Well, I did it! This past weekend I ran the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon here in DC and managed to finish 9 minutes faster than my previous Half Marathon and I set a new PR for myself at 2:09:31!! This was my 2nd time running this particular Half and my 3rd Half overall.
Just a little background — I have a deep love for running and have been running since I was in middle school. During middle and high school I was a sprinter and loved the 200 meter run and the 400 meter run. In college, I ran those same races as well, along with the relays of course. As I got older, I began to explore long distance running and surprisingly, I fell in love with it. I joined Black Girls Run, a group designed to encourage African-American women to make fitness a priority and become a more health conscious society and subsequently aid in lowering the number of chronic diseases associated with an unhealthy diet. I started running with Black Girls Run (BGR) over 7 years ago and I even served as Run Coordinator for one of the neighborhood runs here in Washington, DC.
New to me within the past year has been strength training! I found a wonderful Trainer and I quickly joined up for her classes in July of 2015! Her name is Robin and she is the owner of Velvet & Steel Fitness, LLC. When life got super busy for me and I found that I wasn’t able to make some of her classes, I quickly signed up for her Virtual Training which now delivers monthly programs designed specifically for me based on my fitness level and assessments! What could be better than that?! On top of getting the workouts delivered to my email, I also have access to Robin in order to ask her questions, advice..etc. It is the best of both worlds. During the past 7 months that I have been following her programs, I’ve been able to see and feel a huge difference in my fitness level which has helped my runs tremendously.
Last Saturday marked my 3rd half marathon and I started training for this half soon soon after the holidays but I have to admit that due to the winter and its frigid temps, lots of snow and some days where I was lazier than a sloth — the training seemed to go on forever and ever. I trained for 9 weeks and really tried to stick with my plan of running 2 times during the week (3 miles during each run) and then 1 long run on the weekends (increasing by a mile each weekend). I completed some of my long runs solo, while other long runs I completed with my fellow BGR friends and with the guys from Black Men Run (BMR), a group designed to help increase health awareness among African American men. The running along with the strength training was working really well for me and I soon began to feel stronger than I have ever felt in my life.
I set a goal for myself and that was to beat my last Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon time of 2:18:48. I didn’t have a set time in mind, but I just wanted to PR this time around. Towards the end of my training, I actually began to doubt myself and then nerves really set it. It was odd, I’ve run hundreds of races before, why was I feeling so nervous about this? I realized that it was because this was the 1st time ever that I set a goal for myself and I was afraid of not reaching that goal.
The night before race day, my fiancé and I met up with some of the members of BGR and BMR at a restaurant in DC and we all celebrated each other. It was nice to mix and mingle and it did help to ease some of my nervousness. Unfortunately, sleep didn’t come easy the night before the race and I had a dreaded wake-up time on Saturday morning of 4:45am! Upon waking up I stretched and had my normal race/workout breakfast of wheat bread topped with peanut butter and tons of water. Due to a knee injury, my fiancé walked the Rock ‘n’ Roll 5 K that day and our start lines were in totally different parts of the city. It was so odd to not have him with me at the start line running or just at the start line to see me off. He was sweet and thoughtful enough to send me an audio message just moments before the gun went off. His message was reminding me to trust my training and to run a smart and strong race. That message made me smile through the first few miles of the race.
Race Run Down: The weather was perfect for a run — cool and overcast skies. The race started at 7:30 but I was in Coral 21 and didn’t get to the start line until 8:02am! Yes, that was 32 minutes of standing and slowly walking up to the line before I actually took off.
Miles 1 – 3: I felt really good. As usual, it takes awhile to find your groove as you weave in and out of the crowd after crossing the start line but I was able to fall into my groove fairly quickly. I had a goal of finishing under my previous Half time of 2:18 so I wanted to keep my first few miles close to the 10 minute/mile pace so that I could have something left in me during the last few miles.
Miles 3 – 6: Well, the beginning of this stretch felt good. A few rain drops fell but they stopped quickly (thank God). They had a fair amount of bands set up along the course and they seemed to be rockin’ it out. I had my head phones on and couldn’t hear them clearly but the runners near me were waving, dancing and cheering for the bands as they ran. If you take a look at the elevation chart of the Half Marathon course you will see that BITCH of a hill at mile 6. I tell you, that is the steepest hill I’ve ever run and this is my 2nd time running it. I was determined to run up the entire hill regardless of how slow I had to go. I finally made it to the top of it but man, did it take every ounce of my strength and determination to do it. So much so that when I did reach the top, I had to walk about 5 steps around the corner before continuing on. My legs were so spent and tired after tackling that hill and I was so thankful to the many people that were on the hill and at the top of the hill cheering us on. Phew.. hill done, now to focus on the 2nd half of the race.
Miles 7 – 10: By now, I am just about over this race…LOL! Yep, I am ready to have someone come pick me up and take me out for a burger and fries! I felt strong but my feet were just tired of running. Mile 7 was my slowest mile split at 10:18/mile while all of my other splits were under the 10 minute/mile time. I could literally feel myself slowing down and I put my favorite song to run to on repeat for those miles to get myself though it. Oh, the run song is by Eminem: Til I collapse! That is my go to song each time I need a kick in the ass 🙂
Miles 11 – 13: Here is when you say to yourself — “I only have a 5K left, I can do that easily”. That is just what I kept thinking and staying to myself. I was able to keep my pace between 9:27 – 9:43 for these miles and I took my 1st sip of water. I ran past at least 4 water stations and I never stopped at them but had water in my holder but never even got thirsty until mile 11… odd. At times I get cramps after drinking water so I was careful to only take a few small sips. My body was still tired but felt even stronger than ever during the last 3 miles. Finally, I could tell that I was near the finish line and I saw the Mile 13 marker but I swear that last 0.1 mile felt like a damn mile!! I was so happy to come across the finish line and stop my fitness watch! I immediately stepped over to the side to look around for my fiance and to get my medal. After receiving my medal I could see Anthony walking up towards me with a huge smile on his face and his arms open wide for a BIG hug!! I was so happy to be finished and that is when I looked at my watch to see that I completed 13.29 miles in 2:09! I was beyond ecstatic! My legs were aching and I just wanted to get some fluids in me and I wanted to go home. The race refreshments were GREAT. They had tons of food items (that I skipped) and cool water and chocolate milk! That chocolate milk gave me LIFE. I quickly drank 2 bottles of the chocolate milk followed by some water and felt a little better. The walk to the car was a long one but I think I smiled the entire way!
So now that my training and my race is over — I feel a bit lost. Today, I went for my 1st run since Saturday (a 2 miler) and it felt really good. I will get back to my weekly runs soon and fall into a new running groove as well.