My “Big” Race – Part 1

I don’t know where to begin!

After I had to sit out the Pittsburgh (half) marathon, the new, Greensburg half marathon had to become my “big” race for the year.  It’s not sexy.  Out and back on the local trail that we run, run, run all the time – especially for long runs for its desirable flatness.  But the perks were 1) it was being held enough time after my injury/recovery for me to train for it, 2) it’s right here in the town where I live, and 3) it offered a 6:30 AM start time.  The early start is nice because I’m used to running early, anyway.  When you run at 5:00 AM routinely, waiting for an 8:30 or 9:00 AM race start feels like forever.

As the fates would have it, my friend Julie and I were both training for it and were roughly starting from the same place, pace-wise.  This turned out to be a God-send in SO many ways.  I can’t even describe it, really.  Since around the end of July, I did nearly all my runs with Julie.  Sometimes others joined us, but it was Julie and me, Julie and me, Julie and me all the way.  Early on we thought an 11:00 minute pace  (2:24) finish was a good goal for us.  And then we started getting stronger on our long runs.  We were running close to that pace just in training.  So we began to think that, with race-day adrenaline, we could gun for a 2:20 finish, which requires a pace of 10:41.

And then…we kind of fell apart on our 11-mile run – our longest run of the training, two weeks before the race.  We were both feeling great and keeping a sub-11-minute pace through six miles.  For the remaining five miles, we both struggled to keep our pace under 12 minutes.  Plus, there were a lot of walk breaks.

I started to have doubts.  But Julie insisted that we still had to aim for the 2:20 goal.   I went along with it, even though I really, really, really thought it was a stretch.  I was only truly hoping that I could finish at 2:23 or a little better.  That was my PR, and I would definitely have been happy with that, after having a bad training year.  But I also figured Julie was right:  If we didn’t go for the 2:20 finish, we’d regret it and wonder what would have happened if we had gone for it.

Well, we don’t have to wonder because we actually surpassed that goal!  I finished with a time of 2:16:01, and Julie was just a few seconds behind me.  I had thought that I’d need a little miracle just for the 2:20 finish, so I could not be more amazed or thrilled.

So let me take a minute to recap my favorite things about the race and why I’m so happy with the results – even beyond the numbers.  I’ll cover a few items here and then a few more in an additional post.

Julie and I were together almost the entire race.
Using a “trick” I learned from my friend Amy, we wrote out mental, physical, and spiritual goals for the race.  In those, we decided we would stick together, no matter what, for the first seven miles of the race.  After that, we each had permission to pull ahead or fall behind, if one of us was having a better day than the other person.  We were side by side until there were only about two miles left.  Julie stopped at a water station that I skipped, and I got just ahead of her for the rest of the race.  But I also knew the whole time that she was Right. There. behind me.  In retrospect, I kind of regret that I didn’t just wait for her.  But the couple of times I thought about it, I was afraid that if I slowed down, I wouldn’t be able to pick it back up again.

I beat my PR by about seven minutes.  Julie crushed hers by almost 20 minutes!  I’m so proud of that girl!

Here we are, celebrating after the finish:

You know you're best running buddies when you can hug all sweaty, stinky, nasty AFTER the race!

You know you’re best running buddies when you can hug all sweaty, stinky, nasty AFTER the race!

This marks the first time I ran 13.1 consecutive miles without walking.
Woo-hoo!  I did take three or four paces through about half a dozen aid stations, but I don’t count that.  That’s not wimping out and taking a break.  That’s simply not drowning.  I can’t run and drink from a cup without just dumping it down my front and/or choking.  The only exception was the last water station I stopped at around mile 11.  When I told my legs to run again after my 3-5 steps, they didn’t at first obey.   I had to really concentrate to get myself moving again.

Mother Nature made this possible.
During our taper – which sounded WAY more fun than it actually was – we had a couple of hot, humid, awful days that made our three-mile runs feel more grueling than our 8 to 11-mile runs.  One day, in the third mile of a three-mile run, I actually shouted, “I HATE THIS RUN!”  Two days prior to the race, it was 70 degrees and humid, and our three laps at the track were killing me.  Race day, it was about 50 degrees – perfect for running 13.1.

My friend Jill made me a “Go Melissa” sign!
Jill was out with her daughter at the turnaround point to cheer on her husband.  She said she’d see me there, but I told her that if she couldn’t wait (as we’d get there a good while after her husband had passed), I understood.  Not only was she there with the bottle of water she’d promised to have for me, she made me a big, poster board sign.  My only regret about the race is that I couldn’t stop and take a picture.  That was such a sweet surprise, I got all choked up.

There’s so much more, I can’t fit it into one post.  Please stand by for Part 2, coming soon!



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