Having competed at running events from 400 meters up to 100 miles, it is surprising that this was my first time competing in a half marathon (if you don’t count the ones I ran at the end of half ironman triathlons). I love racing in Philadelphia, especially when my friends and teammates are there to cheer and race with me. This was also the first race with our new rabbit race kits. At least we’d look good!
Purpose and Goal
This was my “A” race for the fall. I didn’t feel up to running another marathon this year, so the half felt like a perfect way to test my fitness and see if I’ve advanced since last year. My goal these days is to be a competitive masters runner, so I had my sights set on beating as many over-40 folks as possible (which is highly dependent on who shows up).
Earlier in the year, it looked like I could get into shape to break 1:10. However, some injuries and inconsistent training in the late summer set me back. The last 8-weeks leading up to this race were solid, but it was clear that 1:12 was a better target for this race.
I had a very busy week leading up to the race and had to really focus in the last 24 hours to get myself in the right mental state. Getting into an optimal mindset is just as important for me as optimal physical preparation. Race morning went well. Having run well at Broad Street 10 mile earlier in the year, I had the privilege of accessing the elite tent which makes many of the logistic much easier on race day. A warm place to change, dedicated porta-potties, a convenient gear check, and easy access to the starting line are just a few of the perks.
At first, my warmup had me second-guessing my taper, as I felt really stiff and un-energetic. But things got better as the sun rose along with my body temperature. I feeling good as I headed out to the starting line and was pleased to see some friends there — chatting a bit helped release some tension.
I’ve run a few 10 mile races, but I wasn’t quite sure how hard the additional 3.1 miles would be. My intention was to be conservative at the start and build through the middle of race. Based on my training, I didn’t want to run much faster than 5:30 per mile—and I wasn’t certain I could maintain that for the whole race.
It always amazes me how races can provide such a boost to performance. I went out in 5:22 and then ran 5:15 for the second mile. It felt really easy as I tucked in behind some guys and relaxed.
The pack I was with started slowing in the 4th mile. Around the 5-mile mark I had to make a move around them to stay under 5:30 pace. My friend Darryl also made a move at this point. We ran together for a bit but he took off for the next pack that was about 20 seconds ahead of us. I didn’t have the confidence to go with him.
For the rest of the race I ran alone, staying about 10-20 seconds behind the pack ahead. Each mile required more effort to hold 5:30 pace. Some small hills in miles 7-11 made things interesting. I really had to push hard here to stay in contact with the pack ahead.
I kept feeling myself slowing down, and each time, I would counter with a small surge followed by an attempt to relax at that pace. It seemed to work.
By 11 miles I was really feeling it. Fortunately, my team mate John Becker was there to encourage me (yell at me). There was also a nice downhill at that point that allowed me to throw down another 5:15 mile.
It was all flat from there, straight into the rising sun. I ran all out and still could just barely hang on to 5:30 pace. I tried picking up at the end but my legs and lungs were working at their max. So when I crossed the line at 1:11:39 I felt really good that I ran as fast as I possibly could on that day.
I’m very happy with the effort I put in and I think the training for this race helped me progress my fitness. I did manage to take the 1st master trophy, which meant that I got to enjoy some additional privileges after the race (VIP tent, hanging with Meb Keflezighi and Des Linden at the awards ceremony). It was the perfect ending.
Our new rabbit race singlet, shorts and warmup top were amazing. Felt really good and looked great.
- Be willing to revise goals based on training. Aspirational goals are great but not if they are impossible. I firmly believe I can go sub-1:10, but not right now.
- Share running experiences with friends and family. I was sad my family couldn’t be there, but I had teammates and friends to enjoy the event and performance with. This was amplified by the number of friends who I interacted with on Facebook, Strava, and text message after the race.