When I registered for the Labor Day Half Marathon, my plan was to run my scheduled 20 mile long run on Saturday and 48 hours later run the half marathon at goal marathon pace (9:09 min/mile). Running a half marathon on tired legs would be great practice for the second half of the marathon when my legs are fatigued.
However, after last week’s disastrous 10k, I second-guessed my plan. That 10k was painful, and a half marathon is twice the distance. Twice the distance = twice the pain.
But I had a training epiphany Wednesday night as I remembered that I’m training for the Portland Marathon (duh!), not the Labor Day Half Marathon. No matter what happens during the half marathon, running 20 miles would help me prepare for my goal race.
I ran 20 miles on Saturday. I stuck to a flat route and shuffled through those final miles. My left foot started hurting around mile 11, and it really hurt toward the end. The culprit? A large blister on the outside of my foot. It was the worst blister I’ve gotten from running, and I limped around all day. I felt like a sissy, but it really hurt!
Fast forward 48 hours, during which I stretched, foam rolled, and ate lots of carbs and protein.
Dad, Christina and I arrived at the race about 30 minutes early. After several trips to the porta potties and helping an 81-year-old man with his race bib (he was impressively fit!), it was time to start. Christina ran ahead (and went on to set a very impressive 1:46 PR — she is a stud!) and Dad eventually drifted ahead.
I plodded along with my heavy legs and used my breathing to determine my effort. I stayed within myself and after a mile or so, I thought maybe I could do this. My legs were heavy and tired, but somehow I was running my goal pace while keeping my breathing steady.
I saw Dad around mile 11 at one of the out and backs (he was about a minute ahead of me), and I shouted, “Almost there!” And he responded, “You’re a stud!” I spent the next two miles thinking about this training cycle and how hard it has been. I thought about how often I’ve felt like I’m too slow and out of shape to accomplish my goals at Portland. Until this race, I had pretty much given up on my sub 4. With a couple miles left in the race, I decided to believe in myself and realized that my sub 2-hour half and sub 4-hour marathon are possible.
I finished in 1:57:58, with a pace of 9:00, nine seconds faster than goal marathon pace. That was my third fastest half marathon time, and I did it on un-rested, very tired legs. Physically that was the toughest half marathon I’ve run, but I stayed mentally strong and focused the entire time, not letting myself surrender to the physical pain of tight, sore muscles and hip flexors that screamed at me from start to finish.
I took it one mile at a time and didn’t let myself be consumed by my goal. As Dad would say, I set my goal (maintaining marathon pace) and then offered myself to the race and the running gods. As John’s mom would say, I set my goal and then let go.
My training hasn’t been perfect, but I’ve hung in there and this race has given me confidence that a sub 4 is still in the realm of possibility. I know I have to run a smart, perfectly executed race, but I have faith I can do it. More importantly, this race has reunited me with my Run Love and reminded me how awesome this sport is and why I continue to lace up my running shoes.
Week 11 Recap:
Monday: 1 hour yoga
Tuesday: 1 hour yoga + 3 miles around Discovery Park
Thursday: 8 miles pseudo tempo
Friday: 1 hour yoga
Saturday: 20 miles (3:26)
Total: 31 miles