Don’t you love those moments when everything comes together exactly when you need it to? That’s what Sunday’s half marathon in Bonn felt like for me. Although I aimed to beat my fastest time (2:13:06 at the NYC Half Marathon in 2007), I had no idea just how much faster I would be able to run. But I did know that I wanted to run my heart out and devote every last ounce of energy to the race. And guess what? I improved my personal half marathon record by almost 5 minutes!
I’ve been training and racing consistently since January in Bremen’s winter running series (a 10K, 15K, and 20K), focusing on speed work and gradually increasing the distance of my long runs. I’m sure this long build-up over the winter helped me avoid the overuse injuries which usually put a damper on my training. During my last full week of training before Bonn, I nailed my speed and tempo runs and had a very comfortable 12-mile long run. So there was every reason to be confident in my abilities, and I definitely felt positive in the days leading up to the race.
Knowing all of these things, I put together a simple pacing plan (hold steady at 10:08 /mile to come in just under my best time) — and promptly threw it out the window after the first couple of miles. When I noticed I was running faster than planned, I thought it was just typical race day nerves and tried to slow myself down a bit. But as the first miles ticked by, I realized that this faster-than-planned pace felt comfortable and like something I could hold onto for awhile (rather than something that would cause me to crash and burn later). So I hung on and made sure to keep checking in with myself to maintain a comfortable effort (9:44, 9:52, 9:52, 9:43).
During the next few miles, the pace required a bit more work and I slowed down, but mostly felt like I could still maintain my effort (10:04, 9:51, 10:04, 9:57, 9:57). I knew even this slightly slower pace would still lead to a personal best, so I promised myself to keep the effort steady — and if I still had something left to give in the last few miles, then I would.
And I did. For the last four miles, I made the pace uncomfortable. I just let my legs run as fast as they could carry me and tried not to let my mind get in the way. It hurt, but in the very best possible way (9:41, 9:21, 9:23, 9:08). There was even a point around the 10th mile where I became quite emotional and I had to swallow back happy tears! Since I spent my first couple of months in Germany in Bonn, it was pretty wonderful to run by certain landmarks and places, bringing back a whole lot of fantastic memories.
In the end, I finished the half marathon in 2:08:13 and was kind of shocked by my time! In those last few miles, I really didn’t have the energy to pay too much attention to my overall time — I just ran. And I couldn’t be happier with the result.
What I learned from this race
The Bonn Half Marathon was yet another reminder, to be confident in my running abilities and put more faith in what I can accomplish with solid training. Like they say, you have to run faster to run faster. It might not always be comfortable, but it does work. And now I’m 5 minutes closer to my BIG GOAL of someday running a half marathon in under 2 hours. Suddenly, it doesn’t seem so far off anymore!
Next on board
After several solid months of training, I’m giving myself a bit of a break and focusing on strength training in April. I’ll keep my running mileage up, but need to run “just for fun” for awhile to avoid burn out. Then in May, I’ll train for a 4.5 km relay race that I’ll run at the end of the month with a team from work. Beyond that, we’ll just have to wait and see. For now, I’m going to bask in the glow of my new PR!