This weekend I ran my third half marathon. It was probably the most challenging run I’ve done to this date for many reasons.
In my [naive] mind, I’d planned a generic, cookie-cutter race recap about everything from getting to metro super early to finishing the race and feeling the amazing rush that comes with reaching a goal you’ve been striving for.
I’m sitting here laughing at myself now.
Things did not go according to plan on Saturday and I’ve been in a little bit of a funk because of it. So, this has been somewhat therapeutic to write about. (This has a happy ending. Promise!)
I had extremely high hopes for myself after training all winter. I finished my first two half marathons literally within seconds of each other. In September, I finished the Parks Half Marathon in 2:01:34 and in October, the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in 2:01:39. I am so proud of those times, especially considering I was a mere 5 seconds away from my PR on a much harder course. I was filled to the brim with confidence.
Immediately following my second success, I signed up for the Rock ‘n’ Roll DC Half Marathon on March 14th with the intentions to give it my all & finish under 2 hours.
I trained through the holidays: running 2-3x/week, including my long weekend runs. Come January, I began a rather intense speed development program through MCRRC and saw even more progress.
All this to say I thought without a doubt that sub-2 hours was easily obtainable at Rock ‘n’ Roll. It wasn’t a question of whether I would set a personal record, but rather how many minutes I’d crush it by.
One Week Out:
In the days up to the race, tapering was a whole new experience. Instead of feeling excited, I felt more anxious. I was irritable and sleep was hard. It was an odd feeling since I’d never felt much of the “taper blues” before but this time around they came in full force.
Furthermore, the forecast was not looking promising which only led to more unenthusiastic thoughts. I tried to stay positive but running in the rain just did not sound fun.
Come Saturday, so did the rain. Luckily my running buddy brought ponchos that we wore up until the last minute. I don’t mind running in the rain so long as I don’t have to wait around in it. All in all, I was ready to make good out of an unideal situation.
I paced with my friend Greg and we started out strong. The plan was to start out slow and pick up the pace gradually. Miles 1-5 we ran between 8:40 and 9:17. Right on track!
Then there was a hill at mile 6 that I completely underestimated which set me in a downward mental spiral.
My legs began to feel very heavy and I didn’t have much energy. I kept staring at my pace thinking, “why does this feel so hard? I’ve done this and faster so many times.” A police officer actually stopped us around mile 7 to let a cop car pass through an intersection. It was only for about 15 seconds, but it really threw off whatever “groove” I was attempting to get into and it infuriated me!
By the time mile 8 rolled around, I’d really started to lose steam. I [stupidly] did the math and realized that I wouldn’t hit my goal. At mile 10, I’d let so many negative thoughts cross my mind that I hit a wall and just felt so defeated.
I wondered why I’d even set such a goal. I felt inferior with people passing me left and right. Why did I enjoy running again? At one point I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath. So… I REALLY needed to calm the hell down.
I somehow managed to finish the race and it was the most relieved I have ever felt crossing a finish line. My legs were spent but my mind was worse. I finished 2:04:04
Looking at that time, I think what a respectable time it is. Amazing, actually. I only was three measly minutes past my PR. But when you go into a race thinking you’re going to beat your best time by around 4-5 minutes, it’s devastating.
So what was it? I think a combination of everything truly made me feel off. So many little things added up and I got too in my head. We’ve all heard that running is 90% mental; but it’s another thing to experience the negative effects firsthand.
I realize now that I put way too much pressure on myself when I should have just been enjoying myself (as much as someone running in the pouring rain can enjoy themselves.) Staring at my Garmin and doing the math over and over was so limiting. I almost feel that if I ran without my watch I would have done better. Or at least felt better while I was running.
My completely subjective grade for the race itself would be a C-.
Course: This part I liked. The hills were challenging but there were plenty of subsequent down hills and straightaways. There were a few potholes that I wish weren’t there BUT I just pretended it was an obstacle course.
Crowds: I definitely felt cramped. There were just too many people. I wish they’d put a cap on the amount of people who could enter the race. It kind of takes away the fun of running when you’re packed like sardines. But at the same time, it was great to have other runners cheering you on!
Transportation: The lines on the metro were kiiind of out of control. I wish I would have taken a picture! Here’s a fun story: There were so many people crammed in line at the metro gates that the people riding up the MOVING escalators didn’t have space to get on the platform. People were literally falling on top of each other at the top and had to run backwards, against the flow of traffic. There were a few seconds of sheer terror where I thought I was about to see some really gory stuff go down…
Bands: Um. SERIOUSLY lacking in this department. There were two bands and an a Capella group. I’m guessing they had a lot of rain cancellations, but, there are such things as tents. What’s a rock ‘n’ roll marathon without the music? Don’t they have inclement weather plans?
Bag Check: Total. And COMPLETE. Nightmare!! This is my biggest complaint.
It took about an hour waiting in the cold, pouring rain to get my bag. Mind you, there were only TWO TRUCKS out of like fifteen who had an issue. Apparently too many people with last names beginning with ‘S’ checked bags and the trucks got overcrowded. Lucky me! The genius idea was to reorganize all of the bags by moving them into different trucks. This confused not only the runners picking up their bags, but the people handing them out also had NO IDEA where anything was! There was a solid 15-20 minutes where not a single bag was given to anyone. For a race of this size, age & popularity, you’d think they’d have organization worked out effortlessly. But you’d be wrong.
It’s cold. We’re soaked. Some might be hypothermic. We’ve all just ran 13-freaking-miles and all we want is our dry clothes and freaking lara bars. (Can you tell how mad I still am about it?) #salty.
BUT ANYWAYS… Moving on.
In the grand scheme of things, I’m so happy I did this race. It was oh-so humbling and a necessary blow to my ego, I think. I learned a lot about how important it is to keep calm and I’ll definitely use that in my next race. Sometimes you need a little reality check in a big way. Not every run is going to be wonderful. In fact, a lot of the time when you run you’ll probably curse it. This race was an exemplification of that.
It’s in the moments when you do have a great run that you remember why you started in the first place. I’m happy to report that I did a recovery run (sans Garmin) in the BEAUTIFUL weather yesterday and was reminded of that.