The 2016 Boston Marathon

I am more than a little delinquent in posting a recap of my experience at the Boston Marathon. But better late than never, right?

I had a mostly great training cycle leading up to my first Boston Marathon. I hadn’t put much pressure on meeting a specific time goal, but had trained at paces that would prepare me to run a 3:30, which I thought was reasonable. Having never run a marathon course as challenging as Boston, I didn’t aim for a PR (under 3:27:51), but knew I would be thrilled with anything around 3:30 and the fact that I would have re-qualified for the chance to run Boston again next year if the experience turned out to be as amazing as I expected.

I traveled to Boston the Friday before the race. Jeremy and my parents all made the trip to Boston to be able to watch me run and I am grateful they wanted to be a part of this experience with me. We spent the weekend seeing some of the important Boston sights and eating delicious food. The day before the race, I did make an effort to take it easier and watch my diet a bit more carefully.

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Marathon Monday morning went smoothly. I was lucky enough to get to catch the bus to Athlete’s Village with two of my Bull City Track Club teammates, where we even found another BCTC teammate who was running in an earlier wave. Having them around all morning helped calm my nerves and pass the time.

One thing I had been concerned about, having not run a race with such a late start before, was making sure I ate at the right time. I didn’t want to eat too early or not enough and be hungry and depleted before even crossing the start line. But my stomach can be sensitive so I am always hesitant to eat a huge amount before runs. My best guess was that I should eat a bagel with peanut butter on the bus to Hopkinton (about 2 hours until the start), plus as much of a Picky Bar as I could make myself eat about 45 minutes before. It turned out that this worked perfectly for me.

Unfortunately, as the time went by it got noticeably warmer and sunnier in Hopkinton. By the time we walked to the corrals for the start of Wave 2, it was somewhere around 70 degrees, with no breeze and no shade to be found. I tried not to stress about the weather too much. It was out of my control and, being from the Southeast, I just kept telling myself that at least there was no humidity.

The energy at the start was palpable. I tried to soak it all in. As our wave surged forward I tried not to inadvertently go out too fast on the early downhill miles and was mostly successful. I didn’t worry about weaving through the crowd, and just hugged the side of the road and high-fived lots of spectators.

I felt incredible those first few miles, which you think I would be happy about. But instead, it worried me. You see, I have come to know and love my body’s usual pattern for long races. I usually feel uncomfortable for the first 4 miles or so, then finally get into a groove and settle into my race pace. There will typically be a mile or two later in the race where I struggle and argue with myself whether or not I have hit the wall and should just sulk on the side of the road, but then I can often mentally power through, suck it up and manage to finish strong.

Feeling great the first few miles is not part of my pattern. Suddenly, as early as mile 6, my groove had peaked early and I felt like holding paces in the low 8’s was taking way too much effort. I started to feel incredibly hot. I am not especially sensitive to warmer temperature runs and races, but I think the intensity of the direct sun did have an affect on me.

I held onto something near my goal pace for a while. But I remember hitting the 7 mile mark feeling rough, and thinking the marathon would end bad for me if I was stubborn and tried to hold that goal pace. More than feeling pressure to run a 3:30, the past few days I had stressed over the possibility of having a terrible experience or not finishing the race. The night before, instead of worrying over mile splits and finish times I worried over the idea that I would pace the race stupidly and end up hitting the wall and hating the whole experience. More than anything, after all of the work I did to qualify and get there, I really didn’t want to hate the Boston Marathon.

So starting at around mile 7 or 8, I dialed back to a pace that felt easier and didn’t focus on my watch too much. A few miles after that, I was still really hot and worried about consuming enough fluids so I started walking through some of the water stops so I could focus on getting water and Gatorade in my mouth instead of all over my face.

At the easier pace, I felt much better and also payed more attention to the atmosphere of the race. The cheers entering and running through Wellesley were incredible. I had been instructed by multiple people that I would be missing out if I didn’t make sure to kiss the Wellesley girls. So I kissed 4. I was going to stop after 3 girls because I didn’t want to be too greedy, but then I saw the girl with the “Kiss me! I’m from NC!” sign. No way I could pass that up.

