In my last post I left off at the start line of the race. I started the race feeling okay, thinking “maybe I will be able to do this thing, after all!”. I actually started with Rob (we usually don’t run together, but we were both hoping to run around a 3:50-4:00 so we started in the same corral). After standing around for 20 minutes I felt like I had to go to the bathroom again, but knew I didn’t have time. I hoped the feeling was just nerves and would go away once I started running.
Miles 1-8: (9:06, 8:55, 9:06, 9:29, 9:19, 9:24, 9:52, 9:36)
My plan was to try to start out at around a 9:05 pace for the first 8 miles. That would be 20 seconds slower than marathon goal pace, so then the hope was to get down to 8:45 for the middle miles and pick up the pace for the last 8 miles. After my watch beeped at mile 1 I was really excited to see 9:06 which was exactly the pace I wanted to run.
For these miles we were in downtown Raleigh and there were alot of rolling hills. My watch was also going a little crazy- I think the satellites went in and out on some streets. Somewhere around mile 3 I realized my watch was ahead of the course. (Not sure if it was because I wasn’t running the tangents or because of the satellites.) It already felt hot, and so I tried not to worry too much about pace. I knew I was off of my plan but I wanted to run a strong race the whole time. I tried to keep a consistent effort between the uphill and downhills, and kept reminding myself not to go out too fast. I still had a loooong way to go!
Right around mile 6 I stopped for about 45 seconds to go to the bathroom (I knew I wouldn’t make it the whole race, plus I was drinking alot of water). There was no line so I ran right in and out. I had been running near Rob until that point. After I started running again we turned a corner and there was a huge hill. I tried not to look ahead because it was so intimidating. At mile 8 we split with the half marathoners, and I was definitely a little jealous at that point!
Miles 9-18: (8:59, 9:07, 9:09, 8:49, 9:02, 8:39, 9:09, 8:46, 9:20)
This was the part where I had planned to get down to 8:45. I knew my legs couldn’t handle that pace (plus a faster pace at the end) so I just did what I could. I met up with Rob again at this point because he had made a quick stop also, and I could tell he was sharing the same struggles as me. We were started the long out and back, and it was much quieter without the half marathoners. I was surprised at how much crowd support there was for this part of the race! I felt like there there were people cheering pretty much consistently throughout the whole course which was awesome.
I think my paces for these miles were a reflection of the long hills that we went up and down. Rather than the quick, rolling hills like in the beginning, now we were dealing with long, steady inclines. The sun was getting hotter and there was less shade than in the city. At mile 15 I passed Rob for the last time (and I had a feeling he was planning to slow down, because he said “good luck” as in “ill see you at the finish”). People everywhere were walking by now. Some people looked like they had heat exhaustion, and I’m not at all surprised. I kept checking in with myself to see how I was feeling, and slowed down as needed.
Miles 19-26.2 (9:41, 9:16, 9:04, 9:05, 8:55, 9:16, 8:50, 9:01, 7:29 for last .44)
There was a long climb at mile 19, but we could hear over speakers an announcer at mile 20 who was cheering on runners and calling out their numbers as they passed. She kept saying “you’re at mile 20, the hardest part is over!”. Hearing that gave me a mental boost and I was really happy to pass that 20 mile mark. However, it was far from over! We got back to downtown Raleigh and had to deal with more hills and it was hotter and sunnier (are you seeing the theme here?) I hardly saw anyone running consistently at this point. We joined back up with the half marathoners for the last 4 miles or so.
At mile 22 I started doing the math to see where I was with my time. I knew the 3:50 was not happening, but could I break 4 hours? I realized it was possible. At mile 23 I knew if I kept around a 9:00 pace I could do it. However: remember when I said that runner’s need to be good at math? All of those numbers got really confusing. I have no idea how I came up with that number but maybe it was because my watch was off, but who knows. Anyway, I kept trying to keep that 9:00 pace. I kept thinking about how bad I wanted that sub 4 and how close I was.
The hardest part of the whole race for me happened at the mile 25 mark. We had just gone up another rough hill, and I was so hot and my legs felt like they couldn’t move anymore. I knew I only had 1.2 miles to go and I really wanted to push it but I was really scared I might fall down. I tried to relax and run slower for a couple minutes until my heart rate came down. My watched beeped for mile 26 but I knew I had more than .2 to go because my watch was off. But I looked down sometime before the actual 26 mile mark and saw 3:55:40. (Spoiler: that’s not what it said). When we passed the 26.1 mark (I knew it was that distance because it the was half-marathoner’s mile 13) and looked at my watch again to see 4:00:xx……turns out my watch must have said 3:59 but I read the 9 as a 5. I was SO angry that I just sprinted to the finish and wanted to scream.
I walked for a minute and got my medal, water, gatorade, and chocolate milk. Over the next few minutes I experienced so many different emotions. Once the frustration of not getting a sub 4 subsided, I realized what I had just accomplished- a 4 minute PR in really rough conditions, and felt proud of myself.
As I waited for Rob to finish I saw some finishers coming through and needing medical attention. I was so grateful to see Rob finish, since I was worried about how the heat could have affected him out on the course.
It wasn’t until much later that I learned that 2 guys in their 30s had passed away during the half-marathon. Its always so sad and scary to hear about those kinds of things happening at races. Especially hearing that they were young and healthy. My thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of those men.
Rob and I found a place to sit for about 15 minutes while we talked about the race. We headed over to the beer tent (which was like 4 blocks away from the finish!) and then headed back to the hotel (after having to walk up ANOTHER hill!). After showering, we went down the the hotel’s restaurant for food and more beer.
We didn’t do anything else all day- it would have been nice to see more of Raleigh but we figured we saw 26 miles of it during the race! I ended up getting 2 glasses of wine from the club lounge around 7pm and I think we were asleep by 9. We were exhausted!
I am planning to write one more post about the race, which will include some more details about the actual logistics of the race, my personal race reflections, and plans moving forward. I’m sure by then you will be totally done with reading about this race:)
What was the hardest race you have ever ran?
Which do you think makes for a harder race: heat or hills?