transformation

A simple equation: inputs, throughputs, and outputs. Work was stressful last week, and I know another busy week is ahead. I search for the calm feeling, the slight exhaustion, the steady breath. These are the gifts harvested as a result of running. Running becomes the medicine, it becomes the process of changing anticipation or hesitation to acceptance and grounding. Running pulls me out of the cycle of worry and immediacy and places me as a free being, traversing the trails and navigating through space and time without anything but my own two feet and beating heart. I return home with peace and appreciation.

70 miles so far this month. One week of February remains. The forecast promises sun; a welcome change.

my sub-2:00 half marathon

Today, something quite magical happened. I ran a half marathon race, and I finished under 2:00!

I’ve loved half marathons since the beginning of my adventures in distance running. As I became a more practiced runner, my times improved steadily and incrementally. Nearly three years ago, I set my all-time personal best for a half marathon at 2:11. Ever since, I have hovered around the 2:15 mark–sometimes more by a few minutes, sometimes less.

This year, one of my intentions for 2016 was to push myself out of the plateau and finally run a half marathon in 2:10 or less. I found that from running regularly (almost every day), my mile times began to improve in a way that they had not before. I achieved several new 10K bests, and a very fast 5K in December. Rather than waiting around for an April half marathon to try setting a new record, I registered for the Birch Bay half in February, hoping for a speedy race day.

Last week, inspired by my wonderful friend and running buddy who went for a long run and set an awesome new record for herself, I decided to embark on a dress rehearsal for the half marathon. I ran exactly 13.1 miles, using my regular out-and-back trail/road mix. I was very content when I finished in 2:08. Holy moly!–I thought–This is great! I was happy with achieving my goal of sub-2:10 and hoped to repeat a similar time at today’s race.

And then, this morning, everything came together. Despite the fact that it was pouring buckets and my shoes were squishy from the get-go, I was enjoying the route at a pretty fast clip. I decided to push through the first half aggressively, giving myself some breathing room during the second half, while still being able to finish under 2:10. However, when I realized that I was three miles out from the finish with a little under a half hour to spare, I felt the opportunity to push through and try for under 2:05.

I ran hard today. My comfortable pace is 10 minutes per mile. I clocked several of my miles at around 8:30. I fueled and hydrated religiously in order to avoid the dreaded wall. I tried not to look down at my watch too much, but I will admit that the last mile had me pumping my arms and chanting “keep going, keep going” to myself.

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When I finished under 2:00, I was in disbelief. I still am. I never, ever thought I would finish a half marathon, let alone at a race, this quickly.

I often run for other reasons besides fitness–for mental health, for inner peace, for fun. Today, however, I felt like an athlete. And that is an experience I will continue to cherish through my spring training and beyond.

What is my next half marathon-related goal? I am not sure. But I see endless opportunities ahead to continue improving upon and enjoying this distance.

January Recap

January was a pretty good month for running. I was sick for the second half of the month, so my cumulative mileage dipped down, but I take pride in the 83 miles I was able to log. I enjoyed some nice long runs by myself and also with my running buddy. It has been a wonderful fortune to have a friendship with somebody who is also actively training for a few half marathons in the future—I think the ability to run together now and then keeps us both accountable. I enjoyed the Nookachamps 10K, but hope to run it again next year in better health.

Yesterday, I kicked February off with a 3 mile nighttime run. The days are getting a bit longer, there is still daylight when I leave work, but none remains by the time I get home. By the end of the month, my headlamp will be less necessary. On a 10 mile run last weekend, the sun came out for about an hour, and the breeze was mild. The birds were singing and the small buds glistened on the branches. Slowly, slowly, the seasonal change is underway once again.

Goals for this month are to accumulate 80-100 miles (toward my goal of running 1,000 miles in 2016), go for a PR at the Birch Bay half marathon, and continue my hip strengthening exercises and stretches about which I was relatively disciplined last month.