I was in awe of how the entire course was lined with loud spectators. The crowd energy and support was indescribable. Anytime I felt pain in my legs and feet or a hint of fatigue I would just move to the side of the course to get some high fives and hear a few cheers and feel pretty good again. The couple of times I got to hear cheers directed right at me were the biggest pick-me-up of all. I saw one teammate’s family around mile 17, and then another teammate’s old Boston running crew not too long after that.

My goal for the Newton hills was just to get through without completely burning out my legs. I didn’t look at my watch during any of the climbs; no sense in stressing over pace as long as I was keeping an even effort and not completely giving up and walking. Heartbreak Hill actually came and went relatively quickly. I was able to distract myself by running from one spectator high five to the next and not looking up to see how far I was from the top of the hill. After a fun downhill into the noisy crowds of Boston College, I started to look forward to searching for Jeremy and my parents (who were going to stake out somewhere near the 25 mile mark).

Between Boston College and the Citgo sign (1 mile to go), it seemed like things got pretty dark for a lot of the runners around me. I saw several people start to walk, and even a few sit down on the side of the road or fall to the ground. The heat clearly made it a hard day for almost everyone.

Thankfully, those miles passed pretty uneventfully for me. I started searching for my family around mile 24.5, not entirely sure where they would have ended up finding a spot to watch. The crowd was getting more dense at this point and it was getting difficult to distinguish who was who in the mass of people, so I thought it was likely I would miss them.

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Magically, I spotted my mom in the front row right near the mile-to-go point thanks to the birthday balloon she was holding. (Side note: My first Boston Marathon happened to fall right on my 28th birthday. Clearly, the 2016 Boston Marathon and I were meant to be.) I swerved to the side and gave her the biggest sweaty hug I could. My dad was just a little further down the road, so he got a huge sweaty hug too. Unfortunately, I had missed seeing Jeremy earlier on the course at the 40k mark.

I was determined to soak in as much as possible during the last mile. I remember being grateful I had adjusted my race strategy in that moment. Sure, I was exhausted and in pain, but I was also happy and fully cognizant of my surroundings. Instead of wishing the race would end, I got to enjoy the right on Hereford, the left on Boylston, and even that longer-than-expected straightaway to the finish.

My time was 3:40:23. It certainly wasn’t the time I had trained for but, after about mile 7, it was the time I knew was coming. I made the best of the hand I was dealt that day and made having a great experience my priority.

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If I’m being completely honest, I had plenty of mixed feelings in the weeks following the race. I felt the post-marathon training slump, which was amplified by the fact that the race that had embodied my marathon training and racing goals for three years was suddenly over. At times, it was tough not to dwell on the fact that Boston was, in fact, my second slowest marathon time ever and it came after 16 weeks of training toward a much faster time.

But any of those negative thoughts pale in comparison to the positive memories I got to take away from my first Boston Marathon experience. I had an incredible birthday weekend in Boston – from seeing the sites, to spending time with my family and BCTC teammates, to the race itself. I’m so glad I put in the effort to make my goal of running the Boston Marathon a reality, and I’m grateful I had the support of my family and my team to help get me there.

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6 Benefits of Using a Running Coach

Before I began training for last year’s Wrightsville Beach Marathon, I had decided that I wanted to hire a coach. Having never used a running coach before, I had some reservations early on about the idea. A few of those were valid. For example, I wondered if having a coach would actually be worth it for me since I am very self-motivated and usually don’t have a problem staying accountable to my training plans. But otherwise, most of my reservations were stupidly focused on the outside perceptions of me hiring a coach. More than anything, I guess I’m saying that I felt like I wasn’t “fast enough” to have a coach.

