It’s been more than 24 hours since I completed half marathon no. 3 – Boston’s Run to Remember – and I still find myself going back and forth between how I feel about the end result. It’s like I have an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other.
28 seconds. That’s how close I came to my sub-2:00 time goal.
3 minutes, 49 seconds. That’s how much I shaved off my previous half marathon time, setting a brand new PR in the distance.
I think right now I’m giving both numbers equal weight. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed that I missed my goal, especially because it was easily in reach, and I shot myself in the foot with some uncharacteristic racing moves.
But on the other hand, improving by nearly 4 minutes is nothing to sneeze at. That’s pretty darn impressive, especially on a day when I found myself struggling mentally — more than I ever have before mid-race — over the last 3 miles. Which is where I know I lost my sub-2.
But let me back up.
Dr.G. and I left the ‘burbs around 5:15 am, along with two steaming mugs of coffee and (for me) my usual almond butter and banana on toast. Having learned our lesson last year about taking the Mass Pike directly to the Seaport area, we went a different route and it was smooth sailing and we found ourselves a slightly illegal parking spot around 6:15 am.
We immediately made a beeline for the porta-potties … again, a far cry from last year when I arrived late (due to traffic) and was in the potty line as they were playing the national anthem.
At that point, Dr. G. realized he was missing a piece from his headphones and jogged back to the car to grab a spare, so I made my way to the 9:00 area, where I bumped into friends.
Now, the race organizers said several times that this was the largest field ever, with more than 7,000 half marathoners and 5,000 runners for the 5-mile race which, for some reason, were starting at the same time (more to come on that).
In any event, it was nice — unlike last year — to actually get to line up with my pace group when the gun went off. But just like last year, the start of the race was crowded and congested. We literally had just started and there was already a group of people walking … in the middle of the road. Really?
After crossing the Seaport Blvd. bridge, we turned right onto Atlantic Ave … and into a complete bottleneck, which lasted for the first 1.5 miles and actually forced me to basically stop a few times because the crowd was so thick.
Ugh. It felt like Falmouth all over again.
Increasingly frustrated, I began doing one of the things I told myself NOT to do: weave in and around people. But I couldn’t help it. I was getting pissy and annoyed. Either way, it was Race Mistake #1.
Finally, finally the crowds dispersed, but by that point I was so ecstatic to see an open road that I let my pace creep up to where it should not be (at least for me) at this point in a half marathon: 8:10. Race mistake #2.
A few miles in, we crossed the Charles River and found ourselves on Memorial Blvd, a route I’ve now run four times, thanks to my two previous Tufts 10K for Women races and last year’s Run to Remember.
I kept a consistent pace in the 8:40-8:50 range for miles 3-6 and had my first Clif Shot Gel at mile 5, where I was excited to find myself right at my goal time of 45 minutes.
We reached the out-and-back point, and turned around on Memorial Drive to head back to downtown. And this is where I hit the wall, both physically and mentally.
Naively, I thought I’d fly into this race high off of my success at the Newport 10-Miler and simply pick up where I left off. Which clearly wasn’t happening. Although why I hit a wall so “early” in a half marathon was rather surprising.
Either way, I struggled here. My legs felt like lead. Was it allergy-related? Was it my one-mile weaving at the start of the race? Was it my too-fast second mile?
My pace dropped but I was still hovering in the 9:10 range, so I knew if I could hold on, those speedy first miles would carry me through.
But instead, I got slower. And slower. We crossed the bridge back into Boston and I went to a dark place — a place most runners have probably been in at one time or another during a race, but this was my first time. My mind screamed Stop. My legs screamed Stop. I don’t care about a sub-2:00 time, I just want this to be done with. Why am I doing this? This isn’t fun anymore.
I forced myself to run in the middle of the road to make stopping a little more difficult.
But eventually I gave in. I stopped and walked for the first time in my three half marathons.
I’ll just walk through this water stop, I told myself – even though I’m wearing a hydration belt.
But once that door has been opened, it’s hard to close it again, even though walking is something I haven’t allowed myself do in a race in, well, I don’t really remember.
