Life, Running

In Pursuit of a PR: Working Towards a Sub-2 Half Marathon

I started regularly jogging about six years ago; I’d just finished my first year teaching in New York City, and wanted to burn off a couple of the pizza-and-ice cream pounds I’d put on throughout the year. I looped around my Williamsburg, Brooklyn neighborhood, running until I had to walk and walking

2015 NH Half on Newfound Lake!

until I got back home again. Before long I could run a mile, then two, then five, then my grad school classmate said “You should run a half marathon!” and I said “Uhhh…yeah, maybe you’re right!” It was over a year before I actually did run a half marathon. But once I did, I was hooked.

My focus in those first few races was just to finish. I ran my first race, the 2013 YuKanRun Happy Holidays Half Merrython in 2:12. I shaved a minute off my time at the 2014 Boston Run to Remember, but didn’t really make much progress from there, and felt pretty good about my 2:11 finishes.

That was until the October 2015 New Hampshire Half Marathon, (Which is a completely gorgeous race, by the way!) where I ran a 2:05. So, just as an experiment, I kept training and told myself I’d really push during my next one. So, at the December 2015 YuKanRun Happy Holidays Half Merrython, I pushed my way to a 2:01PR.

I was happy, but I was also unsettled. I was no longer satisfied with just finishing. Now, I wanted to be fast. Now, I wanted a sub-2 hour half time.

So, I made a plan. I downloaded the Hal Higdon Half Marathon training calendar to my iCal and ACTUALLY mostly (sort of) stuck to it. I googled what “speed work” actually meant, and started using my Apple Watch to mind my pace while I ran.(Who even knew it could do that?!?) I also started using the treadmill, and not just when it was too icy outside to run. I even went to a few interval training sessions at Club Run Studio, which I fully recommend if you’re in the Boston Area. I chose an April race on the North Shore of Massachusetts to make my attempt, knowing that I’m not great with warm weather and April is usually still cool in my neck of the woods.

Me coming up to the finish line in April, knowing that I’d JUST missed my goal time.

The day of the race came, bright, sunny, and 80 degrees with 70% humidity. And I ran. I ran real hard. And I was miserable, and in pain, and wanting to quit the whole time. As I rounded the corner and glimpsed the finish line, still a few hundred yards away, I watched the big digital clock click from 1:59 to 2:00. I’d just missed my mark.

Leading up to that race, I’d told my family, friends and the coach at my running studio that I was going for a sub-2, and I felt as if I was letting them down, even by less than 30 seconds. In my head I knew it wasn’t a big deal, but in the eternal words of Selena Gomez, the heart wants what it wants. And I’d had my heart set on a sub-2 time to flaunt on my insta and facebook page.

I wanted to cry a little. Instead, I sprinted to my 2:00:23 finish and immediately began gearing up for a May half that I’d agreed to run with a friend.

I told myself that my goal in the 2017 Delaware Running Festival Half Marathon wasn’t even to get a sub-2. It was just to run with my friend and enjoy it. I opted not to track my pace on my beloved Apple Watch, and not to look at my phone at all while I was running.

Lucky for me, my friend is slightly faster than I am. I stuck with her, and it felt great.

I crossed the finish line with a time of 1:58:12, grinning like an idiot and so looking forward to brunch. 

For me, a huge part of running well is anxiety management. I’m a really serious worrier, although I don’t always show it. Leading up to my race in April, my anxiety levels were out of control. My stomach was upset the whole week prior, and then, to top it all of, there was an electricity failure in my neighborhood in the days just before the race, and I spent 48-hours problem-solving my way through no-electricity life. I wasn’t sleeping well, eating normally, and I was still nursing a sore calf muscle from a hard run weeks before.

“Letting go” of my anxiousness is the hardest thing in the world for me. I can ruminate on the negative for years at a time, I swear. But I’ve learned time and time again that the only way for me to move forward achieve my goals is by letting the anxious throughs flow right on by, and staying focused on the positive as much as possible.