The YMCA Half Marathon

I ran it this morning in a sort of disappointing 1:45.

I didn’t have to think real hard before deciding to run, even though I didn’t know about it until about three weeks ago. My marathon training plan had me running about 13 miles today anyway. With a race, I’d have a fresh environment instead of a plain old training run. Also got a nice t-shirt, and it was only fifteen bucks to register. So why not, I though.

Then I had to choose how to race it.

Normally, at this stage of training for the marathon, I’ll run about twenty miles during the week and then do a big run on Saturday. Right now that would be in the low to mid teens. Sundays I ride my bike anywhere from twenty five to fifty miles.

One option for the race was to simply fit it into my usual routine. The plus of that is I would still have a normal training week. The drawback is not having a very good time. I usually do speed work during the week, leaving my legs dead for anything other than steady distances on Saturdays. The other option was to recover during the week prior to the race and try for a really good time.

Initially I leaned towards recovery and racing, for two reasons. One, I wanted to see if I could hold my ideal race pace (7:30-7:40 per mile) for the whole thing. Two, plenty of people have told me about the advantages of walking through water stations during the marathon and I wanted to try it and see how it impacted my endurance and time during a real race.

I ended up splitting the difference. I cut out my ride last Sunday. I also cut out my run Thursday, giving me Thursday and Friday to rest for this morning’s run. In between, I did some hard running for five miles on Tuesday and then six miles with the kids in the jogger Wednesday.

With the easier week I was hoping to run anywhere from 1:40 to 1:45. In addition to doing that, I wanted to maintain a steady pace and finish strong. I’ve always had problems taking off too fast and then collapsing towards the end, so that latter goal really mattered to me.

And I met that one. The first mile – which felt like I-2o at five o’clock – was my slowest: 9:15. After that my three slowest were all miles when I walked through the aid stations and they averaged about 8:25. My last mile was 7:45. Also, only one person passed me, while I passed quite a few who were fading in the second half, which tells me I did a good job keeping a steady pace.

The time, however, bugs me. First, doubled, my time today would be exactly my “I’ll be thrilled” marathon time. But even if I can keep it close, I know I’ll lose some time in the second half. That would mean today’s run would equal a 3:40 or so for the marathon. I’d be “happy” with that, but not thrilled. Second, the time bugs me because two weeks ago, after a normal training week, I ran ten miles in 1:17. I felt strong doing it, too. That pace would have finished the half in five minutes less time than I did today. Most of the difference, I think, was due to the first mile and the walks.

Still, the slow first mile and the walks might end up saving time once I’m doing the whole 26.2. They cost time at first, yes. Long term, though, they should keep me fresher and thus faster. I’m hoping that over a full marathon the benefits will be more apparent. In other words, maybe doing those things will make the second half of the marathon the same as today’s. If that’s the case, not only will I be thrilled, but even today’s run will look great.


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