Friday, November 11, 2016

Half Marathon #11 and Another Surprise PR

This past weekend, Jason and I headed back up to his parents' house to stay with them and run the Bowling Green Half Marathon on Sunday while they kept the kids. I wasn't really sure what to expect from this one. I'd run a PR half in September, but in October my half had been 9 minutes slower with my legs giving out around mile 8. I wasn't really sure what I could do, but I had a cool, crisp fall morning and a beautiful race course on which to do it, so I was hopeful.

This race was a marathon and half marathon combined, with the marathoners doing the 13.1 mile loop twice. There was a 3:30 marathon pacer named Kevin who also doubled as the 1:45 half marathon pacer. I figured I'd just start with him as I did with Mani back in September and see what happened. I once again made the decision to stick with him until I physically couldn't.

Kevin was a tad faster than the 8:00 pace required for a 1:45 finish time, but I think most pacers are a little fast, especially if they know the course well and understand the elevation. Which Kevin did. It felt a little hard at first, so I focused on staying with Kevin and on the gorgeous fall colors around me. I stuck with him and a runner named Sarah until around mile 5 when I started to pull ahead a little on the downhill sections. He came up to me around mile 6 and asked if I was from there. I said no, so he explained that there were a few more small hills, but the course was about to flatten out "as flat as a pancake."

I thanked him and slowly began to pull away again. I was feeling good, not like I was going to burn out or that the pace was overly hard. Around mile 8 I had a little conversation with myself. "Why don't you leave it all out here? Run so you don't have anything left at the end." So I went for it. I could barely see two females in front of me, and I aimed to catch them. One I named "Wears to Much" because she was wearing tights and long sleeves. The other was "Pink Shorts."

Around mile 10 I caught the first girl as we turned out of a neighborhood and onto a long, flat stretch of road that would take us back to downtown. I liked this section. There were many volunteers, great water and aid stations, and a guy playing "Eye of the Tiger" as I ran by. I gave him a smile. I love that song. I could see Pink Shorts way up ahead, and it took me until mile 12 to catch her. Jason had joined me by this point, and it was as I closed in on Pink Shorts that I noticed ANOTHER female ahead of her. I was giving all I thought I could give, and when I saw her I thought, "Not another one!"

But I went after her anyway. I was so tired, I couldn't think about the time or add up what I had left to figure out what my finish time would be. I thought maybe a few seconds off my PR, but I really had no idea. It was almost too much to focus on Jason beside me as I tried to catch Blue Shirt. He said, "You see that girl in the blue shirt?" to which I responded, "Shh, I've got it." I didn't really know if I had it, but I was running as hard as I could.

I finally caught her. I had no idea if it would stick because she didn't look like she was slowing down or struggling. Neither did Pink Shorts for that matter. They both looked strong, and I knew if I passed them, I'd have to really mean it. I knew I couldn't slow down at all. My watch beeped at mile 13, and I glanced - 7:07. That wowed me a little. A volunteer told me to sprint, the finish line was just around the corner. As I rounded that corner, I saw the clock at 1:41:53, the seconds ticking by as I raced to the finish.

I crossed in 1:42:02, totally spent and so happy with the day and the race. What a pleasant surprise! What a perfect day! Jason hugged me and congratulated me. It didn't take long for me to get chilly as I was only wearing a tank top, so we walked to the car to change clothes while we waited for awards. I was third overall female (that's why Jason wanted me to pass Blue Shirt), and won 2nd in my age group. Jason finished 2nd overall, finishing in 1:20:06 and winning 1st Masters.

There was a Starbucks right next to the finish line so we got coffees, and I munched a few salty potato chips as we waited for awards.

I love races like this one. Achieving a PR is always a wonderful feeling, but I also love that feeling of having enough to push my limits all the way to the end. That doesn't happen every race. Some races - like the previous one in Fort Payne - for whatever reason, I don't have it. My legs quit on me and it takes all I had to simply hold my pace under 9:00. But this day, this race had been perfect. It had felt perfect. It brought me such joy.

Sometimes I feel silly and trivial asking God to bless my race. I feel like He has much bigger things to deal with like starving people in Haiti or the free world divided over politics, hate, anger, violence, loss, grief... so many bigger things. And yet I know I can come to Him with my trivial hopes along with the big ones, and He will hear them all. I asked Him for a good race, and not only was it a good race, it was filled with the beauty of this world He created. The fall colors were so brilliant - I remember one particular yard that was completely carpeted with red leaves. Bright, brilliant red leaves.

Jason and I have almost completed our goal of a half marathon every month for the year of 2016. It has been such a fun goal and I have loved every one of our adventures together, although I am ready for it to come to a close and to give my body some much needed rest and TLC.

But for now, I continue to train. One last push. A few short weeks and then we will head to my home town for what I hope will be the grand finale of our 2016 half marathon goal.

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