For months, I broadcasted a time goal that I knew I probably wasn’t entirely ready for: a sub two hour half marathon. Momentarily, part of me thought that I might be able to pull it off, but deep down, I didn’t think I was ready. My hope was riding on the race atmosphere, not my ability. I can run 5ks and 10ks at that pace and even faster, but the thought of running 13.1 miles at 9:00/mile made me kind of hate running. And because of that, I was discouraged through my training and didn’t feel the motivation and passion for running that I’ve always felt.
Last year at the Akron half marathon, I remember starting out in Corral C with the 11:00/mile pacer. I passed him. Then I passed 10:41. Then I passed 10:33. I finished it below 10:30/mile, and I was so shocked and surprised.
This year, I stuck myself in between the 8:58/mile pacer and the 9:10/mile pacer. I bet you can see where this is going: I started too fast, and that was the end. Then the 9:33 pacer passed me. Then the 10:41 pacer passed me. I ran so fast at the start that it was impossible for me to keep up. At one point, I ran a 12:06 mile. 12:06! Talk about discouragement. I shot myself in the foot by trying to force myself to hit a time that I wasn’t ready for, despite how many times I told myself I wasn’t going to do that.
So I settled in. I was texting a friend of mine and he finally said “Just put your phone away and go.” That was the first time I ever had my phone out on a half marathon course, but I completely fell apart and didn’t know what to do. I even told him I was dropping out, and he said I wasn’t going to do that – so I kept on going and tried to enjoy the course.
And I did. Once I took the pressure off of myself and stopped crying at hydration stops, I picked up my pace and kept on running. I high-fived the signs that kids were holding that said, “TAP FOR EXTRA POWER.” I actually ran up the hill that takes up nearly all of mile 10 (it’s criminal, isn’t it?), and I was enjoying myself and my run.
Suddenly, I felt like I loved running again. I looked ahead and thought, there it is – I was wondering where that feeling went! So I coasted along, at a slower pace than I imagined, and got my medal at the end. Although…I refused to let MarathonFoto snap my picture afterwards because I was sobbing too much! I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t also disappointed that I didn’t reach my time, but it wasn’t nearly as discouraging as I thought it would be.
The finish line was about a mile away from my hotel. I started walking to my hotel, and at about .5 miles in, I realized that I casually walked away from a half marathon for the first time. When I ran Akron last year, there was no leisurely walking because I tore my hamstring. My husband and I had to walk up hill to our car, and I stood at the bottom, in tears, wondering how the hell I was going to get up there. I was out for four months and in physical therapy.
In Pittsburgh, I almost had a DNF next to my name. In mile one, I felt the lovely onset of ITBS for the first time. I limped to the end of the race and couldn’t leave the medical tent. When I did leave, I still wasn’t able to bend my left leg. Soon after, the same thing happened to my right leg.
In other words…for the first time, I walked away from a distance race and felt like if I had to keep on running, I would have been able to. I felt tired from not sleeping so great the night before, but I didn’t feel hurt or absolutely dead. I realized that even though I didn’t meet the time I planned, I am definitely getting stronger.
Something else I noticed at the end of this race is that I couldn’t wait to go running again. After the first two half marathons, I knew I’d be back out there again – but I felt pretty off. I am sure some of it was the injuries, but there were definitely some other reasons that I didn’t quite understand.
This year, I can’t wait for my 10k in October and for my next distance race. I feel like I’m forcing myself not to go out and run today! For my 10k, I’m not setting a time goal. I’m just going to train like I know how to train and go for it. Setting crazy time goals puts me in a mental place that I don’t like.
What I want you to understand, then, is that there are so many victories we forget about. There are so many more reasons to celebrate than time goals. I don’t want to discount time goals at all; meeting a time goal is a huge accomplishment that should be celebrated. But sometimes, we try our best and it doesn’t work out. In that case, don’t forget the other gems of victory. In this year’s Akron half marathon, I’m celebrating walking away from a race injury free, running almost 30 minutes faster than I did on May 1, and rekindling my love for the sport I plan to partake in as long as I can.
Happy running, and happy celebrating – no matter what!