Some days you go out and they are perfect. Perfect weather, perfect energy, perfect race. The A1A Half Marathon was just that and I killed it. My goal was really just to finish, and in the back of my head, I wanted a sub 2-hour half, which I thought was impossible.
My time was 1:56:48.
The race was in Fort Lauderdale, Fl, which is a solid 3 hour drive and a 2.5 hour plane ride from South Bend. With delays, I was traveling for close to 12 hours before I made it into bed on Friday night. The next morning, my mom and I headed over to the expo, picked up my bib and some free stuff, and then took off to teach a guest yoga class.
I got to bed pretty early Saturday night for a 3:45 am wake up. I slept ok, but not great, since I still had a ton of anxiety about even finishing. I had never run that distance before, and I figured I would struggle. My breakfast was an a luna bar and a banana, which did not go down too well. My stomach was doing flips and I was nervous. My parents and I hopped into the car and headed to the start line at the Broward Museum of Discover and Science and there were TONS of people. Like I have never seen so many people up at 5 am in one place in my life.
Standing at the start line, I still had no idea what my strategy or my pace would be. I was considering going with the 2:00 pacer or the 2:15 pacer… but I was also thinking about doing it alone. I felt good, and as they started the race, I walked up towards the starting line, looked behind me, saw the 2:00 pacer and made a last minute decision to commit to running with her.
The start was still pretty dark, and I was running with a rather large group of runners. We were trying to get through the crowds of people and set our pace comfortably just over a 9 minute mile. The pacer was really nice and we chatted a bit about Notre Dame and the weather up there. I talked to some of the other people in the group and they were all pretty excited that it was my first Half Marathon. My plan was to run with the pacer and at the half way point if I was still feeling good, I’d stick with her.
The course was beautiful and took us down Las Olas Blvd (which, honestly, I don’t even remember running on), then north on A1A to Birch State Park and finally up to the Galt Ocean Mile before taking us south to South Beach Park in downtown Fort Lauderdale. There were ocean views and a pretty rockin’ sunrise.
At Birch State Park, we started to see the potential winners of the half marathon heading back to the finish line, and they looked awesome. I was still feeling good and was really enjoying being with a pacer. Giving up control of the race to someone who can definitely run it is actually pretty wonderful. I felt like my usual mental battles were being fought by someone else and all I had to do was follow that person.
However, just after mile 8, I went to a water stop and lost the pacer. I knew I was ahead of her, and as I was about to head into the Galt Ocean Mile, I looked behind me and couldn’t see her carrying the sign. I figured I’d just run and if she caught up, I’d know that was the 2 hour mark.
I looked at my watch and noticed that I was running at 8:42, and I just kept going. And then I ran another 8:42, and another. And before long, I knew I was minutes ahead of the 2 hour pacer.
Suddenly, mid-race, my goals were changing. I was not only looking to break 2 hours, I was looking to crush 2 hours. I have never run (before today) a race at a negative splits. Usually, I go out too fast and get really tired. I knew that in order to reach my new goal, I’d have to dig deep and do it.
And then mile 13 happened. I got there and was dying. I was looking to the crowd for help and I was really thinking I was gonna have to walk or something. I kept taking water at the stations, but nothing was helping. An older guy came up from behind me and said “you’re doing great” and I told him that it was my first Half Marathon, that we were way past the furthest I’d ever run and that I was really struggling. He looked out in front of us, saw an overpass in the distance and said “that overpass is your goal, just make it to there”.
So I ran to the overpass with him.
He then spotted another landmark ahead, told me to run to that… I continued with him. Suddenly we were a half mile from the end, I was dying, but he just kept talking me through it.
Then I saw my mom, who didn’t think I’d be coming in that early, so she wasn’t paying attention to the racers. I ran over to her, grabbed her and yelled “I’m about to break 2 hours!” …and then I sprinted and gave it my all. I passed the finish line, looked at my watch and saw 1:56:45. I couldn’t believe it. My reach goal was just to break 2 hours… I broke it by over 3 minutes. I had never run negative splits, and my 2nd half was close to 4 minutes faster than my first.
Running with the pacer was the best decision I could have made. Even though I eventually took off ahead of her, she really helped me remain on time and stable. Usually my mind does a lot of fighting in races, and there was none of that (until the last mile). This race could not have gone better.
At the finish line my parents, cousin, and in laws were there to cheer me on. We walked around the vendors and watched the marathoners and half marathoners come in. I even saw Kristina from blogaboutrunning.com cross the finish line. She looked awesome!
Thanks to everyone who helped me get through my training and overshoot my goals. I had a blast and I can’t wait to do it again.
The Holy Half Marathon is in 41 days. Now I have a time to chase.