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Race Recap: Runner’s World Half Marathon

Race Recap: Runner’s World Half Marathon

Hi, guys! Okay, so this is RIDICULOUSLY overdue, but I wanted to go ahead and recap my most recent half marathon before posting another update on my Dopey Challenge training…and the Halloween 5K I ran last weekend! Better late than never, right? :)

In case you missed it, my blog about the first half of the Runner’s World “Hat Trick” — the 5K and 10K — can be found here!

I had mentioned in my previous post that the half marathon was rough for me. And, indeed, after a week’s worth of reflection, I can still say with absolute certainty that it was the most I’ve ever struggled during a race, no question about it.

But what I can also say, now that I’ve had a few days to think about what went wrong, is that I’m actually kind of glad that I struggled so much out there last weekend. I think it’s the tough races that teach you the most…and, certainly, make you appreciate the accomplishment (and my new shiny bling) that much more.

We woke up bright and early (again) to make it to the starting line for the 8am race. This time, Todd was going to be running, and since I wasn’t going out for any particular time goals — I figured the whole running 9+ miles on a hilly course the previous day would probably put a bit of a damper on that — I decided I’d stay with him for a bit in the beginning before he took off. I also thought I’d see if I could get him to try speeding up to my pace in the early miles (he prefers negative splits), since I was convinced he could go out a little bit faster and still manage to pick it up in the second half of the race (spoiler alert: I WAS RIGHT).

When they sent us off, that’s exactly what happened. We were running together, and I was feeling just oh-so-smart since I had technically already run parts of the course the previous day. I warned him about upcoming hills, and we were maintaining my usual pace in the early miles of a half marathon — somewhere in the neighborhood of a 9:00-9:15/mile.

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Even though I struggled up some of the hills in the early miles, and was definitely feeling the tightness in my legs from the previous day’s races, I was having fun and feeling pretty good. I figured I’d be just fine to maintain my usual pace for the remainder of the race.

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As I’m sure you may have already guessed…that was a very incorrect assumption. Somewhere in miles 6 and 7, after I had already climbed several hills — and, again, these are not “rolling” hills! — my legs decided to stop cooperating. I could feel the tightness in my quads and calves, probably from the races the previous morning, and my energy started to take a nosedive. I don’t know that I’ve ever felt so fatigued during a half marathon, and certainly not so early…I wasn’t even halfway done yet.

But it really wasn’t even the physical discomfort that was getting me. It was the fact that the moment I started to struggle, those inner voices that tell me I can’t run a marathon…and I will never be able to finish Dopey Challenge…took over. Never mind that the course was rough and that I had run my usual pace in two back-to-back races the day before. To me, the fact that I wasn’t flying through the second half of the race meant that I was ill prepared to take on Dopey and that all of the work Ive been pouring into marathon training would be useless…because I’d never finish. If I couldn’t seem to manage the 5K, 10K, and half marathon, how in the world could I expect to run a full marathon on top of it?

As we approached mile 8, we had just run past several funny signs from the Running Skirts ladies, who were at the top of a particularly brutal hill giving out skirts and throwing a little party, so I appreciated the distraction. We were then running through a cemetery — always interesting scenery for someone who pretty much felt like she was going to keel over at that point.

I could tell Todd was raring to take off, so I told him to go ahead. It was mainly because I didn’t want to hold him back, but also partly because I didn’t want him to have to witness the meltdown I could feel coming over me. I was so physically uncomfortable and couldn’t stomach the thought of climbing another hill. I was so tired of running. I was so tired of beating myself up. And I knew that — like the serious physical challenge that awaits me in January — this race was something I had to do all on my own.

I really, really didn’t want to go on.

No matter how many times I yelled at myself to stop the negative thinking, I couldn’t stop the fear from taking over. Suddenly, I was downright convinced that I’d NEVER be able to finish Dopey and I wasn’t ready to run a marathon and what was I thinking and how I could I be so stupid and why do I constantly let myself bite off more than I can chew and who was I to think that I deserved to be out there with all the other runners who could manage 48.6 miles in a weekend…and on and on and on. I hated myself for beating myself up the way I was, but it was happening…and I freaked out. It took everything I had not to dissolve into an emotional mess right then and there on the race course, and I refused to let myself stop to regain my composure.

I had to finish this race, and I had to show myself that even when things get tough, I am strong enough to keep moving forward. And, apparently, loony enough to STILL smile for the cameras, even when I’m dying on the inside.

