For five years, I’ve had one major running goal: to run a sub 2:30 half marathon.
Sure, I’ve had smaller running goals, too. I wanted to run the zippiest 10K I could. I’ve had a few races where I simply wanted to finish upright and with a smile on my face. Even with those mini-goals, that 2:30 half has always remained hovering, like the lingering smell of a coworker reheating fish in the office microwave.
The closest I’ve come was last year’s Wineglass Half in Corning, New York. I crossed the finish in 2:32 and felt pretty damn happy with the effort. It is a course that suits me. There are rolling hills and the late-september weather feels like fall. Corning is only two hours from my house, which means I haven’t spent hours curled up like a pill bug in the car or in the air. I know the race logistics by heart, since I’ve run it so often.
Plus, there’s a Wegman’s. (I swear by the turkey subs. YMMV.*)|
*Your mileage/results may vary (explanation inserted by Dimity, who isn't cool enough to know such phrases).
So was Wineglass 2018 finally the year I harpooned my 2:30 whale? This five point list will answer that question:
How I (Finally) Beat 2:30 (!)
1. I ran hard on the hard days; ran easy on the easy days; and had the wisdom to know the difference.
While the processes of aging and parenting has taken most of the edge off of my need to overachieve, I find it hard to not go above and beyond requirements on my training plans. If the plan calls for speed work, I want to go faster than it says just to show off how compliant I am. I want easy runs to be at faster-than-easy paces because a mile time with a “13” at the front makes me feel like a big fat slacker.
With Coach Christine’s help, I’ve really worked on running the pace that’s called for, instead of the one my ego wants it to be. Which made for a good summer of training.
2. I rested and rested a little more.
For the past two (maybe three?) years, Another Mother Runner had a booth at the Wineglass Expo. And for the past two (maybe three) years, I spent incredible amounts of time on my feet before the race in said booth. I regret nothing, mind, because I got to meet so many amazing BAMRs. But my dogs were always barking by the start of the race. By mile ten, my legs were done.
This year, I ran Saturday’s 5K at “mosey” pace, then had some lunch, and lounged around the hotel room like a might thing that lounges. I read for hours (which I never get to do). I hydrated. I wandered to the lobby and met a few BAMRs just to chat, then went back into lounge mode. It was my dream Saturday, frankly.
3. I started slow.
One of my biggest running mistakes is that I start every race too durn fast. Despite ample evidence that you can’t bank time, my body still seems to think it can bank time. This was the year when I didn’t let my starting line excitement get the best of me. Plus: rather than rock out to music, I listened to an interesting-but-not-too-interesting podcast for the first five miles, which made a surprising difference in my pace. I turned the tunes on when it started to get hard.
4. I didn’t take the deal.
And when it got hard, I didn’t take the deal, as Coach Amanda says. I didn’t stop and walk “just for a minute." I didn’t convince myself that I could make up a 12-minute mile with a 10:30 mile later on (which, for the record, I could never run after having already run ten miles).
No matter how much like a used car salesman my brain behaved, my inner BAMR reminded me that a) the temperature in the upper-40s was perfect for me, b) the course was ideal, c) I would never be better rested, and d) I can do hard things. The only deal I took during the last two miles was a promise that I would never run this fast for this long again. We'll see if that holds.
What also helped was a dude who was a little older than me who was also running at the same pace I was. I tucked in behind him when my focus started to wane and just let him pull me along.
Thanks, random dude.
5. I emptied the tank.
The finish line at Wineglass is deceptive. You round the last corner, see the big banner, and sprint for it — but it never gets any closer, not even after you cross it. I swear there’s an inter-dimensional portal somewhere in those three blocks. Regardless, I channeled my inner Sarah and ran as hard as I could at the end. I didn’t pull down a Meb-like pace but finished respectably. And knew I’d given it all I had.
I’m still riding my PR high days later. I’m also stiff and sore and emotionally depleted. Last night, I nearly burst into tears when I came up one potato short (not a metaphor) while cooking dinner. Totally worth it.