I guess these are a traditionnow (although I never wrote one for the Wellington half-marathon, my third last year) and now that I’m just a few months out from running my first full marathon I think it’s even more important for me to take a look at my race and think about what I learned.
Yesterday I ran the half-marathon event at Run Melbourne in 1:54:21, beating my previous personal best by over two minutes. Apart from a shiny medal and tired quads, here’s what I took away from it:
About a year and a half ago I ran my first half-marathon. Then I all but stopped running. It’s not that I don’t enjoy running, because I obviously do or I wouldn’t have run a half to begin with, but first I was taking a break after all that training; then the weather was too hot; then too cold; then we were living in a van. Next thing I knew it was a year and a half later and I hadn’t run in ages. When I moved to Wellington I decided to sign up for the Round the Bays half, convinced Steve to do the same, and started running again. I learned a lot from the Vancouver Half-Marathon, my first-ever race, but I still picked up a few new insights this time around.
The first thing I learned is that in some ways, it is like that old adage about riding a bicycle. Obviously you’re not going to jump back into running after not training for ages and immediately be able to run that whole 13.1mi/21.1km, but running a race requires mental training as well as physical. Before training for my first half-marathon I had never run 13.1 miles before. The longest run I could find in my Runkeeper records was 10 miles, way back in 2012. Usually I topped out around 5 or 6.
Training for my second half-marathon was different because I knew I could finish it. I had a good suspicion that I could back in Vancouver, but for this one I already knew because I had done it before. Getting over that mental hurdle (running pun, ha ha) made it much easier to jump into training and push myself toward that 13.1 mile goal.
While the first thing I learned came at the very start of my training for Round the Bays, the second arrived at the very end, as I crossed the finish line. I ran my first half-marathon in 2:08:12. That time around, I didn’t have a goal time because I had no benchmark for how fast I was and I just wanted to finish. This race, my goal was to finish in two hours or less. And… I didn’t. According to the official race results, my final time was 2:00:42. Just 42 seconds longer than my goal: close, but not quite there.
I’m a perfectionist, and I hate not meeting my own expectations. There are a lot of excuses that can be made– a serious head wind for most of the course, a rumour that the track is just a bit longer than a half-marathon (and the GPS on my phone would seem to back that up)–but at the end of the day, I just didn’t quite get there. Usually I’m pretty hard on myself when I “fail” at something, so I expected to feel disappointed that I didn’t achieve my goal.
Instead I felt proud and excited. I cut seven-and-a-half minutes off my previous time, with half as much training as I did for the last race. I also felt energized–after my last half-marathon I felt like there was no way I could see myself running a full marathon in the future. Now? It seems like a definite possibility (with a good bit more training first, of course). I’m happy to celebrate my victories instead of dwelling on my “failure,” and now I have a goal to work toward in my next half.
My main goal is to not stop running for over a year like I did after the Vancouver half. I’m enjoying a week off from running this week to rest and recharge, but I’m looking forward to getting back to it next week and breaking that sub-2 hour barrier in my next race for sure! And maybe then I’ll be ready to turn 13.1 into 26.2! Or not, but I’ll be glad to succeed or fail at whatever comes next.
For about a year, I’ve been talking about running a half-marathon. I thought about starting with a 5k or another shorter race since the last competitive running I did was in middle school, but a half felt like so much more of an accomplishment, and I prefer longer distances anyway.
After telling myself several times that I would begin training and then letting all my plans fall by the wayside when I got busy or hungover, I figured that once I actually shelled out for a registration fee I might feel more motivated, so I signed up for the BMO Vancouver Half-Marathon. On Sunday, after approximately three months and 200 miles of training, I ran 13.1 miles/21.1 kilometres in 2:08:12. Here’s what I learned:
It’s easier than you think…
I started training with the belief I could finish a half-marathon with no training. I obviously wanted to do better than just “finish,” but without race experience I had no estimate for how fast I could go. A few weeks ago I ran the full 13.1 miles in 2:24:38, so my goal was to at least beat that time, and to do so I knew I would have to average 11:01 per mile or less. Well, I ran the first mile (always the hardest for me) in 10:20, and I figured if I could stay around that pace I’d be in good shape… then I ran mile 2 in 8:24. I was flying (it helped that the first few miles of the course were downhill), and it felt amazing. I only ran four miles out of the rest of the 11 in more than 10 minutes, and averaged a full minute and 26 seconds per mile faster than my first attempt.