Before my 10K and 10 mile races last spring I wrote some brief summaries of my pre-blog attempts at those distances (10K recap is here, 10 mile one is here). I thought it would be fun to do one for the half marathon since I’ll be running #6 in less than 48 hours, YIKES.
I think the half marathon is my favorite race distance, though my 10K training last spring– even though it literally broke me– made me feel more confident with shorter distances. I ran plenty of lousy 5Ks in high school and I’ve been burned twice by 10K course issues (ahem) but I’ve never had a bad half marathon. And now I’ve probably jinxed myself.
1) 2009 Philadelphia Distance Run (1:52:35, 8:35 pace)
A year or two after I ran this race it was acquired by the Rock ‘n Roll series and I hear it’s way more expensive now. I believe the course is still flat and fast and pretty scenic (though with some tight turns at the beginning). I was aiming for a sub-2 hour finish, so I stuck to 9 minute miles until mile 8 or so when I picked up the pace and held on as long as possible. I was really happy with my finish time. My parents came in from the suburbs to watch me finish, which was fun. I also ran this race approximately 9 months after having brain surgery, which is kind of crazy.
2) 2009 Philadelphia Half Marathon (1:48:05, 8:15 pace)
I was so diligent with my training before the Distance Run. I was so not diligent leading up the Philly Half. I’d actually signed up for it as a back-up race so that I’d have another HM to run in case the Distance Run went horribly. Anyway, in the two months between these races (the Distance run was in September; the Philly Half was in November) I only did 1 or 2 long runs and barely did any speed work because my free time was consumed by grad school applications. Since I knew my training was sub-par, I initially decided to just aim for another sub-2 hour finish. However, the night before the race I saw that the weather was going to be perfect– low 40s and clear– whereas the Distance Run had been pretty hot. So I changed my plan and decided I would try for sub-1:50. I think the weather absolutely helped make that happen along with allowing myself to run a little faster in the earlier miles. I love this course aside from the facts that it gets pretty crowded because the half runs along the same route as the full marathon. The crowd support is great– I got a high five from someone dressed as Ben Franklin in Old City, there were people out with boomboxes near Drexel, lots of spectators along the Schuylkill in the final miles. And they play “Gonna Fly Now” at the start by the Art Museum steps where Rocky ran. Everything is so Philadelphia and I love it.
Then I took a 4 year break from half marathons/running in general…
3) 2013 Decker Challenge (1:47:07; 8:10 pace)
Of course my first half marathon in 4 years would be on one of the most unforgiving courses I’ve ever had the pleasure to run. I was in decent shape for this but was in no way aiming for a PR; instead, I stuck with the 1:50 pace group and felt like I was taking it relatively easy for the first 9 miles or so.
I picked up the pace significantly in the last few miles (with the exception of the giant hill at mile 10) and managed a very unexpected PR. The course is tough but I actually loved this race and was sad to miss it in 2014. I think the brutality of the course and the fact that the race is pretty much in the middle of nowhere make the runners a self-selecting group. It’s basically the opposite of a Color Run.
4) 2014 3M Half Marathon (1:38:48; 7:32 pace)
Unlike the Decker Challenge, I knew I would PR at this race. Specifically, I was aiming for sub-1:45, which I knew I could do on a mostly downhill, point-to-point course. I ran with the 1:45 pace group for the first mile and then got ahead of them and didn’t look back. I kept seeing miles in the 7:20s and 7:30s on my Garmin but didn’t feel like I was running that hard. So I decided to just try to keep it up for as long as possible. Behold the power of the downhill.
Around mile 9 or 10 I saw the 1:40 pace group just ahead of me, which I can only describe as surreal. I’d set out to run a sub-1:45 half marathon and now I had a shot at sub-1:40?! I managed to get past them and then held on for dear life.
5) 2014 Austin Half Marathon (1:44:12; 7:57 pace)
I knew I would PR at 3M; I knew I would not PR at the Austin Half. This is another hilly course– there’s a gradual uphill for the first few miles and then a bunch of nasty little hills in the last 2 miles when you’re starting to really hurt. My goal was to finish in under 1:45, and I’m pleased that I pulled that off on a tougher course. I ran the first 11 miles with the 3:30 marathon pace group and then tried to hold a sub-8:00 minute pace for the rest of the race after the marathoners split off from the rest of us.
Half marathons– so much fun! Just kidding. I’m already mad at myself for paying money to wake up at 4:30 on Sunday morning.