Ultimately, my more rational side talked me out of the petty concerns. My desire to improve as a runner and achieve the goals that had long been out of reach pushed aside the short list of reservations. I enlisted Sarah as my coach for a four month marathon training cycle.

The end result was that I shattered my goals and my expectations at the Wrightsville Beach Marathon (I wrote what is probably too much detail about the race in my recap, so I’ll leave it at that). Better still, I feel like those four months of hard work and attentive coaching brought my running to a new level that I continue to benefit from and build on.

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I can’t say broadly that every runner out there should use a running coach. I think it entirely depends on each individual’s goals, training preferences and, of course, budget. But, in hopes of helping anyone reading who is considering hiring a coach, these are the ways that I found coaching beneficial to me:

  1. A new and individualized approach to training. It’s true that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. I know this because, prior to enlisting the help of a coach, this is exactly what I was doing. Training season after training season I used the same or similar plans and tactics and, although I improved, I did so only marginally and nowhere close to as much as was necessary to tackle my goals. I had a hunch that I needed to overhaul my strategy in order to see big results. But I was terrified to try anything beyond my tried and true training plans for fear of training incorrectly or over training and getting injured. Before the season began, Sarah gathered as much information as she possibly could about me and my running history. Then she took all of that into account and designed a training plan specifically for me. There was a lot about the plan that was new, but also some parts that were familiar. It was clear that there was careful consideration into how best to balance those two things so that my body would stay healthy and make the greatest gains in marathon fitness.
  2. They introduce you to new, effective workouts. While working with Sarah, I gained knowledge of and experience with a wealth of new workouts that I have continued to incorporate into my training at various distances. As just one example, it had honestly never occurred to me to incorporate fast finish long runs into my training. Now it is my favorite training run to use because it gives me a great sense for where my combined endurance and speed are in the midst of training for longer distances and it trains my body to finish strong even when it is fatigued.
  3. You have an accountability partner. I know I just got done saying that I don’t have a problem sticking to my training plans on my own. It’s true. In fact, it’s so true that I am prone to being too much of a slave to my schedule and my desire to go above and beyond. I am the type of person that always wants to do the maximum amount of miles on my plan, at the fastest pace that makes sense, regardless of whether I am tired. But this just isn’t a smart or sustainable way to run. Since I would report to my coach weekly on my training runs, she could keep me accountable for holding back my easy runs to a pace that was actually easy and my mileage within the ranges prescribed in the plan. Whenever I told Sarah that I was feeling sick or run-down, she would tell me to take the day off. For some reason it is a lot easier to listen to someone else telling me to slow down or stop than it is to listen to myself. Whether you are the type of person who needs extra motivation to get out and get your training runs done, or you are like me and sometimes just need someone to tell you to back off, a coach can be a tremendously helpful accountability partner.
  4. Your training plan is more adaptable. Whenever I have to divert from my intended training plan due to sickness, injury, or travel, I tend to get caught up in the best way to rearrange my workouts. I know that I should never try to make up mileage that I’ve missed by adding it to my load in later weeks. But beyond that, I’m usually lost. What workouts are the key ones to try and incorporate later in the plan? How much time do I need to ease back into the plan if I’ve taken a bunch of time off? I had to divert from my training for Wrightsville Beach twice – for a terrible cold and for a nagging IT band issue. It was nice to have Sarah there to instruct me to take as much time off as I needed and to explain how the plan could so easily be restructured to put me back on track. Having the reassurance that my entire training cycle wasn’t in the process of crashing and burning allowed me to focus on the most important task at hand – properly resting and recovering so I could run again.
  5. They walk you through the race day game plan. I went into my goal marathon feeling empowered and confident in what I was supposed to do in order to put myself in a position to run my goal time. This was, in part, thanks to a very long conversation that I had with my coach the week before the race where we discussed everything from target pace for each section of the course to when and where to fuel. I had a much better strategy internalized that I ever had for a race before and it translated into a perfect execution of a strong, negative split marathon.
  6. Your own personal cheerleader. My family and friends are so supportive of my training and racing so I have never felt like I am taking on my goals all alone. But there is something unique about the way that a coach’s feeling of accomplishment is intertwined so closely with the successes of the athletes that they coach. I remember texting my coach after my first successful fast finish 20 miler and feeling like her excited response was so incredibly genuine and motivating. We were both feeling good because we could tell that my hard work, guided by her instruction, had me on the right track toward finally reaching my goal.