I remember crossing the 10 mile mark at just over 1:30, which meant if I picked up the pace, I could still make that sub-2:00. My initial game plan for the last 3 miles of the race called for running the first .9 of the mile at race pace, then sprinting the last .1 mile.
That soon changed into Just run, don’t stop and walk.
I honestly don’t remember that last 5K. I think the only thing that went through my head was something along the lines of, This will be over soon.
And, graciously, it was. We climbed the incline back over the Seaport Blvd. bridge, and like a mirage, I spotted the finish line banner. I commanded my legs to run faster, and they obliged … slightly.
As we approached the finish line, I saw the clock display: 2:02-something. I looked down at my Garmin: 2:00:27.
Please, I begged, please let my Garmin be wrong.
But it wasn’t. A sub-2:00 was firmly in my grasp, and I had let it go.
After crossing the finish line, I was immediately ushered into the Convention Center to grab some water, some snacks and my medal, then sat down on the floor so I could stretch and keep and eye out for Dr. G.
He soon arrived, having just totally killed his first half marathon, finishing around the 2:08 mark.
I know 2:00 is a terrific half marathon time, but I wallowed for a bit post-race. Even now, I’m still second-guessing myself, playing round after round of What If. It sucks knowing I was thisclose to my goal and let it slip away, whether it was a result of my walking breaks or my early bobbing and weaving or my super fast second mile, or it simply just wasn’t my day.
But at the same time, there are so many good things that came out of this race that deserve celebration.
I set a new PR.
I improved my half marathon time by just under 4 minutes (previous best was 2:04:06 in October at the Baystate Half Marathon).
I learned some important running and racing lessons.
I finished in the top third of my age group.
I did all this on a day when I was clearly not my best.
And, yes, I earned this.
Of course, what did I do on the car ride back? Google half marathons for the fall. Because I will keep on trying to get this goal, whether it take four tries or fourteen tries.
I am an ambassador for the ZOOMA Women’s Half Marathon in September on Cape Cod, but the lovely, narrow streets and hilly geography of the Falmouth area makes me a little doubtful that this is my sub-2 race (although you never know). Plus, I signed up for it with a goal of having fun with some of my favorite running bloggers.
So now that leaves me with a few options. Do I try Baystate again? Do I enter the lottery for the BAA half marathon in the fall? Hartford Half Marathon? The UnitedHealthCare Half Marathon in Newport? Any other suggestions for an October half marathon in the RI-Mass.-CT-NH area?
But I want to get back to the race itself. While I love and respect the spirit of the race and what it stands for (it’s a tribute, a celebration, a run to remember fallen heroes), I had some issues with the logistics this year.
- I think the time has come for corrals. If you’re going to start the half marathon and the 5-miler at the same time, and unleash more than 10,000 runners at once (especially knowing the first 1-2 miles are on more narrow streets), then corrals might be necessary. Or start the 5 mile race later.
- We did not receive bottles of water after the race. We were handed small, paper disposable cups of water and Gatorade, the former of which I kept gulping down, cup after cup. Even still, I was thirsty again by the time I made my way over to the stretching area, and it was a massive pain to get back to where they were giving out the drinks. A bottle of water would have been heavenly.
- Last year, they had Friday night bib pick-ups, which was great, because Dr.G. could swing by on his way home. But for some reason that wasn’t an option this year. Because we didn’t want to deal with it on race morning (a 7 am start time is early enough!), we dragged the kids into the city on Saturday for the pick-up and Expo, which was fine but pretty inconvenient.
But these are totally minor gripes and constructive criticism. Otherwise, this is a well-organized race for an amazing cause. And maybe it was me, but I swear there were more women runners then men!
Anyway, as the “Frozen” song goes, I’m trying to “Let it Go” and focus on my next race: the Runner’s World Heartbreak Hill Half and Festival, where I’m running the 5K and 10K on June 7 as part of Runner’s World’s official blogging crew (pinch me!). Come join me and save 10%! Click here for discount codes.