The big race day has come and gone, and man, what a good one this year! What an unexpectedly wonderful day. I do wonder, at least a little bit, if in the wake of 2012, my expectations have slid toward not-so-good news. Maybe I need a recalibration of my soul. Do they offer those at Target?
I’ll put it on my list. Said Target list will now read pink strawberry candles, Brita bottle + filter, pens, push pins, and soul adjustment.
But back to the topic at hand: the 2013 Armadillo Dash Half-Marathon! It was a chilly morning for a race, but I have a bad habit of overdressing for my long runs. The night before the race, as I was gathering all my gear for the early-morning start, I decided on a running skirt, performance t-shirt, and long-sleeve tee. I figured that my legs would warm up fast, but my upper body was likely to feel the chill for a longer period of time. To get to the start line, I decided to do something new this year: I rode my bike to Veterans Park rather than take a cab. Last year’s cab ride was not pleasant, and Veterans Park is pretty close to my apartment. I packed a bag with my gear, crossed my fingers that nobody would steal my stuff, tucked my valuables (phone, keys, twenty-dollar bill) into my new SPI belt, and off I went.
I left a smidge later than I should have and felt harried right before the race. I was still walking over to the starting area when a powerful male voice started singing the national anthem. Slipping into the masses of half-marathoners, I made it with a few minutes to spare.
At well-attended racing events, it’s always really crowded at the start. I don’t think it’s a good idea to expend a lot of energy throwing elbows and trying to nudge people out of the way. With five half-marathons now under my belt, I have a bit of a racing strategy, and it looks like this:
Miles 0-4: Take it easy, settle into position. Pass people as needed in order to feel comfortable.
Miles 4-9: Cruise control.
Miles 9-13.1: The faster you run, the faster you’re done! Also, pick ‘em off, one by one.
And that’s exactly how this year’s Dash went. The first few miles were a slow warm-up, only passing people if it was effortless and made it easier for me to settle into a good race pace. By the time I was into mile 4, I felt good, and my pace was just a tad slower than 9-minute miles. At the halfway point, I saw a man wearing camouflage running tights which looked an awful lot like the printed skinny jeans that are in style right now. He had been waiting at a port-o-potty, but as I was running toward him, he turned and booked it, almost sprinting, which seemed like a dangerous move to me, considering that we were only at mile 6.something. But there he went, in his camouflage
skinny jeans running tights, and I thought to myself, I will catch you, Mr. Camouflage Tights.
But not at that moment. At the halfway point of 13.1 miles, it was far too early for me to be running hard. I kept moving forward with my steady pace. 6 miles turned into 7, 7 miles turned into 8, 8 miles turned into 9…and then it was time to step on the gas, little by little.
I love the last few miles of a half-marathon because that’s when I feel like I can really race. I can give those last few miles everything I have left, and at the end there will be water and bananas and bagels and that glorious feeling of leaving it all on the course. I love that feeling, and that’s why the half-marathon is my favorite race distance. In the last few miles of this race, I gradually passed lots of people with my steady pace. Mr. Camouflage Tights himself was one of the last people I was able to catch and pass—seeing him again was fun. The last mile or so of the race was a blur as I booked it in an attempt to set a new PR. I really didn’t think this year’s race would be a PR performance for me, but the clock thought otherwise.
It was a great, great feeling to see those numbers on the clock. I maintain that I run for fun, for my sanity, for that healthy feeling it infuses into my life, but sometimes? I run just to see how low that number can go.
From here, my training will shift toward a distance that I didn’t think I’d ever try: 26.2. After the race (and a shower and an early lunch!), I pulled my big calendar off the wall and started writing down the weeks of marathon training that await me this year. I “officially” begin training for the full on June 10, 2013. Before that, I’ll be laying down a base of 3-4 sessions of 30-minute runs. I anticipate that I’ll be biking around town as usual, so I’m okay with 3 runs and a few bike sessions as my marathon base. (My running book says I should have a solid base of 4 30-minute runs per week.) I am excited and nervous to train for such a big race: the marathon feels daunting to me, especially coupled with the heat of a Texas summer. But this summer promises to be a summer of change in more than one way, and the marathon will be part of that new set of experiences. Bring it on, I say!
PS The title for today’s post comes from one of my favorites signs at the race. Along mile 1, two women were holding a sign that said, “Run, random stranger, run!” It made me laugh. I love our race spectators and volunteers!