I ran half marathon #13 on Saturday.
I set a new PR.
I finished 4th in my age group.
And finally, after years of trying, I broke two hours in a half.
So lucky #13 was pretty good to me.
The day started early in the morning with a two-hour drive to the Eastern Shore for the Dorchester Crab Run. This is a super small event that uses the same course as the run leg of the Eagleman 70.3 race.
Since my friend Zach is eying Eagleman for next year, we thought we’d go out and do a test run.
When we pulled into the parking lot at the YMCA where the race started, I started having a minor freak out over just how small this race.
I was fairly certain I was going to finish dead last.
I took these pictures trying to give you an idea of the tiny field at the start line.
In this shot you can see most of the pack.
Less than 25 feet in front of them was the start line.
I didn’t hear the start of the race, but next thing I knew we were moving. Zach and I hadn’t discussed whether or not we were going to race together. The last time we ran a half together it was an epic disaster, and neither of us wanted to repeat that.
Zach’s Ironman training plan called for a longer, slower run so he decided to hang with me. (He’s training for IM Louisville, if you were curious.)
The beginning of the race was absolutely gorgeous. We were running right along the water, there was a slight breeze and the scenery was just breath taking.
Since I was not planning to race this race, I pulled out my phone and started snapping a few pictures as I was running.
We bent away from the waterfront somewhere around mile 1.5 and started running through some cute neighbors before veering out onto a long country road.
The runners were spread out a decent amount, but I never felt like we were totally alone. There was always a person or two not too far ahead.
Oddly enough, I enjoyed the solitude. Zach and I chatted a little bit in the beginning, but we were mostly quiet. This is the first time I ran an entire half without any music (though I’d brought it along), and the peace and quiet was really serene.
The course was a straight out and back and somewhere near mile 6, I could feel my hip and knee tightening up. We stopped for a quick walk break and afterward, I immediately felt better and started to pick up the pace.
I saw the clock at the turn-around point read 1:00:14.
Visions of a sub-two started dancing in my head, but I kind of squashed them down. I didn’t want to start pushing too hard only to burn out during mile 11.
I kept things steady and in control. When we passed mile 8, we had exactly 47 minutes to run the last five miles if I wanted to break two hours.
That was the first time I let myself admit how bad I wanted sub-two, and that I knew it was in reach. I told Zach we were officially racing this race and that we were going to break two hours.
I had my Garmin set only to show the time of day, but Zach’s was showing more data, and I was checking in with him every once in a while to see how we were doing.
All he’d say was that if we kept our current pace up, it was possible.
By mile 10, I didn’t think I’d be able to keep the current pace up. It was sunny, I was getting warm and everything was starting to hurt.
Zach started saying something about thinking happy thoughts and I promptly told him to stop talking immediately.
As we turned back into the neighborhoods, I knew there wasn’t too much farther. At one point, I told Zach all I wanted to do was be able to call my mom and tell her I finally broke two hours.
I kept imagining that phone conversation in my head the rest of the race. I just kept thinking how that was the phone call I wanted to be able to make, not the “oh gee, I came close again, but didn’t quite do it” phone call.
Thoughts of calling my mom drove me through the rest of the race. Every time I’d get tired or something would hurt, I’d think about how great it would feel to say, “Mom, I broke two hours.”
I kept asking Zach how I was doing, if I had any cushion. The doubts were banging around in my head quite loudly, but I kept trying to push them down. I knew I had this in me.
Near mile 11.25ish, I need to stop to walk again because something was nagging at me. It was for less than a minute, enough to let me catch my breath and shake things out.
We eventually made it back to the waterfront and passed the 12 mile marker.
At that point I wanted to cry. My quads were on fire and one more mile seemed impossible. Zach was starting to pull ahead of me and I couldn’t match his pace. I was falling behind, and I was afraid my sub-two was slipping away.
I kept watching the minutes pass on my watch, knowing the finish line was still so far away. I was getting more and more nervous, and the doubts in my mind were getting louder and louder.
I kept telling myself I didn’t push this hard for this long to blow it now.
We made the final turn onto the last street, and I had two minutes left. Zach yelled at me to give it all that I had and I yelled back there’s nothing else left, but as I saw the finish line approaching, I dug a little deeper.
I wanted that sub-two more than anything in the world.
I found out there was still something left.
It wasn’t much, but I leaned into my final kick, willing myself across the finish line.
I was panting. My quads were screaming. The few people around were cheering for me.
I saw the clock said 1:59:16 and I knew I had done it.
I started laughing and crying at the same time. I was just so emotional and so proud of myself, and so, so glad to be finish because every muscle in my body hurt. As a result, I have the goofiest finish line face ever.
I wrapped Zach into a big sweaty hug, graciously took my medal from a volunteer and plopped into the grass in some shade as the tears started to flow.
I’ve officially been going after a sub-two hour half marathon for nearly two years. I’d picked goal races, trained hard and just could never quite do it. I got close at last year’s Wilson Bridge Half, another race that was just supposed to be a “fun run,” but then followed that up with an awful day in Philly at my goal race.
It seemed like the sub-two half was just a monkey I couldn’t get off my back.
Going into this race, I wasn’t expecting anything great. I stayed calm, had fun and ran for the pure enjoyment of running. When I realized my goal was in reach, I put on my game face and pushed hard. I dug deeper than I ever have before in a race. Physically, I knew I could do it, and mentally, I kept my head in the game.
By the time the tears had dried up, I realized my finishing photo was bound to be bad, so we took this awesome, totally staged photo of me running across the finish line in my flip flops and sunglasses with a look of pure joy on my face. I was basking in the happiness of finally, finally breaking two hours.
Oh, and that phone call with my mom was kind of awesome. I called her while I was still crying happy tears and she thought something was horribly wrong because she couldn’t really understand me and just heard me crying. When she realized everything was actually OK, she was pretty excited.
My final time was 1:59:16, good enough for 4th place in my age group. It’s safe to say, I wore my medal for most of the rest of the day.
This race was amazing from beginning to end. The small size was perfect. It was a no frills, true runners race. I’m 95% sure I’ll be back next year.
And the views, well they were just breath taking.