7:48, 7:46, 7:58, 7:45, 7:42, 8:17, 7:30, 7:45, 8:11, 8:39, 8:03, 7:18, 7:43
“All those running the 5K, go to the right. If you’re running the half, stay to the left.”
When I heard those words from one of the race volunteers at the half marathon on Sunday, I had a flashback to one year ago. Every year at this race, the 5K and half marathon take place on the same day, near the same location, and at around the same time. The two routes have a point at which they overlap each other.
Last year, I ran the 5K on that day since that was the only distance I had been racing at that time. I remember watching the large group of runners, including many from my running group, who were racing the half marathon. I greatly admired them for being able to race for that long.
I PR’d (got a personal record) at that 5K, with a time of 21.27 and placed 1st in my age group. Although I was very happy with these results, I remember thinking I only placed because all the endurance runners in my age group were racing the half marathon that day.
Well, one year has passed and I’m reminded yet again of how far I’ve come in my running. I know for sure there was absolutely no way I would have been prepared to race 13.1 miles one year ago. I certainly wouldn’t have been able to do this at an average pace of under 8-minute miles.
It’s true the shorter distance races are very challenging in that they’re a great test of quick speed. You just go all out and see how fast you can go. Yet, a half marathon is much more about endurance, mental strength, and the ability to pace yourself. I’ve had lots of practice racing longer distances over these past few months.
With my best friends standing on either side of me, the race began. In this race, I didn’t have a set strategy in mind. While I can’t say I didn’t often look at my watch during the race, I didn’t use it to set my pace. Instead, I used the way I was feeling to determine how fast or slow I should run. It was pretty simple, actually. If I felt relaxed, I sped up. If I began to breathe heavily, I slowed down.
Also, I didn’t let the hills intimidate me as they usually do. I took Tara’s advice about where to focus my eyes when going up hills, which is this: “I recommend focusing a little ways up (10-15 feet in front of you)….basically you do not want your neck bent…you want your shoulders relaxed, your elbows swinging more back behind you.”
Overall, I’m pleased with my time, my splits, and the progress I’ve made in one year. It appears the marathon training plan is working.
While I didn’t place 1st in my age group like last year—nor did I expect to—I placed 7th in age, out of 83. I’ll take it.
I believe anyone can make progress at anything. You just need a combination of patience, practice, and perseverance–and, of course, a positive mental attitude.
I finally feel like I fully belong to that group of endurance runners who I admired at last year’s race—and it felt great to be able to join them as they “stayed to the left.”