Today was my third official half marathon. It should have been my fourth, but last month’s RU Unite Half Marathon was an abbreviated course due to some flooding. Actually, the shortening of that course was the reason for signing up for today’s race in the first place, I wouldn’t have done it otherwise.
If you looked outside at all today, you would know how gloomy the weather was around here. Luckily, during the race, there wasn’t much active rain, just a constant misting. Though, to be honest, I don’t think I would have minded some rain. I was hot and sweaty anyway so it probably would have just felt good. Besides, the course was already completely soaked as it had been pouring overnight. More rain probably wouldn’t have hurt much.
The Superhero Half Marathon is run through a double loop course in Morristown, NJ and is in its second year. The race is a rather low-budget affair, but is still organized well-enough that that actually becomes a bit of it’s charm. The race is open to both individual runners and two person relay teams.
I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from myself. My ankle still isn’t 100%, though it’s getting close, and I wasn’t as trained as I would have liked. My training pace has been considerably slower than where I was six months ago, but my speed, stamina, and power are starting to come back a bit. Slowly. My goal for today was simply to beat my first half marathon time (1:47:11) by a couple minutes and finish under 1:45. I figured that shouldn’t be too hard.
I started off the race right near the front, but I didn’t take off nearly as quickly as most of the other people near me. I didn’t really think about this beforehand, but one of the weird things about running a race that also has a relay is that the relay runners just kind of take off since they don’t need to conserve much energy. This threw me off a slight bit as I was looking around at people passing me when I felt I was keeping a decent pace.
Pacing myself was actually a bit interesting because I ran without my iPhone. This is not something I’m used to at all. I always run with music and RunKeeper to keep track of my pace. I can deal without the music because I generally tune it out while running, but I’m still terrible at pacing myself so I rely on RunKeeper as a crutch to let me know where I’m at. However, with the wet weather and the likelihood of more rain, I didn’t want to have my phone strapped to my arm so I decided to just run without it. Early on, this was a bit weird, but I very quickly grew to appreciate running with just me and the course and nothing else. I didn’t have RunKeeper chiming in my ear and telling me some pace that would have just cause me to feel like I was either running too slowly or was way ahead of my target and therefore could ease up. The course itself didn’t have any clocks anywhere so when I finished, I really had absolutely no idea what the time was going to be. I had about a 10 minute window in my head of what to expect. But I really did like this. I was able to just run and adjust my pace solely on how I was feeling and not based around the clock. To be honest, I think this helped.
The course is interesting because it’s two laps around a big 6.7 mile loop (the second lap is 6.4 miles as the finish line isn’t exactly at the start line). This is kind of a double-edged sword. It’s cool because when you start the second lap, you know what to expect. You know the course ahead and you can use this to your advantage. However, it’s also a little boring in the second lap because there isn’t new scenery to look at and you sort of dread certain uphill sections of the course for the second time around.
The course is billed as being fast and flat, but I felt like it was anything but that. Somehow the course felt as though it defied physics and the entire loop was uphill. It was like running in an Escher painting. It just didn’t make sense. Hills are an interesting thing because I destroy short steep hills and actually pick up speed on them, but longer, more drawn out hills completely kill me. The course had mix of these so some were easier to handle than others.
Overall, I had a love/hate relationship with the course, but I would definitely run it again.
Early in the race, I didn’t feel great. I started fatiguing very early and started to dread the miles ahead. By the time I got through the first 5k, I was not feeling good at all. But somewhere after that, I picked it up and got a boost of energy. I ran the middle of the race strong and I even stayed strong through most of the second half. I think I actually felt better later in the race than I did early on. Still, I was glad to see the finish line when I got there.
When I finally got close enough to see the clock at the finish line, this was the first indication of my time or pace that I had all race. I was expecting somewhere in the low 1:40s, but I was elated to see that I was actually at 1:37. I hauled ass to the finish line and finished in an all out sprint at a very respectable 1:37:14 (79 out of 1160 finishers). To be honest, I’m extremely happy with this time. It’s more than four minutes slower than personal record from Disney and at 7:25 minute/mile, my pace was actually just slower than my training pace was for Disney. Still, given the injury problems and everything there is to take into account, today was a very good day for me. I couldn’t be happier, I mean, come on, I was just looking to run 1:45.
So now that this race is finished, I’m going to take a couple weeks to let my ankle finish healing and then it’s time to start training for the Philly marathon. I’ve got a nice long training program laid out so I can try to run it strong. Exciting!
Vibram Five Finger KSO total mileage: 420.26