This past weekend I headed up to Boston for the BAA Half Marathon. I came in with some high expectations. Workouts had been going well and I was starting to feel less tired on a day to day basis. Basically all the prior training was starting to soak in. The main goal going in was to run fast enough to make the World Half Marathon Team in 2018. There are three spots open from the time order lists starting September 1st. Before the race the third time on the list was around 64 minutes, but with some fast halves yet to be run, I figured that it would most likely take around 62 minutes. I think that I am in roughly PR shape, so that seemed like a reasonable goal under ideal conditions. Unfortunately the weather for the day was in the low 70’s for the race, 85% humidity, and winds between 15 and 20 mph. Otherwise, not ideal for running fast.
What did not change was my race plan. Unless someone was going to take it out at a suicidal pace, I was going to run with the leaders and run from my racing instinct. With better weather, I figured that by doing this I could get pulled to a fast time, much like I did in 2014 when I ran my PR. Instead I just ran to place the highest I could.
For the first half of the race I just hung with the front pack, focusing on relaxing and running the tangents the best I could (the course had lots of wide turns where you could run extra meters). I remained tucked into the middle letting others break the wind for me, responding to surges slowly and methodically. It seemed to me that no one really wanted to push the pace, so the pace stayed right around 5 minute miles. Around 7 miles, we were headed back towards Franklin Park, we began an ascent up a hill and I found myself in the lead. Even though it was windy, I felt comfortable running that pace, so I did not bother to tuck back in. Things stayed pretty much the same for the next two miles, until someone made the first major surge, which splintered the pack. I found myself hanging on to the leaders, but slowly everyone was drifting farther apart. I gradually lost ground on the leaders until we entered the Franklin Park Zoo and I lost sight of 5th place. From there, I was just pushing to the finish.
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After a few days of reflection I am happy with my performance. It has been over three years since I last raced a half marathon “all out.” The last time was in Copenhagen when I made the world half team (it took under 62:00 to make the team, FYI). Every half I have run since then, I have been prescribed to run marathon pace for 10 miles then progress the last three. It was liberating to be able to run from my instincts and enjoy racing. For me the essence of racing is pitting yourself against not only the best you have to offer, but also the best of other have to offer. I feel that often, especially in marathons, this aspect is absent. Do not get me wrong; there are plenty of good reasons why you often have to run your own pace, especially in marathons. The most obvious being going out too far over your head ends up in disaster. I have been there, and am a much wiser runner because of it, but having only raced marathons the last couple of years made me realize how much I missed that part of racing.
As I stated above, I was really looking forward to running a fast time, but the weather and course were not ideal for that. That means I can only compare myself to others around me. In that regard, I can’t be disappointed. All the guys in front of me are phenomenal runners most boasting a half marathon PR of 61 minutes or faster. Hopefully that means I am in good shape, I just was not able to prove it on paper, and while I would have liked to make another US Team, the goal race is in December where I have some lofty goals set.
In a few weeks I will toe the line for the EQT Pittsburgh 10 Miler, and while I will be in the heart of marathon training, I will be in better shape and looking to win once again in the Steel City.