I had meant to get this race report up a little sooner, but I came down with a cold just a couple days after the race and it sucked up all my spare energy. But better late than never!
Towards the end of this particular training cycle, I had noticed that my training runs were becoming more solid and that I was consistently reaching faster paces than I ever had before. I knew I was capable of running a personal best during this race. But given that it’s a very stressful time at the moment with my dissertation, I didn’t want to put too much pressure on myself in case it didn’t happen.
However, I did try something new. I normally like to run a conservative first half and then negative split the second half of a race. But this time I wanted to put everything out there at the beginning of the race. To have more faith in my training and my abilities and to leave no room for doubt. Instead of letting myself get freaked out by the paces on my watch, I wanted my legs to simply show me what they could do.
And that they did. I was actually calmer than I have been at other races. I was happy to be racing on home turf and wanted to enjoy myself as much as possible. The first 5K went by in a flash. Maybe a bit faster than would be wise, but I felt good and my breathing was steady, so I just went with it.
By around the 10K mark, I was really feeling the midday sun. The temperatures were warm for the beginning of October and the race hadn’t started until 11:30am. I developed some really painful side stitches around this point and slowed my pace a bit. I focused on my breathing and was able to run through them. I was at least 2 minutes under my goal time and knew I had some room to slow down if I needed it.
The next few miles weren’t my favorite because it already hurt and I knew I had about another 10K still to go. But I focused on each kilometer separately. Usually I’ve always kept my paces calculated in miles, but I may have crossed over to kilometers in this race. Mentally, it was just so much easier to handle maintaining 6:00 per kilometer than 9:40 per mile!
Once I hit 15K, I focused on just staying at my goal pace. It was more of a struggle than at the beginning, but I never doubted that I could. I knew it was just a matter of gritting my teeth and pushing through it. The crowds were also fantastic the whole way and gave me a real energy boost! Plus I had the jaunt through the Werder Bremen football stadium to look forward to, and friends lined up at different points to cheer me on in the last kilometers.
Seeing familiar faces really kept me going strong. I was so exhausted but knew I couldn’t give up. Around 19K, I realized that if I pushed it a bit, I could finish under 2:05, which was my secret goal for the race (so secret that I may not have even admitted it to myself). So I gave it all I had. I was ecstatic and exhausted when I crossed the finish line nearly half-a-minute under!
I couldn’t be more thrilled with my new personal best for a half marathon: 2:04:32. It’s nearly 4 minutes faster than my last half marathon this year in Bonn, which was also a personal best — meaning I’ve taken a total of 9 minutes off of my half marathon time this year. This is HUGE! I’ve been running half marathons for more than a decade, and never really saw too much improvement in my finish times until now. I’m SO going after that sub-2:00 half marathon in 2015. And my 5K and 10K splits from this race were pretty dang close to personal records, so we’ll see if I have time for a few of those too.
But in the meantime, I need some rest. Actually, thanks to this cold, I’ve had a little more rest than I bargained for this week. But I guess I needed it. Once I’m well again, I look forward to getting in more cross-training than usual in the form of swimming and strength training and yoga. Sounds like fun!
Have you been enjoying the lovely fall weather lately? Any races planned for the coming months?