Tuesday, March 6, 2018

A Better Half

After some hot and disappointing half marathons in November and December of last year, I was ready to work harder for a better one. Over Christmas I made out a challenging training plan, and just as I was ready to get started, I got the flu instead. Nine days later on January 1st, training began.

Being sick had set me back a little, but not too much. The first week back I took it easy, gradually building to the distances I’d planned before getting sick. By week two I felt like myself again and began training in ernest.

My short season of training was fraught with extreme cold (for us southerners) and lots of rain. I’d be on fire one week, training hard through it all, and then the next week I’d lose my drive to face the freezing temps again. Jason has always said training through the winter is harder than training through the summer, and I never agreed until this winter. By the time March finally rolled around, I was ready to just run the Seaside Half Marathon and be done with it.

And with that attitude, race day arrived. I tried to find my inner drive, my excitement, but I wasn’t feeling it. I knew I had a lot of good training behind me, but kept questioning if it had been enough for what I wanted to do. And what did I want to do? I couldn’t really remember, but a 1:45 finish/8:00 pace seemed within my scope, based on what my training had been.

I started the race around an 8:20 pace and slowly began to drag it down. By mile 5 I knew. I knew I could go for it. I knew it was a good day to give it all. The determination, the excitement, the drive, the willingness to dig deep - they returned. At the turn-around (around 6.5 miles). I’d gotten my pace down to 8:10 and around mile 8 was dragging it down to sub 8.  

I was matching pace with a girl who finally laughed and said, “I’m trying to stay with you.” I laughed too and said, “I’m trying to stay with YOU.” We talked a little about where we were from and our kids. I worried that trying to chat would ruin my focus, but we continued to push each other. Around mile 10, I saw Jason running toward me. He ran beside me, and I resumed my quiet concentration.

It was getting hard. My legs were sore and tired. By mile 12, I could feel them start to slow down, and I had to force myself to hold a 7:55 pace. I crossed the finish in 1:46:39, and even though it wasn’t the 1:45 I was aiming for, I was happy with it. I felt it accurately represented what my training had been - the hard work I’d put forth, as well as the days I couldn’t face it.

It felt so good to run like that. To run hard, to give it all and then a little more. To have my desire for the goal override my desire to rest. That feeling is worth it all - the dark early mornings, the frozen face and numb hands, the windy long runs, the constant striving. It is the pursuit of that feeling that keeps me motivated, that helps me push the pace when I want to relax into the run, that helps me answer the earliest alarm by putting my feet on the floor, that makes me go one more mile when I’m ready to stop.

I didn’t achieve a PR, and I didn’t win an award, but that feeling… it is my reason for racing, and it felt so good to finally have a better half. Just when I think I’m ready to take a break from training… I start thinking about what’s next.

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