Race Recap: More Magazine Women’s Half Marathon

When your best friend is signed up for a half marathon in NYC and it’s your first chance to see her in 8 months, you sign up too.

Even if your knee hurts.

Even if you haven’t run in two weeks.

Even if the furthest you’ve run in the past 6 months is 5 miles. (And that was just a couple days ago.)

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In short, that was how I found myself signing up for the NYRR/More Magazine Women’s Half Marathon just 5 days before the race.

On Saturday, I took a morning Yo! Bus up to NYC. After having a couple drinks on Friday evening, I decided it would be best to just pack in the morning. My troubles began about 15 minutes into the bus ride, when I discovered that I had outdone myself with the worst packing job a single person has ever done for a 30 hour trip.

Things I forgot: Headphones. My arm band for running. Real pants. Pajamas. Underwear.

Things I packed: 3 running outfits (you never know). 3 pairs of socks. 2 sweatshirts. 2 baseball caps. My running shoes (though I almost forgot those too).

A quick trip to Best Buy in NYC resolved the two biggest packing oversights, and I met up with Rachel and her sister at the packet pick up. Rachel! It was so good to be reunited. We had a nice, relaxing afternoon and evening, and went to bed early in preparation for the race on Sunday morning.

The Race:

After getting into an altercation with a couple women in the port-a-potty line (New Yorkers are serious about their lines and they’ll let you know if you’re not being pushy enough), the race was off at 8am.

The course was two full 6 mile laps of Central Park’s main Park Road followed by the first 1.1 miles of a third lap. It was a clear day, and the race started in the high 50s and ended in the high 60s. It was truly perfect racing conditions.

Running the race was Rachel, Rachel’s sister Megan, Rachel’s sister’s friend Laura, and me. We stuck together for the first three miles, around 10:45 pace, and then Laura and I decided to pick up the pace and split off.

I had forgotten how much I love running hills, which really picked up in miles 3-6 and then again in miles 9-12. Laura and I picked up the pace just after the 5K mark and finished the first lap around 8:45/9:00 pace. Around mile 4 we passed the 2:10 pacer, but I somehow ended up back behind her around mile 7. I split off from Laura determined to match or improve my split for the first lap, which was just shy of one hour.

A word to the wise: don’t pick up the pace at mile 3 if the furthest you’ve run in 6 months is 5 miles and that 5 miles was one week before the half. I was able to hold the pace and stay far ahead of the 2:10 pacer for the remainder of the race, but I hit the wall somewhere around mile 9.5.

Philadelphia isn’t know for its varied terrain. The hills in the second lap felt like I was scaling Mount Everest.

I forced myself to keep running until the water station in the 10th mile, when I allowed myself to step to the side and catch my breath for 30 seconds. I then shuffled through to mile 12, when I started intervals of two minutes running followed by 30 seconds walking. My legs were absolute jelly.

But! I made it. I passed through the finish line at 2:08:25. I beat my goal of finishing under 2:10, and I now truly appreciate the value of training for distance races. My goal is to break the two hour mark by next year, which actually feels like it’s possible.

Laura finished around the 2:10 mark, Megan around 2:25, and Rachel at 2:29. We celebrated the race with pancakes and bacon, then hobbled to the bus to ride back up to Washington Heights. I felt like Barney from How I Met Your Mother (which apparently there are no videos online of the scene where he gets stuck on the subway after the New York Marathon because his legs won’t support him.)

Next month, I’ll be running the Minneapolis Half Marathon with my sister Julie. Our goal is to run the whole thing, together. We won’t be setting any records, but I’m already looking forward to a great run. My goal is to run 2 more half marathons this year as I work to become more purposeful in my training.

In Review:

Race: NYRR More Magazine Women’s Half Marathon
Location: Central Park, New York City
Date: Sunday, April 13 at 8:00am
Finish goal/time: 2:10:00 / 2:08:25

Rachel and me! Finishers!

Rachel and me! Finishers!

True Life: I’m a Control Freak

There is comfort in having a pretty good idea of what your future looks like. I love keeping my calendar up to date. I plan trips months in advance. I’ve had my life planned out based on the presidential election cycle since 2000. I am the opposite of spontaneous.

When life is stressful or it seems like everything is up in the air, I grasp at straws to find one thing, anything, that I can feel like I control.

As the boy continues looking for a job, I can’t help but be panicked when I don’t know what the next few months will look like. Will he be in Philadelphia? Will we continue to be long distance? How much longer? Will he be even further away than he is now?

The boy reminds me not to wish away the next couple months until we know where he’ll be working. Enjoy spring in Philadelphia. Make new friends. Get to know old friends better. Go to museums. Run outside. Go for long bike rides on the Schuykill River Trail.

It’s easy to tell a control freak to relax, to let things play out, to just focus on today. But that’s not really how it works. The anxiety will continue to bubble under the surface while I cling to anything that can give me a sense of control.

This week I’m challenging myself to find things that only I can control: my attitude and my happiness. So I’m seeking opportunities that allow me to do just that: Bringing snacks to my coworkers. going for daily runs. Racing other runners up the Ben Franklin Bridge. Beating them. Reconnecting with my best friends. Seeking yoga as mental and physical relief. Volunteering. Going to the animal shelter. Wearing spring clothes and no jacket. Challenging myself to plan social activities. Spending hours “with” the boy over Skype.

It’s a small step. But it’s forcing me to focus on the moment, on today, and letting me focus on bringing joy to others and fulfillment to myself – even if those are the only things I can control.

You have a few things,
The Face, which can give a smile;
Mouth: you can praise or comfort others;
The Heart: it can open up to others;
Eyes: who can look the other with the eyes of goodness;
Body: which can be used to help others.

“Maybe Cross Country Just Isn’t Your Thing.”

It was the summer before my sophomore year of high school. August 2005. I had just finished my first time trial ever in my first year of cross country. The results of the time trial would determine who got to go to training camp. The first 20 girls would be invited; the remaining would continue summer practices at the high school.

I finished 53rd.

Out of 56 girls.

Ouch.

I knew I wasn’t fast, but I was proud of myself: I had been showing up for practice 6 days a week all summer long to be part of the cross country team. I wasn’t an athlete; I was a musician and proven nerd. I sang in Indianapolis Children’s Choir. Yes, I had played community soccer growing up, but doesn’t just about everyone? That summer, I had proved that if I set my mind to it, I could conquer anything.

The elation didn’t last long, however. When our evening time trial was finished, I walked to where my parents were standing. I made some vague remarks about how I wanted to keep getting faster when – and I remember this distinctly – my dad gently said,

“Maybe cross country just isn’t your thing.”

Criticism, no matter how it’s delivered, can have either a disastrous or incredible effect. I had two choices that evening: One, “Maybe you’re right, dad. Maybe it’s not for me.” and two, “Maybe you’re right dad. But maybe not. I’m going to keep at it until I know for sure.”

That evening, I’m glad I chose the latter. Over the next year, I got faster, I joined the track team, and the next summer, I qualified to attend training camp.

Even though I know my dad meant no harm, it’s amazing how one simple line can stick with you for nearly a decade now. Tonight, while doing a speed workout on the treadmill, those words of doubt came trickling back: “Your leg shouldn’t hurt this much. You have terrible form. Maybe running just isn’t for you.”

But that’s the glorious thing about running: No matter how fast or how slow you go, no matter if you run 1 minute, 1 mile, or 1 hour, no matter if you run once a month or twice a day… you are a runner.

Yes, there will always be things to improve. Yes, there will always be that PR that you want to break. Yes, some days it’s going to hurt. A lot.

But when you keep going, you prove something to yourself:

Yes. I am a runner.