13.1 – A Recap of A Half Marathon

Running My Second Half Marathon

The miles are logged in since June and got serious by August. Every run that I took before this race was the focus of this race. I also run for health and for the love of doing it but this was the day of meeting my goals. I keep a calendar next to my desk solely for logging my miles and tallying the weekly mileage and my weight that week. As the weeks drew closer I tightened the belt and applied more discipline to my training, which not only involves running but also eating and rest.

I could not have asked for a more perfect day to race. Starting temperature was 48 and got to 55 by the end of the race. The sun was shining and the winds subsided. Last year I ran this race it was the day Hurricane Sandy came in to the Northeast. In the days leading up to the race I was mostly calm. My taper week went well with a bit of weight loss, 3 healthy runs and lots of rest.

This race takes place in Pennypack Park. It is technically Philadelphia but you will never see one car or house along the route. It is all in the woods and runs along Pennypack Creek. It is different from most races in many ways: You don;t have a cheering section all along the path. Your friends and family can only see you start and finish. There are no corporate sponsors for the shirt you get is just  a plain colored tech shirt with the race logo. After the race the family of the event planners make sauerkraut and sausage, German potato salad, and homemade pumpkin bread.

The race starts at 10 am (another variation from most 6 – 7 am starts) and all 500 of us lined up. I had my running partner, Katrina with me who already told me due to an injury she’s be pacing me. We started at a conservative pace. The crowd cheered us on for the .2 miles that they could see us and we were into the woods. The first part has a few rolling hills. I remembered my “tiny feet shuffle” run going uphill. I made sure to not look at my phone for pace too much or at all. We waited until we were a half mile in to check.

After the first mile we had a nice buffer of people around us. It wasn’t crowded but we certainly weren’t alone. I noticed a couple in front of us walking already. At first I thought, “Oh No. They crashed already” but soon realized they were doing the Jeff Galloway method. I got a chance to ask them if that’s what they ere doing and they were. We were with them for at least 10-11 miles of this race.

We skipped the first water station since we hadn’t run 2 miles, yet. I felt great. I wasn’t pushing to run and I could carry a conversation. At 3 miles we hot our first aid station. Katrina took a moment to stretch and I took a moment to pause and drink. We carried on. We still had the same people in front of us and behind us. I mentioned to Katrina that this was a good thing. We had our own little pace group going on.

I decided to dedicate each mile after 3 to someone in my life who has passed. I told my family I’d be doing this so I’d text my wife the mile number and name. If I felt tired all I had to do was picture the person I was running for. Katrina and I talked our way through a 10k already! I was feeling great!  I could tell I was going to finish strong and was keeping a reserved pace but not holding back.

We knew there was going to be a small and easy trail section in this race. It was supposed to be between 6.5 and 8.5 miles. The trail seemed to have come in around mile 7 and lasted for 3 miles. It was an easy trail course but it was trail, nonetheless. The trail was narrow and rocky. It wasn’t made for 2 people to run side by side so Katrina got a bit ahead of me. I could always see her but she was ahead. I decided to put my music on to help motivate me.

During the last mile of the trail I was feeling sore and a bit fatigued. I kept telling myself once the trail section was over I’d have 4 miles to finish. I caught up with Katrina, or she waited for me and she reminded me the same thing. We can pick up our pace once we get on the paved path. The paved path finally showed up and we stopped briefly to hydrate and catch our breath. I pushed on but could tell I was struggling and running slower.

I’m not sure what happened during the last 3 miles but, instead of saying I hit the wall, I’ll say I started to fall apart. My quads locked up on me. My hands were numb, and I was feeling dizzy. I decided that I would not lose the mental battle so I cleared my head. I had to push on, so I did. Somewhere between mile 10 and 11, Katrina got upset with me. Not because I was dragging but because I didn’t give her an audible that I was stopping. I suppose I thought I’d say nothing, walk fast and then run to catch up with her. But that wasn’t happening. Once I realized why she was upset I made sure to tell her that I was stopping.

