Well at this point it’s been almost 3 weeks since I ran in the Baltimore Half-Marathon. This was my 4th time doing the half, and I also ran the full in 2013. This event will always be special to me because in 2007 the Baltimore Half was my first race ever. It’s also the biggest race in Baltimore where I have lived for about 14 years now. That being said, it’s not an easy course! There are some tough hills, but the crowd support is amazing, especially at the finish line. The last 3 miles are mostly all downhill and during the last 1/2 mile the course takes you through Camden Yards where the sides are PACKED with spectators. I’ve written about the Baltimore Running Festival several times, so check out these posts if you are interested in reading more:
This year I signed up for the half-marathon as a training run, which I wanted to “race” conservatively. There is also a full marathon, 5k, and a relay, all starting at different times. The full marathon started at 8 am and then the half-marathoners joined in around mile 15. The half started at 9:45, and gets to see the marathoners run by next to us as we are lined up waiting to start.
9:45 is a late start time for me, so I didn’t really know what to do with myself all morning. Rob was running both the 5k and the half, and the 5k started at 8:20. He went down to the city early and dropped stuff off at his office so he could change in between races. I headed down around 7:30 and got to the bag check area in time to see him finish the 5k- he broke 20 minutes for the first time which has been a goal of his for quite some time!
Around 9:15 I made my way over to the start line. It felt really cold out until I started warming up. It was perfect weather for racing- just below 50 degrees and slightly overcast.
As usual I got a bit boxed in during the first mile (which seems to happen no matter where I start). I was able to settle into my pace right around 8 min/miles and felt pretty good. I didn’t want to go out too fast, and kept in mind the important lessons Tina shared with us a few days before this race in her post about pacing the first half of a race. I hadn’t tapered at all, so my legs were a bit heavy and I did hold back a bit knowing that there was some rough hills to come.
I saw Rob at mile 3 and we ran together for a few minutes before I went ahead of him. I knew he was beat from already racing a 5k. At mile 4 a spectator was yelling “you’re almost done! Just 7 miles to go!” Um, no we were not almost done, and we had 9 miles to go, not 7.
Mile 1: 8:08
Mile 2: 8:13
Mile 3: 7:38
Mile 4: 7:56
I was still holding around a 8 min pace or slightly under, but wasn’t sure because my watch was way off the mile markers. At mile 9 I didn’t think I was on track to PR, and figured I would just keep running at my current pace and see what happened.
Mile 5: 7:40
Mile 6: 8:04
Mile 7: 7:39
Mile 8: 7:57
Mile 9: 7:57
Around this time I went to get a gel from my FlipBelt. I was having a hard time finding the hole to pull it out though, and I heard someone behind me telling my where it was. I realized it was Rob, and he said he had been slightly behind me for a while. We ran together for a minute, and then he said he wasn’t able to pick it up at the end because his legs were dead, but that I should go ahead. I started to tell him how I wasn’t on track to PR, and my legs were tired, and I didn’t taper…basically lots of excuses.
He gave me a quick lecture about how he doesn’t want me to complain about missing a PR by 1-2 seconds again, and that I knew the course was easier from here on out, and I could easily throw down a few 7:30s if I had to. I started to try to give him some more excuses, but he just said “no talking”. Tough love, I guess.
But he was right. I did have something left in the tank, and there was no reason why I couldn’t go for it. After the 10 mile mark I started picking it up. I was also able to do some math and mile 11 and realized I was pretty much guaranteed a PR at that point. I kept pushing hard, and surprised myself each time my watch buzzed.
Mile 10: 7:58
Mile 11: 7:23
Mile 12: 7:27
Mile 13: 6:58
Last .1: (5:57 pace)
The energy from the crowds during the last mile was all I needed to give it that final push. When I crossed the finish line, my watch read 1:42:00 and I wondered if I had actually run a 1:41 something- it turned out I had, and my official time was 1:41:58, a PR of 1 minute and 18 seconds.
Rob finished about 2 minutes after me and I got to tell him about my big finish. I definitely psych myself out when racing, and give up on myself easily. I somehow need to find my own internal voice that can convince myself to push hard when no one else is around to say it to me.
After the race it got cold really quickly. We got some food and beers and I had checked a bag so was able to put on a sweatshirt. I was still shivering even with that on. I met up with my sister and her friend who were watching their friend run her first half, so I hung out with them while Rob went to his office to get his stuff. We stayed for maybe 30 minutes before heading home.
Part of me thinks I need to “race” more- not just do more races, but actually work towards specific race goals so I get better at the mental aspect of it all. If nothing else, I think I will be able to look back on this experience during future races and remind myself that I am often capable of more than I think, and it’s worth trying to reach your goals even if it means risking failure.
Once again, I had an amazing experience at the Baltimore Running Festival. It’s a challenging but manageable course, and a fun event with amazing crowd support!
Do you give up on yourself in races or on tough training runs?
Have you ever thought you couldn’t PR but did anyway?