I started this year with the goal of getting my half-marathon time under 2 hours. But while training for the Berlin Half Marathon over the winter — coinciding with prepping for my PhD defense — I was burnt out and decided to train and run without a watch, to take the pressure off and simply run for the love of running. It was fabulous!
Although I started diligently reporting my training for the Bremen Half Marathon over the summer, my training quite honestly fell apart a few weeks before the race — a mixture of work stress, catching a cold, and generally lacking motivation were all to blame (sounds like classic burnout here too, right?). While I was hitting my prescribed paces during the workouts I did manage in those weeks, I knew they were too few and far between to really have a chance of breaking 2 hours.
And here’s the spoiler alert: I was right. I didn’t come in under 2 hours, and I didn’t set a new personal record. But I did end up with my second best time ever (2:06:00), running about a minute and a half slower than my best time (2:04:32 from last year’s Bremen Half Marathon).
My goal for the race was just to try as hard as I could and see what happened. I calculated all the paces I would need to reach my different goal times and printed out a pace band — though generally good at math, my running math during races sucks, so I love having a pace band to refer to and know exactly where I stand.
Basically, I can sum up the race with two words: it hurt. Every single freaking kilometer hurt. Unfortunately it was not the same kind of hurt that comes from pushing your boundaries based on strong training (hurts so good!), but more like the hurt that comes from being undertrained and having no business trying to maintain those paces. But I’m pretty stubborn when I want to be, so I didn’t ease up (my paces for the first 10 miles were: 9:27, 9:32, 9:26, 9:28, 9:30, 9:33, 9:35, 9:33, 9:39, 9:34)
That is, until I had to — around 17 km/10.5 miles — when the side stitches that had plagued me from the beginning became too sharp to run or stretch through. So I did something I haven’t done in at least 10 years during a race — I stopped to walk. Up until that point, I was more or less maintaining a pace that would put me close to or under my best time from the previous year. While of course a personal record is always tempting, the pain was slowing me down even more than it would have to take a quick breather. So I took maybe a minute or so to catch my breath, walk and stretch out my side. Afterwards, I was able to continue on running the last 4 km as strong as I could and still enjoy the rest of the race (my paces for the last 3 miles: 10:32, 9:43, 9:39). Totally worth it.
All in all, I have to say I was pretty satisfied with the race. Of course it’s frustrating that I couldn’t get it together to finish out my training strongly before the race — because I think I could have at least run a personal record — but such is life. I’m glad I got to see where my base fitness more or less sits, even with being under trained. I’m also pleased that it’s quite a bit faster than the half marathons I was running even a couple years ago!
So what’s next? Per usual after a long training period, I’m spending some time concentrating on strength training for awhile. And I’m letting myself dream big about my running goals for 2016! More on that to come later…