Yesterday I returned to the site of my very first half marathon. Three years ago I did my first ever 21.1 km at the 9 Run Run race in Stittsville. I still clearly remember the nerves, the excitement, the questioning of just how fast I could cover the distance. I remember starting faster than I had planned and deciding to go with it. I remember thinking I would probably finish around 2:12 but was secretly hoping for less than 2:10. I shocked myself by finishing in 2:04:50. I honestly had no idea I was capable of achieving that time. I entered that race thinking it might be my one and only half marathon. I crossed the finish line with such a runner’s high that I knew without a doubt there would be more. Indeed, there have been many more. Yesterday’s half marathon was my 16th time toeing the line of a half marathon. There has also been one 30k race and two marathons. Throw in some 5, 8 and 10k’s as well as a couple of 10 milers and it has clearly been a busy three years.
Last month I used the Army Run Half Marathon – one of my favourite races – as part of a long training run in preparation for the upcoming Road2Hope Marathon in Hamilton. I find incorporating an organized race into a long slow run so much fun. The biggest challenge of course is monitoring your pace and reminding yourself that you are not racing. Even with those reminders I do run faster than if I was out on my own, but I don’t leave it all out there on the course. Instead, I take the time to truly enjoy the race, which is exactly what happened at the Army Run a few weeks back. When I came home from the race I immediately looked at the local race schedule to see if there was another event I would like to use and 9 Run Run jumped out. I did briefly debate it, after all running by yourself is a lot cheaper than paying for a race that you are not racing. But I am so happy I went ahead and registered. This weekend was my last long run, and it was just so much fun to celebrate the work I have put into marathon training at an actual event. To be honest, if I had run on my own yesterday I am not sure if my heart really would have been in it. Maybe I even would have bailed, which is exactly what I did last Thursday when after 3k I decided that all I really wanted to do was go for a long walk. There were no thoughts of quitting though yesterday, just a chance to enjoy a good run.
Taking part in 9 Run Run gave me the energy to go into the run positively and even look forward to the run, despite my tired legs. I opted not to add mileage and instead let myself go faster than marathon pace but not full-out. In the end I finished in a comfortable 2:00:54 – four minutes faster than that very first attempt three years ago when I pushed myself to the limit. I’m not sure what my time would have been yesterday had I pushed hard. I am assuming I could have taken at least 2 minutes off, maybe more. But the nice feeling was finishing 21.1 km at a steady pace with no stiffness the next day. I still might not be super fast, but I am stronger and fitter than 3 years ago.
While I started my taper last week, it is only today that I truly feel like the taper has officially started. I took the taper rules very seriously today… perhaps too seriously. I did nothing. At all. All day. And I loved it. But there are still a few runs to do. There are two more double-digit runs – a 10 and a 13 – and then several single digit runs leading up to marathon day. Everything now is a mental game, I can’t change anything physically. I will not get faster at this stage. I admit perhaps my one area of disappointment is the fact that I am not faster. But I am trying not to dwell on that. This marathon will be better than my last and I hope faster than my first. Stayed tuned for my marathon goals.
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