October 12, 2015

Artsy Endeavors + Life Updates: Breaking My Half-Marathon PR by 5+ Minutes

hartford half marathon 2015
Hartford Half Marathon
hartford half marathon 2015
Post-race selfie
vase of flowers
chinese food
Miso happy
thumbs up
Thumbs up
braid with little tip
Missing the days of the braid
bridge vanishing point
Vanishing point

Friday. I finish classes and retire to my dorm. I pack, unpack, and repack. I check, double-check, and triple check that I have everything I need. Running shoes? Yes. Clothes? Good. Food? You bet. Toiletries? Mhm. Tickets? Got em. Money? Yup. Cellular device? Check. Bulky backpack in tow, I venture into the gloomy weather. At the bus station, I wait alone. This adventure is solely my own. 

A couple hours and one nauseating bus ride later, I find myself in another state. I navigate to the expo to pick up my race packet. Once I emerge from the festivities, night has already fallen. I order veggie pad thai to go, and trek across Hartford to my bed and breakfast. I eat. I surf the web. I lay out my race gear. I shower. I sleep. It's a luxury to climb into bed before 10pm. 

*                                      *                                     *

Saturday, 6:42 am. I awaken, eat instant oatmeal, get dressed. My host shows me a motivational running video. As soon as I step outside, I smile--the clear skies and cool temperatures make perfect race weather. 

I warm up to gear check. My heart flutters with happiness at the colorful sea of runners. These are my people. I do my strengthening exercises and stretch. I find the 1:50 pace group--the plan is to run just under my personal best of 1:49:31. We squeeze our way through the thousands of people to the middle front of the starting pack. 

The horn sounds, and I run. I run because I can, because my body is healthy and able. I run because it's cleansing; to-do lists and worries fade away with each rythmic step. I run because it's empowering to push past my arbitrary ideas of possible. I run because it makes me happy, because it gives me purpose. 

Miles 1-2, I stick with my pace group. By mile 3, I've pulled away. I run faster and faster because I feel good, and I continue to run faster even when tight muscles and shortness of breath decide to join me. Each time I feel like surrendering to exhaustion, I remind myself that I'm so blessed to be racing again. I smile big and pick up the pace. My 8:21 mile splits become 8:08, then sub-8. By mile 11, I realize that I can break 1:45 if I run the last 2.1 miles in 16 minutes (7:37/mile). I dig in.

At 1:44:03, five minutes and twenty-three seconds faster than my previous best, I cross the finish line. 

*                                   *                                    *

Today, my body hurts, but my soul is happy.

The Hartford Half Marathon feels like a dream--I still can't believe that after almost three months away from running (due to injury), less than three months of training, and only 2 running workouts a week (I cross-trained the other 4), I broke my PR by 5+ minutes, averaging 7:57/mile for 13.1 miles.  

When I was diagnosed with a stress reaction last spring, I was devastated. I didn't understand why it was in God's plan for me to miss another race--I'd been training so diligently for my second attempt at a full marathon. We were just over two weeks out from the race, and I had even completed my last long training run of 20 miles. I was already upset enough that knee tendonitis had foiled my first try in the fall, and I felt even worse that I had to let go of the second time that close to my goal. I didn't get it then. 

Now, I do. Without this challenge, I would've never tackled a triathlon. I would've never gotten a running gait analysis to discover my strength imbalances and biomechanic shortcomings. Because of my injury, I've learned to run stronger, happier, and more efficiently. 

A single personal victory will not cure everything. One successful race in ideal conditions will not erase all of life's stresses and incongruencies. 

But this race is evidence that injuries, unfortunate events, setbacks--they don't have to be the end. If I use them as an impetus to re-evaluate and to improve, they can almost be a blessing. 

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