There are days in a runners life that remind us why we got into this sport in the first place. We put one foot in front of the other as fast as we can for as long as we can. We stop letting the numbers control us and realize that we actually control the numbers. Yesterday was one of those days for me. Yesterday was my sub-2.
Yesterday, I ran the Florida Beach Halfathon. I decided to run this course by myself with no iPod and no distractions. This was my redemption race and I wanted to give it everything I had. I wanted to run my own race at a pace I felt proud of at the finish line. I ran this race because I had something to prove, to myself.
The race is held at Ft. DeSoto Beach in Tierra Verde. The course is flat and fast with a 3-mile loop followed by a 10 mile out and back. The weather was perfect, overcast and cool. The race director and volunteers were incredible and put a lot of thought into this race. The bibs were even customized with our birthday as our race number. How cool is that?
Instead of detailing every mile of the course I’m going to do something different and detail my thoughts by mile. If you’re a runner, I’m sure a lot of this will resonate with you. If you’re not, you may think I’m insane by the end of this post. I’m okay with both.
I met up with my entourage of Meghan’s at 6am before the race. Meghan C, Meghan M, Meg and I sat in my car in the pitch black and chatted about all things running like we normally do.
We made our way over to the start line about 30 minutes before the race to pick up our timing chips.
Near the start line we ran into Mary. The five of us stood around chatting and laughing for nearly 30-minutes. In that time I kind of forgot that I was there to run a half marathon. It really wasn’t until the National Anthem was sung that I realized I was about to start another 13.1 mile journey.
We all wished each other luck and made our way across the start line. I robotically started my Garmin and settled into a pace I felt comfortable with.
During that first mile I just kept thinking how good I felt. My legs felt fresh and really strong. My breathing came so easy. It was so dark I couldn’t see the face of my watch. I was glad about that. I didn’t want my watch to dictate my pace; I wanted to dictate my pace.
When I saw the first mile marker I thought it came too fast. When my Garmin ticked off the first mile I looked down and realized it had come quicker than normal, but not by fault of the course. It was me that was faster than normal. I’d run the first mile in 8:40. A pace I’ve only ever held during 5Ks or tempo runs. Instead of freaking out like I normally would, I got really excited. I felt strong.
It was still dark but the sun was starting to come up. I decided that I wasn’t going to look at my watch until I felt like I was half way through the next mile. I looked down about half way through and realized I was holding strong to my pace. I made a plan to do this for every mile along the way.
At mile three we looped back around to the start/finish line. The announcer was cheery and telling us that we’d run faster if we had a smile on our faces. I remember thinking she was right. I put a smile on my face as I passed by and told myself I’d smile as much as I could this day.
At the 5k mark I realized I was just seconds off of my 5k PR. I remembered how I felt during the third mile of that race. I felt like I could fall over unconscious at any moment. My breathing was a mess and my legs were heavy during that whole race. I remember crossing the finish line thinking I couldn’t have held that pace for one more minute.
I felt nothing like that now. I felt like I could hold this pace all day. My breathing was easy, my legs felt strong and I was smiling. Today was my day.
I got really emotional at some point during this mile. I remember thinking that I wish I could call my fiancé and tell him I was doing it. I was running the race I’d trained for. I was running the race I KNEW I had in me. I really wished he could have been there. I knew he would have been proud. I was proud.
For some reason this was the mile I realized I could do it today, not only PR but I could go sub-2. I really hadn’t thought it was going to be possible to do it at this race until that time.
I also for some reason though that I was almost half way at this point. Math was never really my strongest subject and I definitely lose any of the computing skills I have when I’m running. So, thinking I was nearly half way, I decided to go for it. At this moment I decided this race was 1:59 or bust.
I checked my watch a few times during this mile. I could feel that I was starting to get inside my head and it was slowing me down. I made a conscious effort to stop and realized that I probably needed some nutrition, so I had a Gu.
During mile 6 I caught up to Meg. I started to get worried. She’s been battling some hip pain since her marathon last month (if you haven’t read this post you should, she’s one tough chick). I had a feeling something was wrong. This is a runner that I look up to, I shouldn’t be catching up to her. I asked her how she felt and could tell she was starting to hurt. I told her to race smart and she nodded and I went on ahead.
Apparently the Gu was exactly what I needed. I felt strong again.
Meghan M. ran past me on her way back to the finish line. She was all smiles and was hauling ass. That girl is an animal.
A few minutes later I saw Meghan C. during a roundabout. She was in the zone. She had a mission that day and from what I could tell she was well on her way to a PR. I felt proud of her. I was proud of all of them. I’m friends with a really strong group of women… who all happen to be named Meghan.
Mile 8 was the turnaround point to make our way back to the finish line. This was it. I was well-past the real half way point and I still felt strong.
During this mile I realized I’d been running practically side by side with the same guy in a green shirt for a few miles. I had a feeling we had the same mission from this point on.
During mile 9 I started thinking about how much time I’d “banked” during the race so far. I had saved more than minute. I was going to do this. My legs were getting a tired but I was thriving off it. I remember embracing the hurt. The hurt meant I was working.
During mile 10 I realized that I wasn’t slowing down like I thought I would. I had a 5k left and I still had 5k left in my legs. They were tired, sure, but they were going to finish strong.
I also realized that the time I’d “banked” to use later in the race was really time that I’d be BELOW 2:00. It was an insane thought to me. I’d always thought that when I finally did get my sub-2 that I’d be hitting that timing mat with seconds to spare. I always thought that I’d be calculating how much I needed to pick it up for the last 5k. Could I really be finishing the race with more than a minute to spare?
I started thinking about my last post. How I was proud of myself for letting go of the pressure but never of the dream. By not defining how my race should go ahead of time had allowed me to run my own race today. I felt limitless. I was going sub-2, now how much below that 2-hour mark was I going to be?
I looked over at the guy in the green. He was still next to me and he still looked strong. We were going to do this.
I think I blacked out for all of mile 12. Seriously, I don’t remember it at all…
This was the toughest mile, as it should be. I remember thinking just hang on. Just hang on for 1 more mile. Fight for it. It didn’t matter If I never ever see the clock say 1:xx again in my life, I was going to today.
The last quarter mile or so of the race snakes around from the road, through a parking lot, and then to the finish chute. I could see the clock when I was coming off the road. It said 1:57. I could do this.
When I came into the finish line I saw Meghan, Meghan and Mary. Someone yelled “you did it!”
I put my face in my hands and I cried for a minute. I had done it.
Official Finish Time: 1:58:08
As I got my medal and made my way through the finish line area a man came and tapped me on the back. He thanked me for pacing him. He said he’d hung behind me for a lot of the race. I had been completely unaware. The guy in the green appeared too. He also thanked me and said he’d done the same thing. Three total strangers and we’d all paced each other one way or another. How cool is that?
I met up with Meghan M, Meghan C. and Mary. They had also ALL PR’d this race. There was a lot of celebration and excitement.
Meg was just a few minutes behind me. Despite nursing her hip for most of the race she’d finished in 2:02. I told you, she’s one tough chick.
We sat around for a while and talked, danced and drank green beer while we waited for the awards so Meghan M. could claim her 2nd place age group medal!
I was so happy I was able to share this experience with these girls. I’m not sure if they know just how much they’ve each inspired me throughout the last year. Heck, even just the last few weeks. I’m so grateful for them.
Also, thank you all for all of your support in accomplishing this goal. Your comments have been a constant source of inspiration to me.