It doesn’t seem like a long time. I mean, it’s only 9 seconds. But when you’re running through the finishing chute of a race, 9 seconds can feel like an eternity of time to try to make up.
9 seconds separates me from a goal that I didn’t think was anywhere near my reach this year.
I ran the Philadelphia Half Marathon yesterday.
My official finish time was 2:00:08 – a PR by 7 minutes over my San Francisco 1st Half Marathon finish in July. Overall, I’m really happy with my time but those few seconds over the 2 hour mark are taunting me! If only I ran 9 seconds faster…
This was another race that wasn’t supposed to happen. I didn’t plan to run three half marathons this year (NYC Half and SF Half) and a 200-mile relay race (Reach the Beach). It all just kind of happened.
But the Running Gods have been kind to me this year and I felt confident and strong. I wanted to see how I would perform if I ran a flat and fast half marathon course. So I signed up for the Philadelphia Half Marathon.
Heading into the race, I wasn’t sure what to expect.
I had a really stressful week leading up to the race. I started to feel like I was getting a head cold. My youngest son was sick and home from school. All my work projects and deadlines seemed to have collided all on the same three days, not to mention yoga classes to teach. It wasn’t a pretty sight. The cold weather didn’t help either.
Plus, I wasn’t sure what pace I was going to aim for during the race. I didn’t know what I was going to be able to hold without burning out. And I couldn’t decide what to wear. I practically packed my whole running wardrobe with me for the weekend.
The day started early. With the race scheduled to start at 7am, my husband and I left my in-laws house around 5:15am. While I arrived early, I almost missed the start because of the port-a-potty lines!
My plan for the race was to run the first 4 miles easy. Then, pick it up from mile 4-10. After mile 10, at each mile, I would check in with myself to see if I could pick up the pace. And then sprint like hell when I was a half mile from the finish.
Since the runners of the Philadelphia Half Marathon run together with the full marathon runners, the course was crowded, especially at the start and as we wound our way through downtown. It was a little hard to find my pace at first and it was very tempting to run fast!
Miles 1 through 4: 9:19, 9:23, 9:16, 9:25
The first 4 miles were faster than I was expecting. During miles 5 and 6, my legs were tiring a bit and my left psoas / hip flexor started to talk back to me. Not exactly what you want to feel that early on in a race.
I was planning to drop my pace to 9:00-9:10 during miles 5-6 but that didn’t seem to happen. There was also something funky going on with my watch around mile 7, as you can see from the super fast pace that I would never be able to run.
There are only 2 significant hills on the Philadelphia Half Marathon / Marathon course – between miles 7 and 8 and between miles 9 and 10. The first one wasn’t too bad but the second felt like more of a challenge. But I called upon all the hill training that I’ve done this year and soldiered on up the hill.
Miles 5 through 10: 9:16, 9:28, 7:25, 8:56, 8:52, 9:07
In the back of my head, Mile 10 was a big mental checkpoint. If I finished 10 miles around 1:30, I knew that there was an outside chance that I could finish the race under 2-hours. A slim chance since I would have to pick up my pace a bit, especially to account for the extra mileage that I would inevitably be running on the course.
When my watch beeped at 10 miles, I was at 1:31.
At this point in the race, I still felt really good and in control of my pace, compared to San Francisco where I felt like I was going to die.
I followed my plan and picked up my pace. Then tried to pick it up some more. As I passed the Mile 12 marker, I knew that I had to hang on for another mile.
As you head back towards the Art Museum to the finish line, the half marathoner split from the marathoners. There was also a big bottleneck as the road narrowed so I had to slow down right before heading up the final hill and back onto Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
As I entered the finishing chute, there were a couple of thoughts that ran through my head:
- OMG where the F*$& is the finish line;
- OMG I can’t breathe; and
- OMG I’m not going to make it under 2 hours.
I tried my damnedest to shake those thoughts from my head, to embrace the suck and to will my legs to move just a little bit faster.
Miles 11 through 13.5: 8:34, 8:39, 8:22, 8:10 (last 0.5 miles)
Stats from my watch:
Total Time: 2:00:07
Total Mileage: 13.5 miles
Average Pace: 8:52 min/mile
When I called my husband, I think that my first words were, “2 hours and 7 f*$&ing seconds!!”
Yet, I am happy knowing that I ran the best possible race that I could have on this day. I ran with so much more control compared to my other races this year. I ran much faster than I expected. And I shaved 7 minutes off my personal best.
While I am annoyed that I just missed my A Goal for the race, I am kind of thankful for those extra 9 seconds because they give me something to strive for. They give me hope because I came so close to a goal that I didn’t think that I would have a shot at achieving.
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