I raced the Indy Monumental Half Marathon for the first time this weekend and now I know why so many people praise this race. Well run all the way around and a fantastic course. Great spectator support and some on-course entertainment. Excellent volunteers and plenty of water stops. This year the weather was absolutely perfect too – 40s and partly cloudy. I know the race organizers have no control over that but they couldn’t have ordered better running weather.
I went down to Indy with two girlfriends. All of us had the same goal in mind: enjoy the weekend. None of us were gunning for a goal. For various reasons – injuries, sickness, burnout – none of us trained hard. All three of us just wanted to enjoy each other’s company, have a fun day away from responsibility and celebrate the fact that we can run a half marathon.
We drove downtown and parked just three blocks from the start/finish. No traffic or issues – which is good because we ended up cutting it a little close, arriving less than 20 minutes before the race started. I ended up being glad of that because we weren’t standing around in the dark & cold for long. Coming from the Central time zone I was expecting the sun to be up before the race started but it was just barely peeking over the horizon. I think it was 40 degrees with a very light breeze and I knew I’d be warm in no time. I wore a long sleeve shirt and capris and at some point I pushed the sleeves up but never felt too warm.
We wished Sarah well as she lined up towards the front of the pack. Erin, my brother, his friend & I moved back a bit. We ended up working our way into the corral at a faster spot than I should have but it wasn’t crowded and we decided it probably wouldn’t matter. The race started on time and I crossed the start line just over three minutes later. Smooth and easy. We all wished each other good luck and took off to run our own races.
I chose not to wear a watch for this race. I just wanted to listen to my body and run by feel – always pushing but letting myself back off if I was out of breath or the legs felt bad. I looked at the mile one pace clock and noticed that I ran the first mile around 10mm pace. That’s fast for me and I started to slow down. Then I shook my head and realized THIS was why I was not wearing a watch. I didn’t feel like I was pushing too hard and I wasn’t out of breath. I decided right then to ignore the pace clocks and just run by feel. I decided I’d check in at the 10K pace clock and not worry about it before then.
Whenever a mile marker was coming up, I’d move to the opposite side of the street and only look to that side, high fiving people… noticing the colorful fall leaves… until we passed the pace clock. I said some prayers. I felt very strong and smooth. I saw a friend who was running the full marathon for the first time and got to wish her well. At the 10K split I looked at the clock and realized I was having a great day. Up to that point I had been a little afraid that I felt so good because I was running a slow, easy pace. Turns out I was keeping it under an 11mm which is great for me on a long run. I smiled, felt affirmed in my choice to run with no pace concerns and kept going.
I said some more prayers. I laughed at spectators’ signs and cheers. I gave a thumbs up to the bands on the course and thanked lots of volunteers. At the 10 mile split I decided to check the clock again. I took a double take… I had just finished 10 miles in the same time that it took me to run the 15K last fall (9.3 miles). I had a pretty big smile for most of mile 11 as I realized that I had a PR in sight. I tend to feel a little tired around mile 10-11 but this time I trusted in running by feel and didn’t let up the pace at all. At mile 12 I realized that I could have a big PR and I decided that I would try to pick it up for the last half mile. (I knew the area well enough to know when I was about a half mile away from the finish). I turned the corner, saw the mile 13 clock and realized I could come in under 2:20 – I gave it all I had for that last .1 of a mile.
Finish time: 2:19:11
A 9 MINUTE PERSONAL RECORD!
I couldn’t believe I finished a half marathon averaging a 10:37 pace. (I still can’t.) I honestly think if I had gone out that morning with that goal in mind, I would have fallen apart at some point. For me, running a preconceived pace seems to mean I’ll push when I’m not ready and fall apart later or freak out at my pace and force myself to slow down. Without the focus on pace, I focused instead on my effort and it turned out to be the best thing for me. I’ll admit the perfect weather had a lot to do with how easy it felt to run hard and not take a break. I walked briefly three times to take in some water and fuel but that’s it – I’ve never been able to run a double digit run without walking at some point because I was tired. This day, that was never an issue.
You know what’s even better? Both Sarah & Erin turned in PR runs too! All three of us finished the half marathon with a personal best!
You know what’s best of all? We got just the weekend we wanted. It was relaxed, filled with lots of laughter and joy in running. I couldn’t ask for a better way to end another year of running and race challenges.