As I was falling asleep Monday night, I randomly thought about the 2012 American Family Fitness Half Marathon in Richmond. This was the race where I ran my PR half marathon. It was the best half marathon race I’ve ever run. Best races don’t always mean you ran your best time, but in this case the two things coincided. I thought I’d share the story from the day I put it all on the line in a way I hadn’t ever done before, missed my ultimate goal, but was still rewarded in the end. It was the day that inspired this motivational poster:
I did a flash back of the two times I have run the half in Richmond, but today I want to tell the full story from 2012.
I woke up on the morning of November 10, 2012 nervous but ready to go. My training had gone well and I had my sights set on a sub-2 half marathon. My previous best time was a 2:07, from my very first half marathon in April 2007. It was time to finally beat that time.
The weather was perfect for a race. It was clear, in the low 40’s at the start and would only warm up to the mid-50’s by the finish. Barry was also running the half that day. We went through our usual pre-race morning routine and then headed down to the hotel lobby to meet up with his parents and my dad. My dad had plans to bike the course and see me several times during the race. I ended up seeing him at least seven times and it greatly helped me to keep going.
I had run this race the previous year, so I knew the course. The only thing that had changed was the finish. They had moved it to Brown’s Island, which meant an even longer and sharper descent to the finish line. My game plan was simple — Go out at a 9:09/mile pace, the pace I would need to run sub-2, and attack the race right from the start. Back then I was in the habit of wearing my Timex stopwatch, and chose to do so for this race so that I wouldn’t be obsessing over my current pace on my Garmin. I kissed Barry good luck, got my corral, and waited. They sent us off to Pitbull’s ‘Don’t Stop the Party’ and I was ready.
I tried to go out at the right pace, but missed the first two mile markers and wasn’t sure if I was too fast, too slow, or right on pace. I also randomly got attached to my “throw away” gloves and felt the need to throw them at my dad.
Finally, we passed the third mile marker and I looked down on my watch to see: 27:27. I thought “well, that makes the math easy.” I was running exactly a 9:09/mile pace!
I had seen my dad twice and I focused on getting to mile 5. This was just before we turned into the park, and I took two or three Shot Bloks. I hadn’t taken in any water, yet, at this point and I didn’t carry my own during races back then.
As we made the turn into the park it quieted down a bit. There aren’t as many spectators, but there are still plenty of people around you running. I focused on passing the 10K mark and then focused on getting up to the water station, where I finally took in some water. After that I had to make my way up the one significant hill of the race and back out of the park. I had another three Shot Bloks just before mile 8.
|Still going strong!|
Shortly after coming out of the park, you’re on essentially the same road with no turns for about two miles. This is where I started to lose it a bit. Things started to get a little rough and I fell off pace and started really having to fight as the fatigue set in.
If I had dug a little deeper during miles 8-10, I think I may have ultimately broken two hours. But who knows. Shortly after mile 10, I got a second wind and got back on pace. I was trying all I could to pick it up as I ground my way through the final three miles.
Finally, we made the last turn and I careened down the hill towards the finish line. This hill was so sharp, it was all I could do to not fall on my face. I crossed the finish line, stopped my watch, and looked down to see: 2:01:00. A mere 60 seconds off of my goal, just 3 seconds per mile too slow. But you know what? I was elated!
I may have missed my ultimate goal of sub-2 hours, but I covered 13.1 miles 6 minutes faster than I ever had before. I also ran a race with more guts than I ever had before. I was determined to put it all on the line from the start and hold nothing back that day, and I think that’s exactly what I did. I wasn’t the only one with a PR that day, either. Barry ran a 6 minute PR as well, finishing in 1:38:03 — a time he has since bested.
It was PR’s all around and a day of celebration for all. We met back up with my dad and Barry’s parents and grabbed some post-race refreshments. McDonald’s was a sponsor for the race and they were on-site serving up smoothies and coffee. I gladly helped myself to some coffee to get my caffeine fix. We all hung out together on Brown’s Island for a little while and reveled in the accomplishments of the day.
For me, the American Family Fitness Half Marathon was the kind of race day you dream about. The weather is perfect and the stars all align to make for an amazing day. And when the stars align, great things happen.
Tell me about a day when the stars aligned for you.