I got home from DC just over an hour ago and I'm still walking around on cloud 9. I ran the "CareTrust National Half Marathon" in Washington this morning. My goal going into the run was to hit 2:20 or just a little faster. My reasoning was I did a 4:37 at the Marine Corp Marathon back in October, and my training through the winter here was not very good. And for that second week of February when we got hammered by the snow fall...I really was thinking that 2:20 was going to be a tough enough challenge to reach.
So what happened? Perfect condition, great course lay-out and the grace of God. We started the race just a little after 7am. It was cool but not cold and still a little dark. I also lined up a little ahead of where I typically line up. I was in with the 4:30 Marathoners (2:15 Half Marathoners). My thought process here was that in the past several mass starts I've been in, I've had to shorten my stride at the start for several miles so I wouldn't trip up some slower runner who got in ahead of me. Yea, I still had slower runners in front of me but the majority of those around me were moving at about my pace, so I wasn't cutting my stride to often during the first three miles.
The second was the course itself. It started at RFK Stadium and then headed down past the Capital to the Lincoln Memorial...that's all downhill and it is a gentle slope so you can really just relax and run...and that is what I did. My pace through the first six miles was in the 8min/mile area. At mile 4.7 you head up hill to the highest point on the course, about 200 feet of climb. But when I got to the top I was feeling great. My time slipped to 9min/mile but I felt I had a lot of energy, and at that point I started thinking about trying to break the two hour mark. But the rolling hills over the last part of the course, and the fact that my training really hadn't been that good started to tell.
About mile 11, I realized that the 2 hour mark was out the window, but the question for me was could I hold it all together to the end, or would I blow up and start walking like a crippled old man. Here was the battle. As I went through the 12 mile mark, I realize that I had slipped to 10 min/mile pace. My legs were burning, and the desire to walk or just rest for a minute was overwhelming. My brain was also quick to inform me that since the 2:00 mark was no longer in reach that I should just jog it in easy...I really wasn't in shape.
As I took about the tenth stride away from the 12 mile marker, I made up my mind. I was going to push it to the end. And I did pulling my time back down into the 8:50/mile pace...and pushing it though to the end. Yea the watch showed 2:02 as I looked down at it crossing the finish line...but I was pumped. I put together a run that I didn't believe was possible. And that is when it hit me...God was there. Taking me through the race step by step. His grace gave me strength. Yea for me like all those marathons...God runs beside me still even in these little runs. And He gives me strength to push when my body says stop.
I'm a marathoner. I run 26.2 miles, so I rarely run half marathons. The only time I've run Half Marathons over the years is when I'm running them with my kids, or when I really want to run a marathon but haven't been training. There have been few. But to give you a perspective on this. I have to go back to my 1:41 half marathon in Gulfport MS in 1994 to have a time faster than the one I did today. So yea...I'm walking around on cloud 9.
Past 1/2 marathon times:
27 Apr 2009 - Camp Buehring, Kuwait - 2:27:46
31 Aug 2008 - Disneyland Half Marathon, CA - 2:36.01*
26 May 2007 - Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan - 2:15:05
23 Nov 2000 - Outback Half Marathon, FL - 2:06:42
27 Nov 1994 - Mississippi Beach Half Marathon, MS - 1:41:55
16 Jan 1993 - Mardi Gras Half Marathon, LA - 1:44:48
26 Dec 1992 - Last Chance Half Marathon, MS - 1:41:05
3 Oct 1992 - Mahana Rice Half Marathon, LA - 1:33:04
5 Jan 1991 - Alamo City Warm-Up, TX - 1:42:50
*There is a blog about this half marathon called "Promise Kept" from 31 Aug 2008