I’m nervous before every single race. It doesn’t matter if I’m trying to PR or if I’m just running for fun with my family. I’m nervous every single time.
I’ve tried a lot of different things. Mantras. Meditation. Warming-up a lot. Warming-up a little. Nothing works. I’m crazy nervous waiting for that gun to go off.
I put a lot of pressure on myself for Chisholm Trail Half Marathon. I knew the weather would give me a good chance to PR. Of course, PRing in a half marathon for me means breaking 2 hours. And I knew I hadn’t trained right to break 2 hours. I had gotten the distance in. I was ready to run 13.1 miles…no problem. But I had skipped too many speed days. I had missed too much strength work. I wasn’t ready to run 13.1 miles FAST.
But I’m stubborn, so I gave it a try. I told Mr. Neon that I wasn’t going to worry about where he was. I wasn’t going to worry about the 2-hour pace group. I wasn’t going to wear a pacing band. I knew the pace I needed to run.
The gun went off, I pushed the nerves away, and I moved forward. I ticked the first mile off at a 9:09. Perfect. I kept my head down and just got to work. The sun was beating into our faces, and we could barely see ahead anyway. Mile two was a 9:09. Ok…maybe I can do this. Mile 3 has the biggest hill of the course. I didn’t let that get to me. I gave myself license to slow down a tad. 9:30. Not the end of the world, but not where it should be. I still had 10 miles to make up time.
Mile 4 was a 9:07. Back on track. I tried to pick up the pace, but my body revolted. And not in the normal ways…my stomach felt fine, my legs still had pep, my mind was still sharp. I just didn’t want to try and run nine more fast miles and come up short. I knew a sub-2 just wasn’t going to happen. I wasn’t ready. I couldn’t trust the training because I hadn’t done it.
I decided to just run and enjoy the course. I took a deep breath and turned my watch to clock mode. I didn’t know that I ran a 9:13, 9:16, 9:26, 9:50, and a 9:45. I do know that at mile 7 there’s a Krispy Kreme. And the hot sign was on. I laughed and imagined Mr. Neon stopping for a free donut. I wondered how far behind me he was. He had to pull out of half marathon training at the beginning of February with an Achilles injury. He was hoping to run with the 2:15 pace group and get a good long run done in the midst of gravel bike training for a 50 mile race series.
Imagine my surprise at mile 9 when a shadow pops out on my right side and says, “See! I told you we’d run right past my school.” I could have cried. There he was. My handsome bearded man. I pulled up to a walk for the first time all race. Mr. Neon just grinned at me and said, “I’ve been watching your butt for the last 9 miles.”
We ran walked the remaining 4 miles. My left IT band started giving me trouble, so I’d run a few minutes and walk a few minutes. We finished with a 10:16, 9:48, 10:13, 9:51.
At mile 12, I got choked up. I had those existential thoughts I always have at the end of races. Mom isn’t at the finish line. She’ll never be at the finish line again. Am I supposed to ever break 2 hours without her there? And then the completely random thought of “maybe I should run a marathon again?” It’s nice to slow down. Could I slow down for another 13.1 miles on top of this one? Mr. Neon knew what my brain was doing, so when we turned the last corner towards the finish line he hollered at me to stay on his hip. We finished the last half mile with a sub-9 min pace. I’m not sure what he was trying to get me to, but he got me to a 2:05:59. A time I was good with.
Exactly 5 minutes slower than my PR and exactly 6 minutes slower than I wanted to be.
Now I’m sitting here contemplating doing something crazy. Should I try again SOON? Based on my data, I’m peaking. I’ve run once since Sunday and those 3 easy miles didn’t feel ridiculous like they often do after a big race. My legs feel good. I’m ready to throw down some speed workouts. I had my IT band released right after the race, and it doesn’t hurt at all.
Stay tuned and…