Based on my experience, I would certainly recommend hiring a coach to any runner who is committed to working toward any form of running goal – faster paces, longer distances, or whatever else you have your sights set on. I acknowledge that coaching may not be what every runner wants or needs, and that the benefits each runner experiences from coaching are likely to be different than mine. If you decide to invest in coaching, I recommend really taking the time to think about what you want the most out of coaching and what motivates you, and then attempt to find a coach whose background and demeanor match that.

The 2015 Wrightsville Beach Marathon

It has been a little over two weeks since I ran the Quintiles Wrightsville Beach Marathon. And it has taken me nearly all of that time to really collect my thoughts and feelings about the race.

I had some big goals for this race, goals that I wasn’t entirely sure were within my reach going in but goals that I had nonetheless put a whole lot of myself into over the past four months or more. My primary objective was to run my first Boston qualifying time. But in order to do that thoroughly and go for a time that was sure to get me into Boston, I had trained aspiring to a 3:30 marathon (8:00 per mile pace).

My training went well for the most part – I hit weekly mileage numbers I had never seen before, peaking at about 60 miles per week, and surprised myself by toughing out more challenging workouts than I previously thought I was capable of. Working with a coach for the first time had me trying new things and really pushing myself. (I will put together a review of my coaching experience in another post really soon.)

About 5 weeks out from the race I was disappointed when some IT band tightness took me a bit off track. I tried to address the problem immediately by treating the weak/overused areas, stepping back my mileage, and temporarily eliminating all speed work from my routine. I worked with my coach to rearrange the remaining weeks of my training schedule and I still hit most of my key workouts. But the fact that my IT band had so recently been in less than perfect shape wasn’t helping out my confidence going into the race.

Jeremy and I made the very familiar trip to Wilmington together, got to stay with old friends, and had an awesome time and all the carbs with my Bull City Track Club friends at dinner the night before the race.

I woke up bright and early on race morning to perfect weather. There had been some rain in the forecast but it held off and it was in the 50’s and clear at the start. I found a few friends from the team to stand with and talk out my nervous energy between bathroom trips until it was time to join the crowd at the starting line.

The marathon and half marathon start together and there isn’t much of a corral system in place. But since it is a smaller race, I have never thought this was a huge problem aside from some minor weaving around other runners during the first half mile or so.

I was so incredibly lucky that my BCTC friend, Emily, had offered to pace me for the first 11 miles of the race. She was supposed to be running the full marathon but had to lay off training to recover from IT band and knee issues. She knew finishing the full marathon wasn’t an option, but she still decided to use her bib to run with me and keep me company to the point where the half marathoners split off from the full. Her support made such a tremendous difference in how my race went and I couldn’t be more grateful to her.

We started quasi-conservatively in the spirit of my race day game plan. We ran the first 3 or so miles at about an 8:10 average pace and then started to pick things up to my 8:00 goal pace somewhere around mile 4. The 3:30 pacer was in our sights most of the time, but we let him stay slightly ahead since he seemed to be going a little ahead of pace. We people watched and talked and, just like that, 10 miles had gone by and it was almost time for Emily and I to part ways. Having the first 11 miles pass without a whole lot of thought or anxiety was huge.

With Emily gone, I was alone but still had the 3:30 pacer in sight. So I put in my headphones and made a move to catch the pacer and the small pack of about five runners sticking with him. I typically haven’t decided to follow pacers during races but really wanted to keep some people nearby for a while longer, which may be because I am in the habit of doing my runs around people now instead of all alone.

