This past winter I decided that I was going to go for it, run a half marathon. I was already a frequent “gym goer” and 5k-10k runner but had yet to consistently train for a long distance race. I started running 3 days during the week and a long run during the weekend. My weekly runs would include an interval/fartlek run ranging from 4-6 miles (usually on the treadmill), an easy slow jog around the neighborhood ranging from 2.5 – 5 miles, and then a 5k pace/tempo run ranging from 3 – 5 miles. I would end my week with a morning long run, adding 1 mile to my previous weekend distance. I started my long runs at 5 miles and quickly worked my way up to 13 miles, going as far as 15 miles on one occasion (we may or may not have gotten lost on the trails during a group run…).
The weekend of the half was less than a month away and my weekend long runs had to take a back seat so I could focus on final papers, a final thesis, exams, and GRADUATION!
It was an exciting and stressful time and while the running would have helped relieve this stress, I just couldn’t find the time amongst the research and craziness I was buried under. After graduation, I started my new job at the library and had to adjust to the new schedule. Before I knew it, the half marathon was quickly approaching, and at two weeks away, a time I should have been tapering my long runs, I was trying to recover and rebuild my stamina. Come race weekend, the longest run I had completed in the past 5 or so weeks was 10 miles. Having analyzed many training plans, 10 miles is usually the longest run they have you complete, so in terms of distance, I’d already completed the half, however, I am a worrier and a perfectionist; I didn’t want to blow this race.
Race weekend was finally here. I stayed overnight in Williamsburg the night before; I had an early wake-up call for 4:45am. I was a nervous wreck from the minute I woke up. What if I can’t do this? What if the hills that everyone has told me about really are as bad as they sound? Will I beat the heat? (It was reaching the upper 80s this particular weekend and the humidity was suffocating and thick the day before) Should I carry water? I had second thoughts about my shoes, did I choose the right ones? I had brought multiple pairs with me just in case. The questions were swarming.
The time had come
the walrus said… I was dropped off at the start line. I was running this race alone so I wandered the parking lot to calm my nerves. I found a spot to stretch and made a “little-while friend” (this is someone you meet for a short period of time but you connect, talk, laugh, etc. like someone in the airport waiting for the same flight, a fellow grocery shopper waiting in a ridiculous line, you chit chat and pass the time away). Kay was from Charlottesville, in her upper 40s maybe early 50s, and was running this race alone as well, her umpteenth half marathon. She was a racing veteran, with multiple halfs, marathons, and ultras under her belt. We discussed our race plans, training, and goal times. We were both planning on running a 10:00-10:30 pace for the first 6.5miles, so we decided to run together. I am so thankful for meeting Kay, she pushed me and definitely helped me get past the threatening three (this is referring to the first three miles… I don’t know about you, but I semi-loathe those first three, especially being nervous and anxious, sometimes it can be hard to find your rhythm). She was motivating and I soaked up every bit of running knowledge she offered. Together we maneuvered our way through the crowd and fell into step with the 2:15 pacers.
At the halfway mark, Kay and I said farewell and she ran ahead. I was on my own and felt great. Miles 6 – 10 were located on the Colonial National Parkway, the southern portion of which takes you over College Creek Bridge to the entrance of Jamestown Beach and features rolling hills. Certain sections of the hills were tougher than others, especially after the turnaround at mile 8. The breeze blowing off the water and the morning view were enough to keep me distracted and I was able to push through. Mile 11 quickly approached and I was surprisingly greeted by the best cheer squad of the day. Local ROTC high school students lined the streets, cheering, dancing, high-fiving, and running alongside us – it was just what I needed to put a smile on my face. The positive energy definitely carried me through the rest of the race.
The last .25 mile was inside the College of William & Mary’s Zable Stadium. Everyone was cheering and watching from the stands as every runner completed their last lap. It was an awesome way to end the race and gave me the extra push to sprint through the finish line. I completed the half with a time of 2:18:52 beating my goal time of 2:29:59 by 11 minutes and 7 seconds! It was overwhelming, especially for not having hardly run the weeks prior.
I would definitely recommend this race. Running through Colonial Williamsburg was pretty surreal and the views didn’t hurt either. The Run for the Dream Half Marathon and 8k 2014 registration is available here.