Seven years ago I laced up for my first half marathon, the Rochester Half Marathon. 21 half marathons later I found myself back once again. I’ve participated in either the full marathon or the half marathon each year. A lot has changed since I ran in 2006.
It used to be that I would nervously line up and then run by feel. The time didn’t matter. I ran hard for my current notion of hard. More often than not I’d arrive at the finish line with a shiny new PR and a happy glow that would last for a day or more. Over the years as I’ve worked my way into being a stronger runner I’ve developed an expectation for speed. When I line up for a half marathon I expect no slower than 1:30. I no longer expect to get PRs unless I’ve trained for them and even then it is a wish, not an expectation.
I had run a couple of tempo runs and the paces I saw were better than I thought I was currently capable of. The paces were good because I was putting forth effort. I wondered what I could do, what I could really do out on the race course. I decided at some point in the week leading up to the race that I would push harder than I’ve ever pushed. I needed to prove to myself that I could work hard.
The day before the race I was a mess. Amber, although she was running the same race, had made this a goal race and was less nervous than I was. Oh, she was nervous too but somehow I managed to get myself into a really bad mental state of anxiousness mixed with fear. This somehow bled into my life outside of running. I wasn’t just nervous about the race. I was worried about everything. At the same time I just wanted to sit around and do nothing. Doing nothing when you are in that mental state is nearly torture.
On race day we were presented with magnificent running weather, once the sprinkling stopped at least. It would seem that I was dwelling on my own feelings but that is not true. I was thinking about Amber. I was not worried. I knew she’d do well. It was simply not knowing the outcome and, even more so, not knowing how best to help her that made me worry.
Amber and I lined up together after a short warm-up. I tried my best to calm her and to give her advice. I feel silly giving advice; I’m no elite. Still, I shared what I believed had worked for me in the past knowing full well that she’d consider what I said and adapt for herself.
The gun went off and the miles ticked away. The first mile set my expectation — a 6:35! I felt good so there was no reason I couldn’t maintain that (excluding the hilly miles). I held true to my goal. I was focused. I was running and I was running hard. As the miles ticked by I pondered the similarities between the race and my life. In particular I noted how much more effort I’m putting into every aspect of my life. I’ve been working harder at my career. I’ve been working harder to build a family life that is worthy of envy even through the complications. I’m working harder at all of my relationships. As I ran I was working harder than I’ve ever worked during a half marathon. I hoped the result would be the same as in the rest of my life; that it would be more rewarding.
I approached the corner near the finish line. One year ago I saw my parents and Amber on that corner. 1:24:59 flipped to 1:25:00. I looked towards the finish. It was so close. It was enlightening to see that distance; the difference between my PR and what I would earn on the current day. The difference was so small! And yet, for a runner, the time difference was huge.
As I left the finish area I was thrilled to see my parents! They were beaming! I didn’t know they were coming! We exchanged a few words and hugs but I needed to go find my love! This was the first time I’ve run someone in and I couldn’t wait to find out how her race was going. The icing on the cake for the day was to be with her, step for step, as she earned a huge 3 minute PR!
For this race I crossed the line in 1:26:20. It was not a PR but I never had that expectation. My expectation was to push myself, to really test my current limits. I achieved that. I was the 22nd male and was 2nd in my age group. It has been a while but I’m proud of my running again. It’s time to work hard.
4 6:54 (hills)
5 6:50 (hills)
12 5:55 (this was mis-marked)
13.1 7:29 (6:49 pace and also mis-marked)