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I ended up hanging with that same group of runners and the pacer from mile 11 until around mile 19. Throughout that time, I went through a few mild phases of ‘I feel… meh’ for no particular reason, just minor discomforts and occasional doubt I could hold my pace for the distance that was left. But I always seemed to quickly bounce back to ‘I feel frickin’ awesome’. I was grateful for the pacer, he was going a bit faster than the target pace most of the time but was sure to check with everyone who was in the group to make sure we were comfortable with it. We hit mile 17 with my watch showing about 7:56 average pace.

I worried a bit starting at mile 19, heading back into a more dull residential area for the second time (aka land of multi-million dollar houses, golf courses and almost no one out cheering). It was around this part of the course that I had tanked my pace last year. I told myself that if I could get out of the neighborhood without losing speed I would be golden. It was a struggle to do that for miles 19-23 because our pace group completely split apart and I was mostly on my own. But I managed to hang on and keep my pace consistent – my watch lingered around 7:56 average.

At about mile 23 it suddenly became easier to hold the pace, and I even felt like I was picking it up a bit. I caught up to and passed the only other female who had been tagging along with the 3:30 pace group with me (who I had pegged as probably being in my age group as well).

Once I got out of the residential zone at around mile 24, I was worn out but felt a huge amount of relief. I saw Jeremy right after the 24 mile mark which gave me the finishing energy I needed. From there, I pretty much went tunnel vision. I was so focused on the finish that I actually picked up speed and miles 25 and 26 were my fastest of the race (7:39 and 7:36).

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I don’t think I fully believed or realized that I was running the amazing race I was running until I got to the last half mile or so. So I was on emotional overload crossing the finish line. Seeing my teammates and Jeremy and giving them all sweaty hugs brought out a whole lot of happy crying.

I finished in 3:27:51. A PR of just over 9 minutes and I came in more than 7 minutes ahead of my Boston qualifying time. I also found out later that I placed 2nd in my age group, and got a very cool commemorative growler as a prize.

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There are so many things I am proud about from this race, but a few things that top the list:

  • I didn’t really hit the wall or have any miles that stood out as “bad”. I almost expected to get to a point where I had nothing more to give and I lost my grip to my goal pace, only because that has happened to be in every other marathon. But this time when I had periods of discomfort I was able to deal with it and lean into that discomfort, ultimately staying consistent. I think this is a result of taking a new approach to my training – reaching higher mileage overall, and toughening up mentally from my speed workouts and incorporating goal pace miles into the end of my long runs.
  • I negative split the race and my last two miles were my fastest of the day. Proof that taking the first few miles conservatively, at a pace slightly slower than your goal, really can work in your favor (as opposed to my old practice of running off the start like a bat out of hell). Negative splitting has been something I have been able to achieve in a few of my most recent races, like the Richmond Half, and I love being able to finish strong and fast – or at least not completely broken.

I am proud of myself but definitely can’t take all the credit for a successful race. My coach, Sarah, was absolutely amazing. Jeremy was unfailingly supportive and understanding through yet another season of marathon training. And my Bull City Track Club teammates that ran with me day after day made it the most fun and fulfilling marathon training experience I’ve ever had, hands down.

What was your most recent race? How did it go?

The 2014 Richmond Half Marathon

After a (mostly) great experience at the Richmond Marathon in 2013, I knew I wanted to come back and run this race again. I love that it is such a big running event but still seems to flow as smoothly as any small town race that I have run. And spending a weekend in Richmond always gives me a chance to spend time with my family.

This time around, I chose the half marathon since I had sworn off marathons for the remainder of 2014. And I was truly excited to sign up for the half. Since I hit the wall around mile 19 of the full marathon last year, I wanted to get a chance to really enjoy every mile of the race this time around and the half marathon is easily the most fun distance for me. To add to the excitement, a best friend of mine from high school decided to run Richmond as her first half marathon. I was really happy to be able to spend time with her and be a part of her first half marathon experience.

