hubby and Zain cheering for me, I started to feel tears coming to my eyes. Races make me so emotional. I pushed as hard as I could to the finish and saw the clock time was 1:59 and ticking. I knew my chip time was a little less than that. My official time was 1:58:32, an average pace of 9:03. I just barely made it. My pace obviously fluctuated quite a bit throughout the race thanks to all the wonderful hills.
Crossing the finish line and meeting my goal of a sub-2 hour half marathon was – hands down – the best race experience I’ve ever had. I felt proud of myself. I worked hard for this and I did it. My runner’s high was in full effect and I was somewhere floating in the clouds with joy.
I started out this race having no idea if I was even capable of reaching my goal. I took 10 minutes off my previous PR. I won’t lie and say I felt amazing during every mile of the race because I definitely didn’t. I had my moments where I questioned everything. I fought for my PR, but I felt strong until the end. When I ran the ZOOMA half last summer, the last 3 miles were grueling. I didn’t feel that this time. I know I’m a stronger runner now than I was then and that’s encouraging.
My race results usually peg me as a middle of the pack runner. I’m finally moving up in my placement. I came in at number 357 out of 1,617 finishers and number 62 out of 208 for my age group.
Now, onto the next one! I’ll be running the Maryland Half Marathon on Sunday with hubby. I won’t be shooting for a PR this time, just enjoying the miles with my love!