There was a lot riding on today’s race. The Chesapeake Dismal Swamp Stomp Half Marathon was the very first half marathon I ever did. I ran that race in 2008, and here I am in 2012, running it again, for the 4th time! (I have a hard time calculating running years when you are trying to judge the amount of time you’ve been running. I’ve been training for races since late in 2007, so have I been training for races for the last 5 or 6 years? I guess it depends on if you count actual years completed or months completed…. anywho, I digress.)
Let me explain a little further why there was a lot riding on today’s race. 13 is my lucky number, always will be, always has been. Yesterday, Friday the 13th, is my lucky number day, and typically turns out to be a good day! This half marathon is my 13th half marathon, where I completed 13.1 miles. If you believe in any kind of numerology or how numbers fall, you’d understand why the significance of having 3 13’s in close proximity makes for a perfect opportunity to be successful. Being that it’s my lucky number, and simultaneously my 13th half marathon, I put a lot of pressure on myself to push my hardest, not back down, maintain my pace, not slack off, and do the best I’ve ever done.
Any runner will tell you that you are always the hardest on yourself. I’m doubly doomed since I’m a runner and an artist because I’m super critical of my work AND my running! So, needless to say, I was really starting to psych myself out as this race got closer and closer. This morning, I actually looked myself in the eye (via the mirror), and said, “You’ve got this. DO NOT back down.” No pressure, right?! Ha!
I even opted to write #13 on my hand in hot pink Sharpie to remind myself to keep pushing for the best today! (It definitely worked as a visual reminder!)
I knew ahead of time that the temperature was supposed to reach the mid 70’s today, but I always debate about which attire to wear when it’s in the 50’s when you first arrive at the race. I opted for a sleeveless running tank and my running skirt, and am SO glad I did. The weather started to get warmer as the sun came out and was very warm where there wasn’t any shade along the route.
Still chilly, and trying to stay loose, I navigated further and further forward toward the starting line, passing each pacer that didn’t fit my anticipated finish time with a grin. I’m sure the runners who have a slower pace than me wanted to knock me out because I was like, “Where’s the 2:00 pacer?” as I passed each new pacer. My goal was to beat my PR from the Shamrock Half Marathon in March. In order for me to beat the time of 2:08:11, I needed to be near or with the 2:00 pacer for the majority of the race. Knowing this, I finally sought out the two pacers, and claimed my spot before the starting line. I have the goal of running a sub-2 hour half marathon by the end of this year, so my goal for this race was to not only beat my time from March, but to also get somewhere around 2:05 or better. I didn’t want to think about how I’d beat myself up if I got 2:08 or even longer for this race, so I just focused on the 2:00 pacer, and set my mind to pushing for as close to 2 even as I could get today.
The bullhorn sounded, and we were off! I stuck with the 2:00 pacer for about 4 miles, and then slowed up a bit because the pacer was actually pushing a faster pace than a 9:09 per mile. I knew I would burn out fast if I kept up the quicker pace, and managed to find a few other people who I could pace against so I didn’t fall behind by more than a minute. I took the advice of a fellow HRR runner who told me to squeeze the cup and sip at each water station, while still running! I think it definitely saved me some time today. I did walk when I was taking the two gels because I haven’t figured out how to run and eat the gels. I think I’d gag if I did run!
All throughout the race today, I felt good. I felt my pace was strong and steady, and I was so focused on the finish line, that I didn’t give myself the opportunity to truly let up. My right calf kept trying to cramp up around mile 11, but I refused to give in to it. Around mile 9, I found myself running pace for pace with a gentleman older than myself, and decided to keep pace with him for the remainder of the race. I am so thankful for people who keep steady paces because it makes it easier to keep up with them, and to keep your own pace steady. I always manage to find someone who I play “race tag” with throughout the race too. What I mean by this is that I find someone who’s running slightly ahead of me, and I keep pace with them until they slow up a bit. Then I pass them, and it’s my turn to lead. I’ve played “race tag” several times in several races, and always am grateful for those people who play with me. It keeps me motivated to keep going, and gives me a moving focus.
Today, I had several people playing tag with me, as well as the one gentleman that paced against me for the last several miles. As I got to mile 12, I started getting ready to push myself the hardest I had all race to finish strong. As soon as I saw the 13 mile marker, I lengthened my stride, pushed hard, and quickened my pace. As soon as I reached the 13 mile marker, I started sprinting to the finish line, and literally gave every last ounce of energy I had to cross that line. Sometimes I focus in so much on getting to the finish line that I don’t hear the people at the end or what the announcer is saying. Today, I not only heard the crowd yelling encouraging words at me and telling me to go hard, but I also heard the announcer say my name as I crossed the finish line at 2:04:03!!!
I managed to cut 4:08 off my Shamrock Half Marathon time! I am SO STOKED right now! I am that much closer to my sub 2-hour goal! But right now, I’m thrilled with simply celebrating my victory of having another PR at my lucky number 13 half marathon!
Live. Love. Run. Passionately! 🙂