I’m not really sure where to start with this race report, except to say that I surprised myself yesterday in the best way possible! It’s been about two years since my last half marathon (after being waylaid by a broken knee cap in late 2010), and I just wanted to see what I was capable of accomplishing — which apparently was a finish time of 2:13:53. I’m beyond ecstatic (!) that I was able to come within 47 seconds of my personal record at the NYC Half in 2007 — a time that really wasn’t even on my radar for yesterday’s run. So much so that I didn’t even bother to convert the pace I would need to achieve this from minutes/mile into minutes/kilometer. Yet somehow it all came together. Yay! It shows me that a sub-2:00 half marathon is still within my reach if I train a bit harder and faster.
But before I get too carried away, a bit about this race… After getting a reasonably good night’s sleep, I ate my usual peanut butter on wheat bread, half a banana, apple juice and coffee about 2.5 hours before race time. I was feeling good, but also pretty anxious to get the day started. Thank our lucky stars, we live pretty close to the start and finish line — only a few subway stations away — and could enjoy the warmth of our apartment longer than most that morning.
We made it to the start with just enough time to stand in line for the bathroom, change our clothes, and make our way to the starting block. The weather was sunny but cold (around 1C/34F), but I knew I would warm up quickly. After the gun went off at 10:45, our starting block (for 2-hour+ runners) had to wait about 20-25 minutes before starting, which kind of sucked. I guess that’s what happens when you let 30,000 people run along a relatively short distance and need to avoid congestion. (You can check out this video of our starting block slowly making their way to the start line.)
My plan was to run the first 10 kilometers with easy effort — meaning faster than a training run, but still relatively relaxed. I felt good, and enjoyed the route past the TV Tower, the Berliner Dom, through the Brandenburger Gate (how cool is that?), and through Tierpark. My pace pretty consistently hovered above 6:30 per kilometer (10:24 per mile): 6:41, 6:34, 6:32, 6:27, 6:36 (5K = 32:43), 6:33, 6:32, 6:36, 6:32, 6:35 (10K = 1:05:43).
Once I hit 10K and was still feeling good, I sped it up a notch to a less comfortable pace. I was tired, but not exhausted — I knew I had it in me to keep pushing, and I loved that we were consistently passing other runners. So my pace for the next 5 kilometers was a little over 6:15 (10:00 per mile): 6:26, 6:17, 6:16, 6:15, 6:20 (15K = 1:37:20). During these kilometers, I completely focused on my running and definitely did not take in the sights along the course. I was also feeling really lucky that mein Schatz was running with me, carrying my Powerade, and encouraging me a long the way. (Not to mention taking photographs all along the way!)
At the 15K mark, I still had the energy to run harder for the remaining kilometers, and pushed the pace up again. Mein Schatz was taking his job as my bunny very seriously at this point, and continued pulling me past runner after runner at an ever-increasing pace. It felt awesome to be passing people, but I had to put everything I had into maintaining the pace. I seriously didn’t even have enough energy to look at my watch — I just kept running. For kilometers 16 to 19, I was running in the low 6:00’s (9:40 per mile): 6:09, 6:14, 6:02, 6:03.
Here it dawned on me that if I kicked it into high gear, I could come close to my 2007 personal half marathon record. I didn’t have any energy (or time) to do any calculations, I just floored it. I sped through the last two kilometers with everything I had, making the last kilometer of the race my fastest (9:04 per mile): 5:50, 5:40.
And so that, my friends, is how I ended up running a 2:13:53 half marathon — about 10 minutes faster than I thought I could. The time is not impressive to anyone but myself, but I’m still extremely pleased with how the race unfolded. (Oh yeah, and running negative splits during the second half of the run felt awesome.) Although I knew I had trained well, I was so unsure of what I was capable of running after taking two years off of racing. This race was exactly what I needed to get back back on my feet again.
So now what? The Hannover Half Marathon in on my calendar for May 6th, but I’m giving myself until the end of this week to decide what my goals will be for that race, and how I want to train for it. For the next few days though, I’m stretching out my tight muscles, easing myself back into running with a couple easy runs, and enjoying the satisfaction of a race well run.