Back in August – ahh, remember warmth? – we hosted Morgan and Lauren who came up to escape the Texas heat and eat at every place we could score reservations. Lauren brought up the 3M Half Marathon and I knew that by the end of January I would do just about anything to flee the Chicago winter and head south, so we all (minus Brett) signed up for the January 25th race!
Since my half in October I’ve been running but not specifically half marathon training. I’ve done between 20-25 miles a week with at least one speed interval session a week, but not many tempo runs and nothing over 7 miles. Needless to say, I was not expecting a top performance but planned to see how I felt and just enjoy the course – and the tank top running weather.
Both Morgan and Lauren had run this race in the past and had the logistics down, the most exciting being that the 6.25 mile point is at the end of their street so for peace of mind we had our own private bathroom if need be. No one did, but it was very reassuring to know! Also, Brett would be there cheering us on which I greatly looked forward to.
The course is point to point and logistically very easy. The plan was to drive to the start, park in the garage, and take the free shuttle back to the start after meeting at the finish. The start time was 7am and we were heading out the door by 6:10 to allow time for the inevitable traffic gridlock on the one highway to the start line. We had about 20 minutes after parking to toe the line and in that time I ran into a friend from Chick’s Night at Fleet Feet in Chicago!
We each had a different estimated finish time so wished each other luck and headed for our respective corrals. Morgan and Lauren both ended up stuck in the porta potty line but I had just enough time to slip through the corral gate and nervously fidget for warmth as the National Anthem was sung. It was mid-low 40s but supposedly would reach 70 in the afternoon with sun expected (rising roughly 2 miles into our run) so I was layered like an onion!
The gun went off and I hit my Garmin crossing the start; 13.1 to go! The first couple miles were a little dark as the sun started coming up about 20 minutes in. My first mile was 7:43 and I felt great. Great enough that my 2nd mile was 7:26! Probably a little too ambitious without PR training behind me and only 2 miles under my belt, I slowed a bit and kept at it around 10 seconds slower the next 2 miles. With no hills and not knowing the city, it’s hard to remember specific points along the course, but I do remember a few things. The course is a net downhill but there were a few small inclines throughout. One of them was around mile 4 when I was decidedly warm enough to shed my jacket. We started the small incline as I took my gloves off (all 2 pair of them), unzipped and worked the fitted sleeves over my arm warmers. I needed my hands to tie it around my waist so I tucked the gloves under my chin and made a double knot, slipped my gloves back on and resumed my pace. This may not see too impressive, but I passed through two runners in the middle of this feat! I just hope the spectators made note. We continued south towards downtown and I happily realized I had just over a mile until I passed by the house and got to see Brett.
Mile 1 – 7:43
Mile 2 – 7:26
Mile 3 – 7:37
Mile 4 – 7:35
Mile 5 – 7.21
I tried to stay steady but push it through the bulk of the race. I was feeling good but knew I wasn’t PR prepped and didn’t want to crash, especially with a known hill coming sometime around mile 10. It wasn’t rumored to be a huge hill but I didn’t want to risk it. There were water stops every 2 miles and just before the 6th mile stop I (mentally) gave the award for Best Dressed Spectator: A grown man in a full pirate costume – hat, hair and all – with a sign that said “Run Your Booty Off!”.
I smiled and got to the outside of the water stop, fueled by the excitement that I knew exactly where I was and would see Brett shortly. I could also toss him one of my pair of gloves. Yeah, I was THAT warm. We turned the corner onto Great Northern Blvd. where we would be for the next mile and I got to the left so I could see my fan. I caught his eye early and waved, said I didn’t need anything but for him to take my gloves, attempted to smile at his phone and was on my way.
Mile 7 was just over a half mile from me and was the first Clif Shot stop. I grabbed a vanilla and mocha for who-knows-when and ate one of my shot blocks; the second of the race.
There was a string band playing up ahead on the left that I thought a little subdued for a race, then I recognized what they were paying: “If I only had a brain…”. I laughed at that one, assuming it was a statement for all of us silly people paying to get up early and run 13.1 miles. It was stuck in my head the next 2 miles.
Miles 6-8 clocked in around 7:30 and I felt good. I knew I had enough miles under 7:38 that I could feasibly get my second fastest time, but there was still a hill and more race to be run. Just past mile 9, as we turned off Shoal Creek Road and onto West 45th, I met my hill. It wasn’t steep but was a full half mile…after running 9 miles already. A girl matching my pace had a friend jump in at the start of the hill and helped pace her and talk her through the toughest part of the course. I hung on her every word! “Please, tell her it’s almost over”, I thought, and about 20 seconds later I heard those magic words and felt a rush of relief. That was it, I can forget about “the hill up ahead”! We had 5K to go.
Mile 6 – 7:31
Mile 7 – 7:28
Mile 8 – 7:26
Mile 9 – 7:33
Mile 10 – 7:38
The rest of 45th Street was a nice steady decline and my hamstrings – especially the right one – were thankful. Knowing my personal Dark Passenger of the Half Marathon are miles 10 and 11 I was incredibly happy to hear a spectator say, “you’re 1 minute away from Mile 12!”. I yelled a thank you, then started wondering how she knew what my pace was and how she could calculate how long it would take me to reach mile 12. Then I saw the Mile 12 marker and stopped caring.
Knowing that every step is that much “under a mile to go” does so much for you mentally. It did so much that my last mile was by far my fastest. Or maybe it was that mariachi band at 12.5? I knew I had only a few more minutes of running to do so I didn’t let up, even pushing myself harder. There were a ton of curves that last mile and with each one I kept expecting to see the finish line, even muttering, “where the f@$& is the finish” to myself. I finally saw it, along with a small incline (19 ft elevation gain according to my Garmin). I pumped my arms and dug in. I was going to beat my last half time and crossed the line at 1:39:03; my second fastest half and 14th Half Marathon on record!
Mile 11 – 7:33
Mile 12 – 7:31
Mile 13 – 7:17
Average race pace – 7:31
They called my name as I crossed the line (seriously, that will NEVER get old!) and after grabbing a water I heard Morgan’s name called. I quickly found him, he ran a 1:37 but had started after me in real time, not his fastest but not a bad showing. We got our medals and sat in the sun on a hill while we waited for Lauren. He guessed she would beat her best time and estimated a 1:57 finish. We slowly got up and made our way to the chute when I got a call. It was Lauren, we missed her because she ran a 1:52, a full 7 minute PR! We recapped our adventure, grabbed some finish line SWAG and headed for the shuttles. Overall, it was a great morning!