It’s race season! Congratulations to everyone who ran or is running a race this Spring!
This past Sunday I ran in my first since the marathon – the Raleigh Rocks Half Marathon. I wouldn’t say I was nervous, in fact I was pretty laid back about the whole thing. Still, I was interested to see how I would do because this was the only race I hadn’t put in any formal training for. I have definitely been putting in some hard work at the gym the past few months and doing some moderate distance running but its been completely different then straight forward half marathon or marathon training. So while I wasn’t anxious Sunday morning because I didn’t have a lot of work invested in the event, I was skeptical of how my body would do on the course.
Raleigh Rocks started and ended at the RBC Center – a big indoor arena outside of downtown Raleigh. I give them credit for a good location because it was the first race I have been to that had both a massive excess of parking right beside the start/finish line AND indoor bathrooms. You see, runners are simple people. Give us something one step up and from a nasty port-a-potty with a line down the block or peeing behind a bush and we consider ourselves spoiled.
The event overall was pretty enjoyable. There was a good crowd (about 1300 in the half marathon or so and there was a 5k event as well). The theme involved having local bands set up to play at various points along the route – about 7 bands spread out every couple of miles. I thought the idea was cool, particularly when they went to such lengths as to set up stages for a few of the bands on the side of two lane back roads in the middle of nowhere.
I am pretty certain I started out faster than I should have. I was a little cold when the gun went off so I wanted to warm up, not to mention get out of the massive starting pack so I kept on passing person after person. I tried to stay conscious of my speed but the race excitement got hold of me and I didn’t exactly listen to myself.
The next several miles were uneventful. I consider this a good thing because uneventful more than anything means that nothing bad happened. I didn’t hit runner’s high but I was in a state of running unconsciously. I examined the scenery, I people watched other runners somewhat creepily. At one point I even caught myself shoe shopping. I would look at all the feet of women nearby and weigh how much I was interested in buying the styles of running shoes they were wearing. I presume that men don’t often find themselves in the midst of this internal dialogue during a race. Despite my frivolous mental wanderings, I knew I was keeping a good pace. I felt like I was pushing myself but still felt strong.
The one complaint I had about this event was that there wasn’t a single mile marker on the first half of the course. If there was one, I didn’t see it despite being on the look out for them. We did a loop several miles North of the RBC Center and doubled back to where we started before beginning another, longer loop heading West. After coming back past the start, I thought surely that we must have run nearly 9 miles. I was sorely disappointed when I approached the first mile marker that I had seen and saw that it said Mile 7. Crap. I could have kicked myself right there for not getting a better look at the course map ahead of time.
The misjudgment of distance caused me to hit a mental wall of sorts. There’s a huge difference between running 4 more miles and running 6 and I wasn’t so sure how I felt about doing the latter.
That’s when my half marathon guardian angel saved me. A girl not much older than me wearing black pants and a green tank top. I had run behind her a considerable distance and then passed her around mile 4. Once she left my peripheral vision I forgot about her. But then, right when I hit my 7-not-9-mile-marker wall, she ran back up alongside me. I immediately decided for whatever the reason that she wasn’t going to pass me. I picked up the pace and fell into stride beside her. We ran together (not together as in sort of near each other but side by side, sometimes even matching steps) for the next 6 straight miles. I don’t know whether she was just pushing me or I if I was also pushing her or both. We were both wearing headphones so not once did we even look at or acknowledge each other, but still it was as if it was planned. When someone was in front of us we would both pass on either side of them and merge back toward the middle of the road to run side by side again.
Mile 10 was the toughest of all. The entire mile was a prolonged uphill. It was the type of rolling hill where you get to the peak thinking that you will be rewarded with the relief of a downhill but only find that another hill is right in front of you. But at that point I was so determined to stay with my unspoken running partner that I ran over every uphill faster than I thought I was even capable of. With only two miles left I knew that even if I was wearing down I could keep that pace to the finish and just tune out the pain. I stayed with green-tank-top-girl until mile 13 when she finally pulled ahead of me. I picked up my speed to the finish line but she had something slightly more left in her tank that I just couldn’t summon from my tired legs. I finished strong and looking at the clock finally saw just how hard I had actually been pushing myself.
I clocked in at 1:49:57. My best half marathon time before Sunday was just barely under 2 hours. A 10 minute PR was definitely not what I had expected so needless to say I was pretty psyched. It turns out I placed 15th out of 125 in the Female 20-24 age group too. To top it all off, my running guardian angel doubled back after the finish line and we exchanged high fives and generic congratulatory remarks so now that we have actually acknowledged each other I don’t feel like a creeper.