On Saturday I ran the Charleston Half Marathon. I was really excited about this race for many reasons. It was my first time visiting a place I’ve wanted to see for years, my training was going really well and I was excited to push myself to see what progress I’ve made over the last 8 weeks. The main goal of this race was to check into my training and help me create a realistic goal for the Myrtle Beach Marathon in March. The race itself did not go entirely as I hoped it would, but it was such a good reminder that races are about so much more than a finish time and splits. Looking at those two pieces of information, this appears to not be a very good result for me. I finished in 1:45:24, missing my PR by 50 seconds, and almost every mile was slower than the last (huge positive split). However, I feel more proud about how I handled this race than many others I have done, including Richmond this past November where I got my big PR. Here are the details!
My husband, Kyler and I left my in-laws house in Myrtle Beach at 5:30 AM to make the drive to Charleston, which is about an hour and a half away. One of the appealing things about this race was that it was on the smaller side, which meant logistics were easy. We were able to find parking close to the start, pick up my race packet the morning of, pump, and use the bathroom (twice) without having to worry about rushing or being late.The weather felt amazing as I lined up at the start. It was in the high 40s/low 50s at the time. I actually wondered if I might have made a mistake by wearing a long-sleeved shirt, but I wanted to wear my shirt from the Richmond Half because I felt so strong during that race. I also knew it was going to be windy and I thought the sleeves might come in handy to shield against that. I situated myself between the 1:30 and 1:45 half marathon pace groups, since I ran Richmond in 1:44:33 and was hoping to run faster than that, and tried to settle my nerves. I was feeling really anxious and like I had a ton of penned up energy inside. I was more than ready to let it out and start running.
The race began right at 8:00, and I instantly felt relief that I could finally burn off my nervous energy. The first mile was pretty crowded and it was a little hard to find my rhythm. I also had to stop for a minute to adjust my compression sleeves because one was falling down. But after that I started to feel much better (maybe a little too good, hello mile 2!), and I got into my goal pace range of 7:45-7:50/mile.
- Mile 1 – 7:52
- Mile 2 – 7:37
- Mile 3 – 7:48
This was a point-to-point race that started at a high school, went south along the water for a few miles, and then the remainder of the race went north. The first few miles by the water were beautiful, but I had a hard time enjoying them to the fullest extent because the sun was shining SO brightly and I could barely see. I was wishing I had my sunglasses! I also felt some wind during these coastal miles but nothing too bad, which made me hopeful that the rest of the race would be okay in terms of wind.
However, once we changed directions after mile 3 and started heading north I realized that we were running into a strong headwind. Eek! I hoped that it would pass, since I knew we’d be running north for the majority of the rest of the race. I wasn’t worried at this point. I was feeling good!
- Mile 4 – 7:48
- Mile 5 – 7:47
I absolutely loved the first half of the race. Between the water and then running through the main street of Charleston, past all the adorable stores and beautiful homes and palm trees. It was everything I pictured it would be! The crowds downtown were nice too, and I was thankful for the spectators who came out to cheer for us.
However, once we left this part of town and started heading into a more empty, industrial section, I started to feel the effects of running into a constant headwind. It also became more obvious with less things around to distract me. I passed the halfway point at a 7:48 average pace, but I started to worry about whether or not I would be able to maintain that.
- Mile 6 – 7:52
- Mile 7 – 7:54
My pace kept creeping up even though I felt like I was exerting more and more effort. This didn’t feel like the pace I had been practicing in tempo runs. This felt so much harder than that. By the time I passed mile 8 and realized I had run that in the same time as I did for my 8 mile tempo run last week (which was on tons of hills and not even during a race!), I realized that I needed to scale back my effort level a bit if I was going to make it to the end without blowing up. I knew that I needed to switch from trying to maintain a certain pace to trying to maintain a steady effort level instead, acknowledging the toll the conditions of the race were taking on me.
- Mile 8 – 7:58
- Mile 9 – 8:12
- Mile 10 – 8:10
- Mile 11 – 8:12
At this point I knew I had two miles to go and not much left in the tank. My Garmin told me my average pace for the race so far was 7:58, which was the exact pace I PRed in at Richmond. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to maintain that for the last two miles but I at least wanted to fight like hell to finish as close as I could get to that time. We entered a park that had some packed gravel/uneven terrain and a trail that wound around in different directions and it threw off my rhythm a bit. I just tried to hold on the best I could, but my last two miles were the slowest by far.
- Mile 12 – 8:26
- Mile 13 – 8:24
I passed the mile 13 flag at my exact PR of 1:44:33 and felt sad immediately. I really expected to do better at this race and not to struggle this much. Right as I turned the corner to the final stretch before the finish line I heard my husband yelling my name and I started to get all teary-eyed. I did my best to pick it up and finish strong.
- Finish Time – 1:45:24 / 8:02 average pace
I will be honest. I started crying as soon as I stopped running and threw myself a little pity party. I was disappointed in myself for missing my PR by 50 seconds. I had trained hard for the last 8 weeks and I felt like this race didn’t reflect my hard work. My husband tried to make me feel better but I couldn’t help but feel upset, and I knew I needed to let myself feel that way for a few minutes.
After getting some food and water I talked with him about the race, what happened, how I felt, and reflected on everything. It was then that I started to realize why I should be really proud of myself for the way I performed in this race. I fought hard and was up against some factors that were out of my control (like the wind), that forced me to really push myself physically and mentally. I realized that running a slower race doesn’t mean that I’m not stronger than I was when I started training for the Myrtle Beach Marathon. This race did it’s job- it allowed me to learn some lessons that will be very useful as I finish the last 7 weeks of training for another flat, coastal race that will be double the miles, and I am very thankful for that experience. I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself, be proud of my effort, take what I learned from it and move forward!
Once I checked my attitude, I couldn’t wait to start exploring Charleston some more. But first, I had to feed Kyler, sweaty boobs and all. Mother runner life!
Once Kyler was finished, we drove down to the center of Charleston to walk around, get some breakfast and do some shopping. It had warmed up some and the wind had died down (of course!!) and I absolutely loved exploring this beautiful town.
We came across a cute little restaurant called Sweetwater Cafe and decided to have breakfast there. Such a good choice – this place was delicious! Kyler even had his first taste of hash browns and he couldn’t get enough 🙂
After breakfast we walked around a little bit more until we were ready to head back to Myrtle Beach to our other little boy. The rest of the day was spent relaxing, playing on the beach at sunset, and having ice cream for dinner… just because. It doesn’t get much better than that.
I am so glad that I decided to run the Charleston Half Marathon. I feel more ready than ever to tackle the last half of my marathon training and finish the Myrtle Beach Marathon feeling strong and proud.