I kept telling myself that to get past this I need to run. I would do so but then I couldn’t catch my breath. My arms were now getting numb and my legs not moving in a straight line. This was more than mental, it was now physical. I was starting to get upset with myself. What happened to all those months of training? All those weeks of proper eating and rest? Did I not eat enough this morning? My guess is that was a huge part of it. My stomach is very sensitive (GERD) so I had a green drink for breakfast. I should have made some Ezekiel toast,too.

I continued to run / walk for the rest of the course. We walked each hill but ran down each one of them. Soon, we could hear the crowd, and I could see the cars parked in the lot. I looked ahead of me and there was Frank, the guy who was running with his wife doing the Galloway method. He had finished but came back to get us.

“There you are! Looking good,man You’re almost there, let’s do this”

He started to run with us. He assured me that as soon as we got out of the woods that the crowd would carry us to the finish line. He was right. I saw my wife, Morgan, my mom and dad, and hundreds of others cheering for us. We did it. Another 13.1 miles ran in the record books. My time was 2 minutes slower than last year but, so what. I finished it. I also ran most of this race at a much healthier pace than last year and for a longer distance.

I learned a lot in my training and maintained good health through it all. I have another half marathon in  5 weeks in Florida. This course lists as a flat / fast course with no trails so I have yet another goal to look forward to.

It’s hard for me NOT to be disappointed in myself.  hitting the wall was not an option. Coming in slower than last year was not an option. Walking most of the last 2 miles was not an option. I have to put this behind me and learn from it. I finished the race. I ran strong for most of it and ran strong for many more miles than last year. I made myself a much healthier person in my training. I know I will finish my next 13.1 miles in a much faster time. And I will enjoy every mile of it along the way.


7 responses to “13.1 – A Recap of A Half Marathon

  1. A great write up- I always think I learn from every race even if I didn’t get the result I may have wanted (which happens a lot!). I agree that it sounds like there may have been a problem with your fuelling on the day. Do you eat anything during the run? I find I suffer from the same symptoms if I don’t stop and eat a bar or take a gel 90 minutes in 🙂

    • Since I have sensitive stomach issues and crazy nerves the morning pif the race, all I ate was a home made smoothie of blueberries, spinach, yogurt and peanut butter with banana. As far as race fuel goes I carry the chewable GU gels. I should have had me some toast for a goof carb source. Thanks!

  2. What an interesting race! Total opposite of my race, a giant cityscape. How nice of that guy to come back for you. Runners are so kind.
    Your running experience reminds me of my half experience last April. I hit the wall at mile 10 and couldn’t make myself continuously run the rest no matter how much I wanted it. My performance then has bothered me until Sunday, to be honest. I knew I didn’t have it in me that day but I couldn’t let go of my disappointment.
    Before my race Sunday a runner told me something interesting that she read from Hal Higdon. Basically as runners we rely on muscle memory–if we’ve trained to run long runs without stopping our bodies think we’re done with running once we start walking. Thus, how hard it is to get back to running if you have to walk in a race. Your body can only switch like that if the walking is part of the plan all along, like the Galloway method.
    My walking experience provided me with a ton of motivation to do better at my last race; hopefully you can do the same in 5 weeks. (I had to wait 6 months before redemption!)

    • Thanks, Nora for the helpful insight. Funny thing is, living in the city I stop often for traffic lights. The last 10 mile run I did I felt a bit fatigued at mile 9 but we hit a few red lights and I got my energy and cardio strength back. I have to use the analogy that some long runs are a huge success and others are not. I also want to blame my lack of morning carbs pre-race day. What I will take away from it is that I ran much stronger for longer than I did last year. And I can always go out and run, no matter what. 🙂

      • Great attitude! I agree, some of my training runs felt impossible at times and some felt awesome. Race day is kind of a roll of the dice as to which runner you will feel like. At least you can try increasing your carbs.

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