Tuesday, March 20, 2012

NYC Half Marathon- Running My Own Race

NYC Half -Marathon -March 18th

When David Monti from the New York Road Runners Association emailed us the "Invited Elite Athlete" list for the NYC Half Marathon on March 18th, I quickly realized that I was truly just happy to be on the list!!! Top Marathoners and Half Marathoners from Kenya, Ethiopia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Australia, Great Britain, Mexico and of course the USA were just SOME of the countries that would be represented in this event. For sure the highest caliber race I have ever been in.  Celebrity-like names in the runner world (Kara Goucher, Kim Smith, Caroline Rotich, Desi Davilla) would be at the top of the field as well as at least 7 other Olympians in events ranging from the 5k to Marathon! And ....the Men's side was just as strong!

Now I'm as competitive as they come, but I'm not stupid or delusional!! So being that this would be my 3rd Half Marathon and first real competitive one, I knew from the beginning that the goal for this race was simple: Run a personal record by beating my last half-marathon time of 1:13:12.
 To do this, I would have to run my own race and not get caught up with the top leaders.
I read some key Bible verses leading up to Sunday that helped me put into perspective how comparing yourselves to others, different than being inspired by others, is not always the wisest thing whether it's in sport or in life.  I try to believe that confidence is found in doing the best we can with what we have to work with. For some races, this means I can and should go for the win, but for others, it's about going for the win against myself:)

Galatians 6:4(Amplified version)
"But let every person carefully scrutinize and examine and test their own conduct and their own work.  They can then have the personal satisfaction and joy of doing something commendable without resorting to boastful comparison with their neighbor."

I like that thought, so on race morning, my attitude was "I will run my own race!!!".....(well for this one anyway:)
 Anyhow, it was a perfect temperature to run a half-marathon and an awesome scene in Central Park!  I started out the first 3 miles a little faster than I wanted (5:23, 5:28, 5:23), but it was tempting not to go out even faster to try to stay with the top group.  I have to continually remind myself in these long distance races that 13 miles is a lot different than a 3k Steeplechase or a 5k!
In any case, the first 10k in Central Park went pretty well. One of my Penn State soccer teammates was at mile 5 cheering her brains out and it was amazing I could even spot her with all the people!!  I went through the 10k in 34:25, which was actually the same exact time I ran at the 10k National Championships in October.  Only in that race, it wasn't as hilly and I didn't have 7 more miles to run!!! I had some positive thoughts for awhile like "wow I am fitter now than back then" and "I really like these Newton Shoes"!!!!  But positive thoughts can quickly turn sour when the fatigue really starts to set in.  Miles 7, 8 and 9 on 7th avenue were harder than I thought they would be.  Even though there were no more major hills to deal with, the strong head-wind was present. Wind was something I did not have to deal with much in my last few races, and as hard as I tried to pump and fight, my miles slowed a bit. The funny part was that Julie Culley and I would battle and switch leads about a hundred times during this stretch f the race. I would pass her, she would pass me and sometimes we just ran together, but it was a tough battle!

A glimmer of hope came up again at the 15k mark. In the past couple 15k's I have done, I was in the 52 through 53 minute range, so when I saw 51:52 At the 15k mark in this race, I  thought, "Yes! another P.R. I wish I could stop right now and bask in my glory!"   Seeing that time was good on one hand, but on the other hand, reminded me that I still had 4 more miles to go and that I would have to speed up if I wanted to break 1:13.  And then... my right glute started to tug a bit and my whole body started to tighten. By mile 10, doing math in my head went out the window and I  just wanted to finish the race.
In fact, both Miles 10 and 11 were really hard.  I  tried to just keep putting one foot in front of the other, but my stride and pace were slowed dramatically. I think anyways? My garmin had stopped getting splits at mile 8 because the database was full....oooops!(one of many things I probably didn't prepare enough for)!
 I didn't know for sure how fast I was running at this point and the negative thoughts can really start to dominate at the end of any race. Things like "You shouldn't be here"....."you're not really an elite runner" or "you will not finish where you want" will pop into my head briefly, but I have learned to block those thoughts out and just keep going.  I pray for strength and for God's will, and sometimes I wonder "why didn't I just stick to soccer?":)  BUT MOSTLY I try to surrender the thoughts and remind myself how blessed I am to run and engage in any physical activity at all!! 

And what do you know?  I did feel better the last 2 miles.  I pushed off my toes as much as possible, thanks to the Light Weight Performance Trainer Newton's,  and was able to close my last 2 miles faster than the previous 2:) Thankfully the last 2 mile surge lead me to finish 5th American and 20th overall, which was a little better than I was expecting. It also balanced out my time to be 1:13:14, less than 2 seconds off my Naples time of 1:13:12.  So not a personal record but a much better effort seeing that that time was in a completely flat race. 

All in all, the whole experience was truly great.  I come away knowing I can, and will run faster in the Half- Marathon event; and that is encouraging!
Also, staying in the city, the fancy hotel, the great food, the organization of the race itself and the Elite Dinner were all top notch experiences that the New York Road Runner staff go out of their way to make happen.  At the end of it all, coach asked if I would I do it again?....Hell yea I would!

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