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.
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.