On a perfect sunny December day yesterday (12/4/21) I finally accomplished a goal that has been in the works since the summer of 2015 – to run a half marathon in under 1:30 for the first time in my life. I ran a 1:29:26 for a 39 second PR and, interestingly, also finished 4th in my age group. This was a running goal that, much like the 7 years it took to qualify for Boston from my first marathon, took many training cycles and much patience to see through to the end. There was never any doubt that I would get to this, but also never thought it would take as long as it did.
Planting the Seed
In early 2015 I started training with a new group of runners – the precursor of my current “UN” running crew. We would meet up for 5 AM track progression runs of 8 to 10 miles every Tuesday or Thursday at a local track. The progressions started around 8 min per mile and we would finish around 6:20/6:30 pace, some of us even faster. We all signed up for the Jersey City Half on September 20 and said that we would all run together and go for sub 1:30. This was one of my favorite races ever as, for the 1st 10 miles or so, our training group ran in a pack and were on pace. We were joking around, talking as much as we could and generally supporting each other – so much fun. With 3 miles to go, the pack broke apart with the final group finishing anywhere from 1:28:40 to 1:31. I could not keep up the pace, and with a slow mile 12, missed the goal by 5 seconds. FIVE seconds! So I regrouped and said that I’d get it next time……
Next time ended up being quite a long time……. :
1) Sept 2016 – Jersey City Half – steamy hot melted in 1:32:51
2) Oct 2017 – Shades of Death Half – worst sticky weather I ever ran in – 1:35:40
3) Sept 2018- Ocean City NJ Half – JUST missed again – 1:30:11
4) Mar 2019 – Brooklyn Park Half – DNS – injured neck 2 weeks before
5) Dec 2019 – Rehoboth Beach Half – DNS – injured knee 3 weeks before
6) Jun 2020 – Virtual Brooklyn Half – coming back from knee – 1:40:48 (Actual Covid canceled)
7) Dec 2020 – Virtual Rehoboth Beach Half – 1:32:06 (Actual Covid canceled)
This year started off a little slowly with my left knee flaring up during February with all the shoveling from the weekly snowstorms. By May, the training was starting to go well and, for the first time since about 1991, I ran 3 track meets over the summer to do something different. After that, the goal again beckoned. I was already in the Rehoboth Beach Half, having been postponed during the pandemic like everything else. It was time to train yet again. For those counting, this was the 8th time since 2015.
I tried to be a little less dependent on the volume but more the quality of the workouts. I selected about 7 key workouts and 3 races for my main efforts to get myself into shape for this race. The rest of the miles were between 8:20 and 9:30 pace to maintain weekly running fitness.
The morning was a little chilly about 40 degrees with a light wind. Thankfully, as I walked around the start I saw 3 runners I knew from NJ, including the 1:30 pacer, local runner Chris Peterson. I parked pretty close so I just sat in my car and listened to some songs to rev me up. It was time to go – I was about 10 rows from the 1:30 group and caught them before the 1st mile. That first mile I felt sluggish, but the feeling slowly went away as we kept on going. For the first 4 miles we has about 10-15 people in the 1:30 pace group. It began breaking up after that, but about 3-4 of us stayed with Chris. Through mile 8 I felt pretty good and all the miles were roughly under 6:50, so on pace. Around then I finally started to feel a little weary. That’s when I began sipping my e+ drink every mile and the energy began coming back to my legs. The race entered a flat dirt / rocky path covered at times with leaves. We had a hairpin turn just before the 10 mile mark so we slowed a bit, but kept up the pace. I stayed right on Chris’ heels or side pretty much this entire time and I pulled ahead a bit going into mile 11. My body did not like my excitement and gave me some left calf ‘shocks’ every few steps until I went back down to race pace. Still, in my head I counted down – 12 laps to go – 8 laps to go – 6 laps to go, putting it in terms of laps around a track. I kept on hearing Chris cheering me on to keep on going from behind me. Finally I saw the finish line and this time I finally made it UNDER 1:30…… I was so relieved to get this monkey off my back after so many years. A week or so of well-deserved rest and then we shall see what next year brings.
Trials of Miles