Monday, October 12, 2015

Heat, half marathons and sub 2

A year and a half ago I was sitting at 2:20 for my half marathon time still hunting for that 2:10 finish time. It'd been five years of determination and I was still hoping to track it down. Someone told me that runners slow down with age, especially women. That race I ran a 2:15 and 2:10 was on the horizon hopefully. A year later, I'm living in California and BLEW past that 2:10 mark and went straight for a 2:02:47 as my PR. All of a sudden, instead of chasing 2:10, dreams of a sub-2 hour half marathon is dancing in my head. Could I do it? Could I do something I didn't even dream possible and have a 1 hour time in front of my number? Glad I'm not one to let people tell me I can't do something (or it just gave me a crazy amount of fuel)

Fast forward to this past weekend. I had mixed emotions I am coming up on three weeks until the New York City Marathon, the Granddaddy of them all if you will. Part of me wanted to see if I could break two hours (why not? I've been training my butt off) and part of me wanted to pull back, because it would really, REALLY suck to get injured three weeks before my big race. Plus it was hot. Like crazy hot. Like they let half marathoners start at 6 a.m. with the marathoners if they wanted to beat the heat. Heat advisory in mid-October. Elevated risk. Things you don't think about coming from the northern states

I toed the line in Long Beach at 6 a.m. Gun went off, runners went running. I stayed back because I knew this was the official marathon start, and wanted to respect them. The first few miles was spent dodging runners, sweating, hydrating, dodging more people. I was sitting at under 9:30 pace when I noticed a text from my best friend, it was a video of my sweet nephew saying "Aunt Hannah" "Go" "run" "fast" "I love you". That did it, that fueled me up and I knew if I was smart, I might just be able to do this. The rest of the course was mine, my race, no one else was there.

The last few miles, I literally felt like I was the only one running, nothing else was registering except watching my time and just getting to the end. I sped up and just kept going. The last mile was a gradual downhill and I booked it. Legs hurt, felt hot but prayed for strength and to just get to that finish line. Watching the time click away coming into that finishers shoot was agonizing. It was me vs the clock, the seconds clicked off and I worried if I would make it in time.

I hit the stop on my watch the second my foot hit the timing pad. 1:59:16. That's what my watch said (I checked it 5 times). Everything hit at once and I had to go off to the side and grab the fence. A volunteer thought something was wrong (I was tearing up) so asked if I was ok and brought me some water. It took a few to catch my breath, but I tried to relax and realize what I had just accomplished. The girl who five and a half years ago was happy to have finished a half marathon at all, who's biggest dreams were breaking 2:10, who was told that women lose fitness and run slower with age, just sub-two houred the race. I delightfully grabbed my medal, got a few finisher pics and went straight to the race results tent, just to make sure. Maybe my watch was off, maybe I missed the mat, maybe, just maybe, I didn't actually do it. When I pulled it up and saw the 1:59:17 I relaxed. Forever I'll be a sub-2 half marathoner.

I have no idea how NYC is going to go. I have some lofty goals, but want to just finish. My best marathon time is 5:33, so unless something happens, I don't see any way I won't at least break 5 hours. 4:30? Probably. 4:20? Possibly. I'm starting to learn to dream big, because maybe, just maybe, dreams sometimes do come true.