Running gives you a lot of time to think. One thing I’ve been gnawing on lately is why half marathons don’t have their own name. Whether you call it 13.1 miles or 21.1 kilometers, a half marathon is a race in its own right. Obviously a marathon is an incredibly long distance to run, and marathoners deserve massive credit for accomplishing such a feat, but 13.1/21.1 isn’t exactly something to sneeze at. I’m proposing that we just call it a 21K and end this half nonsense.
This is just one of many topics I pondered while running on Sunday. Others included:
“I wonder how hot that bumblebee costume is? I bet she’s sweating bullets.”
“Where did that moderately overweight septuagenarian go? I was counting on him as a pacer.”
“Holy crap, I’m going faster than I thought I would.”
That final thought was largely due to the fact that a good portion of the course was on a gradual downward slope, and gave me enough lead time to blow my last half time out of the water.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s backup.
I was incredibly nervous for this race. All in all my training went well, and I felt great after my last long-ish run. On Tuesday it all went to hell when I couldn’t even finish my morning 4 miler – it felt like every muscle in my legs was locked up, and I had some seriously acute pain in my right knee. After shuffling home defeated, I decided to take the next day off and try again later that week. While in Seattle for work, I laced up for a quick 2 miler one morning. Same issue. Not as bad, but the knee pain had me worried. Taking a red eye home on Friday morning didn’t help matters, and I spent most of the day on Friday babying my right leg and cuddling with my foam roller.
I got to pick Carlie up on Saturday and show her a bit of Toronto before settling down for an early evening & shirt decorating. Somehow I forgot to take a picture of our glitter glue creations, but we went with “Only Half Crazy” on the front and listed all our favorite foods on the back as the reason we run. Because lets face it, running = more cake. We got several compliments, and I only got one stink eye from a full marathoner in the start corral. On Sunday morning, Carlie was hoping her hips would hold out and I was praying my knee wouldn’t hurt too badly. We made it to the start with time to spare – let me pause here to say that this was by far the best organized race (especially given the 25000 participants!) I’ve ever been to. The corrals were well organized, the start waves were timed well, there was absolutely no line at gear check, and there were plenty of porta potties. I’d definitely recommend the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon/Half-Marathon for all my running friends. Oh, and results were posted live during the race. Can’t beat that.
Since we were in different corrals, Carlie and I eventually had to split up and wait for our turn to start. After a short but very chilly wait, we were off! We started right where my running group meets, so the first part of the course was familiar and it felt like I flew through it. By the time I’d settled into my groove, we’d turned onto a long, slightly downhill stretch that would take us to the lakefront. At about 5k I checked my Garmin and realized I was killing my target pace. Afraid of burning out early, I slowed down slightly but was feeling great and happy to bank some time in case the end got dicey. Oh, and no knee pain aside from some mild twinges at the start.
When we turned onto the lakefront things flattened out and my pace normalized, but I was still feeling strong. At this point the course was doubling back, so we could cheer on the elite runners already making their way on the return side.
I’d planned to run the entire thing, even though I usually run/walk my long runs in training, but belatedly realized that I’d forgotten to account for the fact that I always ate my fuel blocks on the walk breaks on my training runs. Trying to choke one down while running was…awkward, so I ended up taking a couple quick walk breaks to chomp down a shot block. Lesson learned!
Luckily the walk breaks didn’t derail my pace, and I kept going strong until about the last mile when my legs seriously wanted to give out. When I saw the sign for the last 700 meters, I tried to pick up the pace but felt like passing out. This is where the crowds got really big and loud, and having tons of strangers cheering us on with funny signs really made a world of difference. Special shout out to the woman holding a mirror with a sign that said “check your hair for that finish photo!” With the finish line in sight, the crowd started going insane and I could hear the announcer saying that the Canadian women’s marathon record was about to be crushed. Lanni Marchant was coming up behind me on the marathon course, and I was perfectly positioned to watch her pass me and finish her marathon in 2:28. Seeing that was seriously inspirational, and I got to finish right behind her on the half side, for a final time of 2:13.
2:13???? It took that a while to sink in.
For a bit of context, I ran my first half marathon in 2010 and just eked out my goal that year of finishing in 2:30. This year, knowing that I’m a stronger, faster runner than I was 3 years ago, I was hoping to finish in 2:17, taking a minute/mile off my first pace. Beating that goal felt AMAZING! I even almost choked up…almost, we all know I’m not a crier. I got my medal, chugged some water, munched on a bagel and found Carlie so we could celebrate her checking the last thing off her pre-30 bucket list and my PR. Unfortunately, Carlie had some pretty major ankle/foot pain during the race and throughout the rest of her stay in Toronto, so we celebrated with burgers, fries, wine, and lots of Netflix while we planned our next race: Virginia Wine Country or the Nike DC Half? Nike involves firefighters in tuxedos handing you a Tiffany necklace at the finish line, so I know which one I’m voting for!