Of course, there’s no way everything can go according to plan. And in the week leading up to race day it became obvious it was going to be a VERY cold morning in Richmond (in the upper 20’s around the starting time). I obsessed over what I should or shouldn’t wear for multiple days.

After much debate, on race morning I stuck with my stubborn side’s inclination to wear shorts, my Bull City Track Club jersey, arm sleeves, gloves, and ear warmers. It was cold but really not bad at all after a few miles in. Amelia and I got there somewhat early and jogged around the start in throwaway sweats for a while which got us pretty warm.

My estimated finish time put me in the front corral so with 15 minutes left until the start I gave Amelia a hug and found a place in my corral to keep warming up. My watch decided to test my nerves and absolutely refused to catch a signal before the start. When the start came and it still hadn’t gotten with the program, I thought I was going to have to run watch-less. But, finally, a tenth of a mile in I heard it beep and come to life. A huge relief.

My goal for the race was to run a PR – under 1:43:30 – or even, if things went magically, get my first finish under 1:40.

I started at a pace that was fast enough to PR (around 7:42 per mile) but not sub-1:40 speed. I didn’t want to crash and burn at the end and lose the chance to PR, which is what I did in the Bull City Race Fest Half Marathon just a month ago. The first 4 or 5 miles I wondered if even a PR was going to happen, though. My legs felt fatigued even though it was early in the race. The first three miles were also a bit dull running straight down one road through the city. Mentally, I wasn’t feeling very positive at all.

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The next chunk of miles (5-8) I got a little more comfortable and confident that the PR was going to happen. We ran through a park and some residential areas and the changing leaves were so bright in some areas it was breathtaking. Mile 8 was hard (and my slowest mile) but I was still hovering at the same 7:42 per mile average pace. I felt like I could hold onto it but not like I could pick it up any faster. So I had kind of let go of the sub 1:40 idea.

Around mile 9 was a huge turning point. I don’t know what sort of good running karma I earned to deserve it, but so many things happened seemingly all at once that totally changed my mentality, and the outcome of my race…

  • Bull City Running Company, the local store that sponsors Bull City Track Club, had set up a huge display of Durham running signs on the side of the street. It was so good to see some familiar signage at this point.
  • A friendly stranger named Amanda came up from right behind me, told me my pace was awesome and how much I was helping her keep her goal pace. We ran together for a little bit until…
  • I saw another bright orange Bull City Track Club jersey ahead but couldn’t figure out who it was. So I picked it way up to catch them and say hello. Turns out it was a teammate I had yet to meet named Jen.
  • Another teammate, Jennifer (who I also hadn’t met), was right near by and introduced herself to me. She had been near me a lot of the race and even waved a few miles earlier but she was wearing a different top so I didn’t make the connection.
  • I saw some other familiar faces from the Durham running crowd out spectating. They were speeding by on the sidewalk riding on ElliptiGOs cheering like crazy. You can’t ask for better motivation than that.

By the time all this happened it was mile 10ish. All the motivators had me picking up speed without even noticing it. I looked down at my watch and suddenly my average pace was 7:38 per mile or so.

Jennifer picked up the pace and started to move ahead and I chased after her. I did my best to keep her in my sights for the entire last three miles and was completely amazed by what was happening. It was the last three miles of a half marathon, my pace was ticking faster and faster (as opposed to the usual slower and slower), and I was having fun and feeling surprisingly good.

Richmond finishes on a notoriously steep downhill. I knew that was coming so I pushed myself hard up to it. I was so thankful for that downhill too, because my calves were on the verge of cramping completely by the time I got there. But all my legs had to do was not give out and take advantage of the gravity for a speedy finish.

My chip time was 1:39:39. Almost a 4 minute PR and breaking below the 1:40 mark for the first time. I couldn’t be happier with it!