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The last 5 miles, honestly, felt more like 15 miles. I thought I’d never be done. I was struggling just to maintain a 10:30/pace, and doing everything I could to distract myself from the fatigue. It was somewhere in mile 10 when one of the well-meaning water station volunteers, who I assumed saw just how miserable I looked, told me not to worry, “it was all downhill from here.” I felt myself perk up immediately, until I turned the next corner and found another hill. And then another hill. And then another hill. I kind of wanted to turn back around and punch her, not gonna lie.

Don’t get me wrong, the majority of the course was quite scenic and we ran through both the downtown area of Bethlehem in addition to lots of pretty residential areas, but the terrain was pretty brutal. I’m fairly certain that even if I had done nothing but sit around with my feet up the previous day, I still would have had a hard time.

After the mile 11 marker, when I had pretty much given up all hope and stopped looking at my watch altogether, I saw the 2:10 pacer run by. I was thinking I had been going so much slower than I actually was, and my fast start apparently meant that I actually wasn’t so far off my usual half marathon finish time. I had just got done telling myself just to focus on putting one foot in front of the other and finishing the “Hat Trick,” but then the pacer ran by and all of my competitive juices came rushing back. My worst half marathon time was 2:14 in Philly, followed by a 2:11 at the Superhero Half Marathon…and I suddenly wanted nothing more than to beat that 2:10 pacer to the finish line.

So I started running. Hard. As fast as I could go at that point. I managed to catch up to the pacer, flew down a hill and regained some of my speed, and just kept going. I kept looking over my shoulder to see how far back she was, like I was being chased or something…people probably thought I had lost my damn mind.

Then, finally, FINALLY, we were back at the Steel Stacks, and I knew from the previous day’s races that the finish line was just around the corner.

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But, first, another hill! That’s when the 2:10 pacer caught me again, and I was running beside her for about half a mile mile up the hill. She told me I was doing a great job, and the finish line was just up ahead. It’s moments like these that really make you appreciate the spectators and all the people who volunteer their time to help get you through these tough moments in a race. I picked up my pace again and ran as fast as my legs would carry me to the finish line.

Shockingly, I crossed the finish line in 2:09:52. I still don’t know how I pulled that one off.

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I collected my half marathon medal — a larger version of the previous day’s 5K and 10K medals — and found Todd waiting for me.120318-716-013f

I have never been so happy to be done with a race. I fought back the urge to have another meltdown, and asked him what his finish time was; according to his Garmin, he had finished under 2 hours! The official results posted him at 2:00:06.

It is absolutely my goal to run a sub-2 hour half marathon someday — I was so excited (and borderline jealous, haha) for him to come so close. I know he’ll get it next time!

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After the race, I felt completely fine. Like nothing had gone wrong.We enjoyed the post-race festival, took some pictures (as per usual), and cheered on some of the other runners.

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Later, we walked around the Sands Casino a bit, browsed in the outlets, got some dinner at Burgers and More By Emeril, and everything was hunky dory.

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And, of course, I had to get plenty of pictures in my new Runner’s World hat and with my three medals!

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And that’s how knew that my difficulty on the course that morning had a whole lot more to do with my brain than my legs. I am CONSTANTLY fighting with myself about this freakin’ Dopey Challenge, and I know there are probably several people in my life who don’t really believe I can finish these races. Some days, I include myself on that list.

But then I cross another finish line, or I finish a 16-mile training run (more on that later!), and start thinking that I’VE GOT THIS. I still don’t know what in the world I was thinking when I clicked that registration button and decided to make the Dopey Challenge my first marathon, but I do know this much: I WILL finish. There is NOTHING that will keep me from that marathon medal. I don’t care how much it hurts or how much I have to sacrifice along the way — my sanity, my sleep, my time, whatever — finishing a race challenge like the “Hat Trick” proves that I have the inner strength that will carry me to that finish line. No matter what!

How do you deal with negative thoughts/fear when training for a big race?

How do you help yourself bounce back after a tough race?

Comments

  1. Look at what an awesome time you got for such a hard race! OF COURSE you co do this challenge! And it is at Disney so your goal will be to collect photos, not speedy times, right??? You can absolutely do it, just start visualizing it all now and practice it a little each day and you will feel great by the time Dopey comes!

