Sunday's half-marathon was my first in a few years and it was a good reminder that 13.1 miles is a formidible distance. You have to train to run a 13 mile race or the distance can hurt you. Every runner faced challenges on Sunday. Every runner had to find the grit necessary to get to the finish line. You have to appreciate so many people gathered so early on a Sunday morning who are willing to push themselves through the rigors of running 13.1 (or 26.2) miles to meet some sort of personal challenge -- whether simply to cross the finish line, to maintain a tradition, to share an experience with friends or family, or to achieve a personal record.
I entered this race to test the effectiveness of my winter training and to gain experience for the bigger challenge ahead -- qualifying for the Boston Marathon at the Wineglass Marathon on October 2nd. I also wanted to beat my personal half-marathon record. I came close, but finished the race at 1:44:42, just 02:34 short of my 2010 half marathon PR of 1:42:08.
Despite not getting my PR, I learned a lot from running this race. First, I learned that I could persevere through the challenges of running 13 miles and accomplish a pretty good time, which means the winter training paid off. Second, I discovered that the strategies I used in the race worked pretty well. The 'head start' strategy of choosing a runner way out in front of me and slowly reeling him in until I caught him and passed him helped me challenge myself to keep up my pace. Remembering to 'crest' over hills helped me turn the momentum of a good pace approaching the top of a hill into speed going down the other side. And, practicing Chi Running strategies over the entire race helped me maintain good running form. This was the first time I listened to my Chi Running app over an entire race. Listening to the app's metronome helped me keep a consistent cadence throughout the course whether I was going faster, slower, uphill, downhill, or on level ground. And, listening to Danny Dryer repeat his "Chi Focuses" on the app was like having a coach running along side me throughout the race. The 'Chi Focuses' helped me stay relaxed, efficient and injury-free by reminding me to focus on good running form, always a good thing for a 50+ year-old runner. And, third, I realized from running this race that including even more hill work and longer, hillier tempo runs in my training regimen with George might be two of the best strategies to help improve our running over the summer. I've struggled to achieve negative splits in my first two races this year, but I think more hill work and longer, hillier tempo runs might be two important training keys to negative splitting future races.
Overall, Sunday's race was challenging, well-organized and fun. The rain mostly held off. Many people came out to cheer us as we raced through their neighborhoods, and the runners looked like they were having the times of their lives. That was a whole lot of excruciating fun!