It is still my off-season, but I've been keeping up with my running, staying at 20-30 miles per week, much of it hills because I'm really beginning to love running in my neighborhood.
A friend wanted to do a half marathon this weekend, and I agreed to join her.
The weather today was perfect for a race -- at the 8 am start time, it was in the low 60's, and warmed up slightly during the race.
As I haven't been specifically training for a half marathon, I hadn't thought too much about pacing myself. I have wanted to run a half marathon in under two hours. Toward that goal, I decided that I should aim for 9:00-9:15 per mile, and if I felt good at the halfway mark to pick up the pace.
The start was crowded. With thousands of us lined up, and no indication of where walkers, slower runners, and faster runners should start within the crowd, the first mile was crowded. I probably spent too much time and energy dashing between people. My first mile was 9:09.
I had a little bit of an ache in my left ankle, which I've ignored this week thinking it was a big nothing, but during the race, it did nothing more than just ache. I was more bothered by a blister in my left arch. After the race, that was a different story, as I sit here typing with a bag of frozen corn on my right ankle.
Back to the race: The course was on major roads and along canal paths, and it was mostly flat. I had consistent mile splits, averaging about 9:10 per mile, so by mile seven, as I high-fived a guy announcing the race and wandering the course with a microphone, I decided to pick up the pace a bit, and the last half was done at an average pace of 9:00 per mile.
There were lots of enthusiastic volunteers on the course directing us, which I loved! But, the fluid stations were horribly understaffed. I couldn't get anything to drink at several stations because there weren't enough volunteers, the volunteers were not spread out and were too clustered together, leading to too much crowding to effectively grab fluids. One station had only one volunteer with Powerade and about a dozen other volunteers holding water. Another station ran out of Powerade by the time I got there; that shouldn't have been the case -- I was definitely in the faster half of runners so there was no reason to run out. I think that the race could have done well with fewer volunteers with direction signs and more volunteers at the aid stations.
I wasn't sure that going sub-2 hours for the race was doable, since my training has been pretty free-form -- I run when I want and as far as I want. But, when I hit the ten-mile marker and saw that my time was 1:30, I realized I could do it. As long as I kept sub-10 minute miles, I knew I could do it.
So, I pushed the last few miles, and coming around the corner to the finish line, I knew I had it. My finishing time was 1:58:58, my best half marathon time by four minutes. 24 out of 126 women in my age group. 202 out of over 1700 women. 896 out of over 3800 runners.