    • Aw, Thanks, Amy! I really appreciate the vote of confidence, and you are ABSOLUTELY RIGHT. You know Disney races are all about the experience for me, so I’m definitely not looking for speedy times…I just want to finish. Then, for my next marathon (assuming I survive this one), I’ll focus on time. :-D

  2. LOVE the pictures, you guys look fabulous! That was such a tough race, if I didn’t have my girls with me, it may have ended a lot later for me than it did! Yikes! Those hills. Disney is flat! We have so got this Dopey thing, no problem! Plus you will have the characters and the roller coaster to distract you from the enormity of it all! You go girl!

    • Thanks, Kim! I’m glad I’m not the only one who thought it was a tough course, and YES — thanks for the reminder. I kept thinking about that…I’m running up another hill during the race and thinking “Disney is flat…Disney is flat…Disney is flat…” LOL.

  3. Oh my goodness, I hate so much when the negative thoughts creep up. Most of the time I try to distract myself with singing some of my favorite songs in my head instead – it helps a lot actually!

    You CAN and WILL accomplish the Dopey Challenge! I just know it!

    • It definitely threw me for a loop. I knew I was being ridiculous, but couldn’t stop, and I let myself get all wound up. I tried focusing on my iPod, too, and that does help sometimes!

      Thanks so much, Lauren, appreciate it! Deep down, I know I can do this…I just have to stop letting my head get in the way!

  4. Great job! I”ve been there before with thoughts creeping in to just step off the course. Then I get mad at the course and/or the injury so I’m not doubting myself at that point.

    • EXACTLY! I know what you mean. I think it’s definitely better to consider things that are out of our control, like the course, and how it could be affecting our performance, instead of completely doubting ourselves.

  5. You are absolutely right, you learn much more from the bad runs than from the good and it sounds like you took a few good lessons from this race!

    It sounds like you’ve already figured out a lot of what I would have told you after reading this post, but my BIGGEST advice I can give you for Dopey having done the “unofficial” Dopey last year is you can’t RACE all those runs! The Dopey Challenge is a challenge to complete the distance, it’s not a time to be worrying about PR’s. Last year I ran the 5k with my mom – it was a very slow and comfortable run. The half marathon I ran with my sister (her first) so we ran intervals (to save my legs!) and stopped for MANY pictures, we finished in around 2:40 something I think. And come marathon day my legs still felt pretty good because I took the other races so easy!

    I know it’s hard for someone with a competitive nature, but you need to look at Dopey as a distance challenge, not a speed/ time challenge! : )

    • Hi, Danielle! Yes, I definitely learned my lesson. You are absolutely right. I really appreciate your advice and perspective, and I will ABSOLUTELY take it easy during the other races this January. And, you know I’m going to be taking tons of pictures, no matter what. My goal is to FINISH. I’ll worry about time for my next marathon. :-D

  6. Good for you!!! I could totally relate to how you were feeling during those last 5 miles. What a blessing for the 2:10 pace runner to be close by! I’m so impressed that you kicked it into high gear! :)
    Race volunteers should never say “all downhill” if there is even a FLAT part of the race left, let alone a hill! :)
    Congratulations on a great weekend of running! :)

    • Aw, thanks, Stephanie! There was something about VISUALLY seeing that big sign with “2:10″ that gave me the boost I needed, haha.

      I agree! I thought it was kind of mean…you definitely shouldn’t tell a tired runner that there are no more hills, when there were literally at least 3-4 more after that! Not cool!

  7. christi in ma says:

    can I just say that I think you are amazing??? I’ve been reading your blog for a while and you are so inspiring. You ran 3 races in two days. That’s such a great accomplishment. Next time I get the doubt creeping in when I’m on a run, I’m going to remember this blog post and how you fought your way back. Looking forward to following your training for Dopey. Especially as it gets colder and darker here in the Northeast!

    • Hi! That is so incredibly sweet of you to say, thank you! I really appreciate it.

      That’s so true, though — it’s the tough runs/races that give you all the perspective…I know that next time I’m struggling, I’ll think back to this race and remember that I survived once and can do it again! ;)

      I hear ya — it’s not going to be easy to get these long runs in when it’s freezing, but, we gotta do what we gotta do, right?! :)

Mentioned Elsewhere:

  1. [...] So, remember about a month ago when I said that the Runner’s World Hat Trick was the hardest race I had ever run? [...]

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