Somewhat last minute I decided to run a half marathon this weekend. This race wasn’t about planning or training for a time. This race was about supporting a friend who was running her first half in three years – and about celebrating that I could jump up and run a half when I felt like it. Plus it had a St. Patrick’s theme and that was fun!
I will admit, when I ran my 12 miler the week before the race I had a few fleeting thoughts of PR. I felt strong on that run and thought that my secret plan might just be possible if the conditions were right. I knew I wasn’t trained for a PR run but it was going to be my secret goal. Then I threw my back out on the Monday before the race. At that point there was only one goal – finish the race. I went into it with no expectations and only a determination to try my best without hurting myself.
I’ve never run a race with the full knowledge (and acceptance) that I wouldn’t push hard. I have to admit it was weird but also freeing. See, a half marathon is always going to hurt at some point – mentally or physically (for me at least) there will always be a point that isn’t easy. That’s the point where I’ve trained myself to dig deep and push harder. But last Saturday, that was the point where I pulled back. Weird. Here’s my race report:
The Get Lucky race is a small race – approx 4,000 runners and only 1200 of us ran the half on Saturday. So no big expo which is just fine. You know what there was? No lines, friendly people and good organization. In & out. I appreciate that! Our race perk was also nice: a good quality full zip sweatshirt (with thumbholes in the sleeves). Fun design on the front & back. It’s cute and comfy and I know I’ll wear it often.
This race ended up being dominated by the weather. It was a very windy, kind of rainy/sleety/snowy morning in Chicago and since we were on the lakefront there was nothing to stop all that weather from blowing straight in our face… with no breaks… for 6.5 miles.
Putting that aside however, the race morning was great. Plenty of parking since we were on the south lawn at Soldier Field. Plenty of port-a-potties. The race started right on time and the size was manageable so even though we were on the lakeshore path, it never felt super crowded.
We ran south for the first half so the wind was mostly at our backs. I had promised myself that if my back didn’t loosen up by the 2nd mile, I’d turn around at the shorter race course option and cheer for my friend. However, I had no back pain from the very beginning. In fact, it felt good to run! I paid attention to my Garmin for the first two miles just to try and get myself in check and slow down but after mile 2 I covered it up and never looked at it again (in fact, I forgot to turn it off and then heard it beeping off miles when we were driving away). I planned to stop after mile 3 to stretch my back. It didn’t feel tight but I figured that it was a smart idea. I felt great through the turnaround. I did check my Garmin at the turn (forgot about that brief look) and smiled knowing that if I could keep up the solid conservative pace, I’d get a PR. But I promised myself I wouldn’t push. And then the wind hit.
It took half a mile to realize that running into the constant, stiff wind (20mph off the Lake) was changing my gait. I stopped after mile 7 to stretch again and decided I’d give myself a walk/stretch break at the top of every mile. By the time I got through 10 my back was starting to hurt in a different way and the longer stride of walking felt better than running so I walked all of 11 and 12. Usually if I walk in a race, I’m very discouraged. This time? I was fine. (Though more than a little annoyed that I’d be out in the nasty weather even longer.) In fact, I walked up to people who were on their own and struggling and tried to lift their spirits. I spent a good half mile or so with a girl who was running her first half and crying because her friends had left her and she felt like she was failing. I walked alongside a man with sore knees who was using this as a test to see if he was strong enough to run a full marathon in the fall. I walked past the spot where I felt so very, very discouraged in the Spring Half Marathon last year and consciously noted that I was just fine with my decisions in this day’s race.
I ran most of the last mile – a few walk breaks when I felt my back get tight but mostly running. I finished running and took that medal with a sense that I was rewarding myself for being smart. I listened to my body. I was still able to finish (and run a good portion of) a half marathon with minimal training AND an injury. In an odd way, I felt strong as I made my way to the medical tent and asked for some Advil.
My friend got her comeback even though she had to fight the wind for it and I’m so glad I could share the journey with her. I cheered loudly when I saw her around mile six (seven for her) and smiled for quite a while knowing that she was running strong.
I met this race where my body was at that day. It was my slowest half marathon but I will not remember the pace or my place (hey – I wasn’t last). I will remember that I accepted where I was at and ran a smart race. That is strong in its own way.
One more final note about the race organization: The finish line medal & food handout was quick and easy. And about an hour after I got home I had an email already waiting for me with race results. Those race results weren’t just quick they came with a graphical report showing how I compared in my age group and overall. Very cool.
This group manages three races in Chicago each year. I would definitely go back and do another one. Besides, after two bad weather races on the lakeshore path I figure I’m due for one with lovely weather.