On Saturday morning I ran the Patrick Henry Half Marathon with two of my running buddies. We decided to do this race only a few days before and I am so glad we did! After having such a great time at the Hartwood 10 Miler on Sunday, the thought had crossed my mind to do this small, local half marathon the following weekend and keep riding the endorphin high. But I didn’t know if that was crazy or not. It’s been a long time since I’ve raced any substantial distance besides a 5K, let alone two back-to-back longer races. I’ve been doing long runs of 10-12 miles all summer long to maintain my base but haven’t been doing any real speed work except for short sprints at the track with a friend. So I was undecided about attempting a half and was leaning toward waiting for the one I had already registered for on October 4th.
It wasn’t until I was out for a run on Tuesday night with my friend Laura that I changed my mind. She is currently 20 weeks pregnant and had also done the Hartwood 10 Miler a few days before and felt great. I asked her if having a good race was giving her the urge to do more, and she said, “Well actually, there’s a half marathon I’m considering doing this weekend…” I laughed because I knew it was the same one, and I should have already known she was thinking about it! I told her I wanted to do it too but I didn’t know if I was crazy or not. Within the 40 minutes we were running we had decided to go for it. We got home and registered that night, and also convinced another running buddy Leslie to join us. A spontaneous half marathon in 4 days? Sure, why not!
I told myself that since I had just raced and PRed at a 10 I really needed to go into this race with no real expectations for a PR or anything like that. I definitely wanted to do my best, but I knew there would be some difficult conditions I would have to work through. The course was very hilly (but beautiful!) and the weather forecast was warm and very humid. I figured if nothing else it would be a fun way to spend a Saturday morning and give me a good idea of my current fitness level as I start preparing for my October half.
The race started at 7:00 a.m. and took place in Ashland, Virginia, which is about 50 minutes away from where I live. This meant my alarm was set for 4:30 (!!!), so I could do all my pre-race routines and be ready to leave by 5:30. We still needed to pick up our race packets and go to the bathroom one last time (very necessary!), so we wanted to make sure we had enough time for all of that. We got a little bit of a late start due to a mix up about who would drive, and then a stop for gas, which put us behind. We arrived at the start around 6:40 and quickly picked up our stuff, ran the race shirts back to the car, and went to wait in the longest port-a-potty line I’ve ever seen!
The race was actually bigger than I expected, so I started to get nervous we would miss the start. Even though I didn’t expect much in terms of how fast I was going to run and I knew the race was chip timed, I still didn’t want to be stuck behind a big crowd of people and have to weave my way through. As the time ticked closer to 7:00 I knew we weren’t going to make it, but people slowly started leaving the bathroom line to go to the start. Unfortunately I HAD to pee before starting to run (and so did my two friends), so we continued to wait. We heard the gun go off and shortly after it was our turn. We quickly did what we needed to do and then ran over to the start, crossing about 2 ½ minutes after the official start time.
My first mile was spent mainly trying to get past everyone who had chosen to start in the back because they were running at a slower pace- which is exactly what they should have done! I felt frustrated that I had to do a lot of weaving but I knew it was my own fault for starting late. I still ran a pretty decent first mile despite all of that and was feeling pretty good. Mile 2 was even faster- probably a little too fast! But I was just happy to have some breathing room. During the third mile I realized that I was already sweating quite a bit and feeling thirsty. The humidity was already starting to affect me and I knew it would be tough to maintain the pace I was running, even though it was already slower than my race the weekend before. It just felt a lot more difficult! I stuck to the same nutrition plan that worked so well for me at the 10 miler- eating half a pack of Honey Stinger Chews 25 minutes into the race and then again every 20 minutes after that.
- Mile 1 – 8:25
- Mile 2 – 8:02
- Mile 3 – 8:19
Rather than focus on conditions that I couldn’t control, I tried to look around at the beautiful farmland we were running through, the pretty sky, the runners all around me, and all the reasons I love to run. It definitely helped me maintain focus on why I was doing this race and I was really enjoying it, even though my pace was consistently slowing down.
- Mile 4 – 8:23
- Mile 5 – 8:26
- Mile 6 – 8:36
I passed the halfway point (mile 6.55) at a little over 55 minutes. I was actually doing better than I had expected, but I knew I couldn’t maintain that for the second half since it was only getting warmer and more humid. The sun was behind clouds and there was a nice breeze that came through every once in a while which helped, but I kept getting distracted by my pace that was slowing down. So I decided to turn off my watch once I hit mile 7. I just wanted to keep enjoying myself rather than allowing myself to feel pressured by what my watch said. I knew I wasn’t going to PR at all. When I turned off my watch my average pace so far was 8:25, and my half marathon PR was run at an 8:18 pace. However, I knew that I still wanted to finish feeling proud of myself and my effort so I kept pushing.
- Mile 7 – 8:48
After turning it off I focused on getting up and over the (many) uphills, relaxing on the downhills, and talking to runners around me when I needed a little boost. It didn’t feel easy at all and I really did have to fight for each mile, especially since I was having a lot of pain due to my shoes. I knew after this race they would be officially retired- they are so worn out and just DONE. I could feel it in my feet, ankles, calves, the blister on my left foot- everywhere! It was very painful but I kept pushing. My mind wanted to stop and walk so many times but I knew physically I didn’t need to. I reminded myself that I wanted to finish feeling proud and that I gave it my all given the conditions that I was in, so I kept going.
I ended up getting a little second wind during the last two miles and was able to pick it up once I knew the end was near. Finally we turned right and ran alongside the railroad tracks where we started, making the final long stretch to the finish line. I was shocked when I saw the finish time on the clock as I got closer to it. It said 1:54 and counting and I knew that I was a little over two minutes behind. I couldn’t believe I actually did that well and didn’t slow down as much as I had thought I did after turning off my watch!
- Finish Time – 1:52:47, 8:37 per mile
As soon as I finished the race my official finish time was texted to my phone (love modern day racing technology!) I realized that I ended up running the second half not too much slower than the first. There was about a 2.5 minute difference between my two splits, but I thought it would be much more than that. I was actually thinking I would be finishing around the 1:56-1:57 mark. My finish time was a little less than 4 minutes slower than my PR, but I was so happy with it!
After getting some water and my medal I went back to the finish line to wait for my friends. I was so shocked to see Laura (my friend who is 20 weeks pregnant) come through just over 2:08, which is a sub-10 minute pace! Her goal was around 2:15 and she killed that!
Just a couple minutes later my friend Leslie came through looking strong!
Once we were finished, we headed over to get some food and talk about the race. We all really enjoyed it even though it was challenging, and decided we would love to do it again next year. I actually feel more proud of this race than last week’s PR at the 10 miler, where an 8:04 pace felt relatively effortless. Even though my pace was a good 30 seconds slower per mile this time, I had to fight for this one more due to things that were out of my control, and I overcame them. It is a great feeling ☺
Now, which other races can I sign up for? The fall racing season is THE BEST!!!