The thing I am probably most proud of is my split times. Every mile from mile 8 on was progressively faster and miles 9 through 13 were my fastest miles of the whole race:

Mile 1: 7:44
Mile 2: 7:40
Mile 3: 7:41
Mile 4: 7:39
Mile 5: 7:39
Mile 6: 7:42
Mile 7: 7:39
Mile 8: 7:48
Mile 9: 7:32
Mile 10: 7:29
Mile 11: 7:26
Mile 12: 7:18
Mile 13: 7:04

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Amelia also had an amazing first half marathon result and finished in 1:46! A cold but successful day in Richmond and I couldn’t have asked for a more fun weekend!

What’s the coldest temperature you’ve ever raced in?

Bull City Race Fest Half Marathon

About a week ago I ran the Bull City Race Fest Half Marathon in Durham. Going into the race, I didn’t have a specific plan I was going to stick to. Since I’m running two half marathons this fall, I have generally decided I would be happy with anything under 1:45 in both of them and would love to set some sort of solid PR in one of them. Bull City Race Fest was easily going to be the more difficult of the two since it is a hilly course and Richmond is practically flat. But before race morning I decided I would start out somewhere just under 8:00 per mile and see how it went and adjust accordingly.

I met up with friends from Bull City Track Club before the start. Ever since that time I was late to a race start I have a lurking paranoia of race tardiness so we got there over an hour ahead of time. It was chilly out but as the sun came up it turned into perfect race weather. There was plenty of time to use the bathroom, check our bags, and then take yet another, more hurried trip to the bathroom and run back to our starting spot.

The race started nearly five minutes early. Yes, five minutes EARLY. I’m pretty sure this is something that has never happened in the history of all races. Everyone was amazed (and/or kind of mad). The world may have even stopped spinning.

The race started in downtown Durham and there were immediately a number of little, rolling hills. When I first checked my watch I was at around a 7:45 pace. A little fast, but not necessarily too fast. As we left downtown and headed into the more residential areas I settled in and was steadily keeping it between 7:48 and 7:50.

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The easy highlight of the race was somewhere in the 6 mile-ish area when I saw my all time favorite Durham fixture. There’s an old, bearded man with a potbelly who I see absolutely every day walking by my office wearing no shoes, no shirt, with his dog ‘Happy’ in tow. Sure enough, he and Happy were standing on the side of the race course watching the runners pass by. Pretty much made my day. It’s the little things.

As we left the residential area and headed toward Duke University East Campus I was feeling less than perfect. I dealt with a side stitch and felt a bit worn down but was somehow staying within that same 2 second pace window the whole time.

Leaving East Campus during mile eight there was a fantastically fast and long down hill and it lent itself to my second wind. My average pace was still hovering around 7:50 into mile 9 and beyond and, for the first time, I felt some confidence that I could keep it going to the finish. After all, what’s three more miles?

But that’s when the soul-sucking hills made their appearance. The small and manageable rolling hills from the first three miles were nothing compared to the seemingly endless and steep hills during the last three miles. It was rough, and from mile 10 to the end I was just desperate to finish and my steady 7:50 average pace started to crash and burn.

I was able to pick up a little speed during one last, good downhill before a long straight and, of course, up hill finish. Usually I am able to manage a pretty strong finishing kick but, this time, not so much.

I finished in 1:43:58 and was 16th out of 280 in my age group. I was happy to keep it under 1:45 like I wanted and was actually pretty close to my PR time of 1:43:30. I think the whole thing is a pretty positive sign for what I can do at the Richmond Half Marathon in a few weeks.

The race was well-run, minus that whole starting early thing, and it was fun to run through a lot of parts of Durham that were new to me. But easily the best part of the race weekend for me was being able to enjoy it with new friends that I have met through Bull City Track Club. I’ve been running alone for a long time (like, the entire time) and having new friends to train and race with has been such a great contribution to the sport for me.

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Oh, and the other best part of the race was this picture of me at the finish where I look utterly horrified by whatever is on my watch.

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You’re welcome for that.

Run any races recently? How did it go?