Yesterday I ran my eighth half-marathon, the Navy Air Force Half Marathon, which was held here in DC. I finished under two hours, a goal I have been chasing for two years, and PRed by about 10 minutes!
The course was a very familiar one for DC races. It started and ended at the Washington monument and included an out and back along Rock Creek Parkway and a loop around Hains Point. The route was flat and went along roads I’ve run on hundreds of time, so there were no surprises.
The weather was perfect, around 58 degrees at the start. What a beautiful day. I bikeshared down to the start and had no problem docking the bike. I had plenty of time to check my bike helmet and jacket at the bag check, visit the portapotty, and warm up before the start. There were only around 2700 runners, so it was a very low-key start. I love small races.
Andy was coming to watch me later so he arrived separately and had time to walk around the monuments in the empty early morning and get some great photos.
Meanwhile, I hit my first mile around 8:50 and just kept on from there. I really, really wanted to go sub-2 and I knew I had it in me, but I didn’t think it would happen yesterday. My average training paces are usually in the 9s, with some miles here and there below 9. I knew I would have to average 9:04 to get a 1:59 finish time, and I didn’t think I had the training to pull that off. I decided to just get out there and see how I felt, and not let myself get upset if I didn’t get my sub-2.
But the first miles felt effortless. I saw the numbers on my Garmin and was surprised to be consistently under 9, but I wasn’t breathing hard and it felt fine – felt good, in fact. I went across the Arlington Memorial Bridge, and the field of runners was so small that the leaders hadn’t even started to turn back yet. I’ve never had that happen in a race.
Down Rock Creek Parkway and back, still feeling good. Beautiful morning. I sipped on my half-Gatorade/half-water from my handheld bottle and ignored the water stops. I had a plain Gu between miles 6 and 7. I didn’t listen to music for the first 10 miles or so, but kept checking in with my watch and asking myself how I felt. The numbers on my watch bounced between the low 8s and low 9s. I played games by picking out people to pass and that kept me focused and kept my speed up.
I knew I would see Andy on Ohio Drive so I kept watching for him. It was a small race with few spectators, so I spotted him before he spotted me. I was feeling so good and wanted to tell him that, but didn’t want to stop!
After that it was on to Hains Point, which is long and boring, but I’ve done it so many times that I knew I could handle it. I switched on my iPod and kept telling myself, don’t stop now, you’ve got this. I was so excited and knew I was going to get below 2, but didn’t want to lose it in the last few miles. I kept an eye on my watch, calculated the miles and pace, and kept picking people off. The last few miles were tough and I felt my body tightening up/wanted to throw up, but I refused to give up. I was so determined to finish strong.
And I did! My official finishing time was 1:56:28, for an average pace of 8:54. My Garmin had me at 13.2 miles for an average pace of 8:49. My splits were remarkably consistent, something I normally am terrible about. This is almost 10 minutes faster than the Rock N Roll Half I did six months ago!
I was over the moon. I felt on top of the world. Right after the race, some guy told me I was his pacer for the last few miles. What? Me? That has never happened.
And of course, all I want to know is what does this mean for the Marine Corps Marathon? After all, that is my goal race. According to the McMillan calculator, a 1:56 half time predicts a 4:04 marathon time, or 9:20 pace. REALLY? I know I could not maintain yesterday’s pace for 26 miles; by miles 11/12, I was feeling it. Could I maintain 9:20? Could I go sub-4? I really want to, and realistically, I am probably not there this fall…but soon, I am. I know I can.
In the mean time, I am trying to believe I really pulled off this 1:56.