Well, it is done and I did better than expected! I had planned to run my first 1/2 marathon at an 8:45/mile pace, and actually performed at an 8:33/mile pace instead. I feel great! Meanwhile I also learned a valuable lesson, at least for me.
This was the 12th week of my 18 week marathon training schedule, that concludes with the running of the 2009 Palm Beach Marathon on December 6th. It also happened to be a mileage drop week and only required 13 miles, which was the perfect opportunity to get in a 1/2 marathon as a practice race for the marathon. After some searching I found the 2009 Martin County Halloween Half held in Jensen Beach being held by the Stuart Fleet Feet location.
Over the past 5 weeks my long runs have been consistently longer than the 13.1 miles needed in a half marathon, so I was starting to wonder why bother. Sure I was excited to race, but was also thinking that it seemed like such a waste. I mean c’mon, I am running 18 miles in my long runs so what training can I really get from this measly 13.1…right?
In books I have read and websites I have visited, everyone says it is a good idea to register for some races that merge with your training miles. The strange thing is I did not really see any details of why this is such a good idea. Is it merely to gain some more fitness? Is it for the experience of beating, or being beat by, others? Or is it to get my name out there in the running community so others see it?
Naturally (because I over-analyze everything) I now have an opinion after finishing the race. I found the adrenaline in the crowd prior to the race almost “touchable” and I quickly fell in love with the feeling. Everyone warming up, stretching, chatting, laughing, or in silent contemplation of what was about to take place. During the race I found bystanders and other runners in the race to be very positive and energetic which helped spur me on. It was contagious and I soon found myself encouraging other runners as they passed me, or as I passed them. The amount of chatter was also surprising between runners as they passed the many miles together.
When I arrived at the location, which was a little island beach side park with absolutely NO street lights, (very dark at 6:00am) it was good that some of the runners were wearing LED lights and the occasional reflector or I may have cleaned out the entire crowd driving through. I parked, picked up my number and sensor tag, then finished preparation and stretching prior to the race start.
Once the race started I fell into my normal 8:45/mile pace as planned, and tried to find open spots in the crowd to continue forward. At the conclusion of mile one we all found ourselves looking up at a steep 1/2 mile man made hill that led to the top of the causeway crossing the inter-coastal water way. I remember thinking, “Oh great, I am going to die in the second mile of the race.” (As I drove home after the race the hill was steep even in my car.) However, I managed to maintain my pace and felt relief when I had the hill behind me. (The city I live in does not have any hills to mention, so I made a mental note to find some for future training.)
The rest of the course had little rolling hills that were a slight pain in the arse, but nothing too bad. Mile 4 there were people in front of their houses cheering on the runners who loved it when I said “Thanks, your awesom!”. At mile 5.5 another runner caught up to me, and instead of passing he started conversation. It was nice to have someone to pass the time with and help me keep my pace until mile 11 when he increased speed to finish the race.
At the end it was a pleasant surprise when runners who already completed were lining the street to encourage those of use now approaching. It really got the adrenaline flowing and gave me one last boost to finish out the last 200 yards.
I now know the many reasons why it is a good idea to race. It is not just about the competition, or the fame, or even the running of more miles for practice. It is more about the community, excitement, and sharing an emotional experience with others. And that is why we(humans) are all here in the end, isn’t it?