Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Half Marathons: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly Photos

Why, hello there reader who is not me checking in on my blog.

About a week ago (October 2, 2010--I have no concept of time lately), I completed my sixth half marathon! A half marathon is 13.1 miles. I sometimes like to say that I've also done three full marathons since you know two halves make a whole.

My first half was the 2009 Philadelphia Distance Run. I had fallen in love with running earlier in the spring while training for the Philadelphia Broad Street 10 Mile Run and figured, "Hey, what's another 3 more?" I remember hearing those words come out of my mouth before I had realized I even thought them. (This is some kind of genetic disorder thing I have. My mouth literally goes faster than my brain.) I ran a lot that summer but never with a true training plan. I followed the principle of increasing my long runs on the weekends and doing about 20 miles during the week.
I had no idea what I was doing or getting myself in to. I made every mistake there was to make. I didn't follow a plan. I ran in old shoes. I didn't hydrate. I didn't taper. I let my personal trainer put me through a killer leg strength workout three days before the race and was in so much pain. I ate nothing the day before. I bought new stuff to wear during the race. I drank too much gatorade. I took Gus for the first time in race and didn't even do that right! I stressed about it for days.

The only thing I did right for this race was have my parents come and find
me at mile 8. I run the same course in Philly a lot (Kelly and West River
Drive) and still see my dad and mom clear as day standing at Montergomery

I finished my first half in 2:21. I was so proud! And sore! And completely addicted to half marathons.

As most runners do, I immediately signed up for another half marathon. This is a side effect of what is called the runner's high. It's commonly experienced after races or anything involving bibs, medals and portapotties. I've since rethought this phenomenon which so many think is rooted in pride and endorphines. I think it's actually just our stomachs and brains being so incredibly happy that for at least two days, there is non stop and nonoveranalyzed eating.

So, to The Spirit of Pittsburgh Half Marathon I went. This time, I encouraged/motivated/challenged/drug through hell my best friend Bethany to do it with me! This was a wonderful racing experience since there was a road trip, family, friends, Phillies, and a running all in one weekend. I was a bit smarter this time and much more relaxed. After a beautiful, but hilly, run through the city of Pittsburgh, I finished this race is 2:18. I shaved 3 minutes off my last! This is my favorite running photo ever.

In the spring of 2010, I added two more half marathons to my collection, bringing my full marthon count to two. I learned the value of eating well before an event and not mixing dating with running at the Rutger's Unite Half Marathon in New Jersey. I have a race recap of that already done. Thanks to a speedy demon friend and blissfully chilly temperatures, I earned a personal PR of 2:09--which is almost 10 minutes better than Pittsburgh and 15 better than Philly! This is where I decided to rename PR Progress Report.

Number 5 came in an poorly organized, mess of a race known as the Oddyssey Half Marathon in Philadelphia. We learned of this 'event' at the expo for the 2010 Broad Street Run. They coat-tailed themselves onto the BSR, claiming that you can keep your training going from BSR for four weeks and conquer a half. BSR is the first week of May and Oddyssey was the last. I really have nothing good to say about this event.The majority of the registration money was spent on high tech photography, tracking equiptment and stupid obstacles but not on porta potties or course support. There was a huge HUGE hill at the end that killed everyone and few spectators.

I finished this "race" in 2:12 and to this day KNOW my time would have been in the 2:05 range were we not ambushed with that incline. I had stuck with the BSR and Rutgers training plans (long runs on weekends, etc) and really ran well. I was honestly so stressed out at that point with a new job, graduate school and my social life that I had almost forgot about it completely. I actually went on a day date immediately following this race. I mean, I cleaned up as well as I could in a public bathroom on a warm May day. It's ok, he's a runner too so I actually got brownie points for being hardcore........and a little stinky.

After a glorious six weeks off of official training over the summer, it was time to gear up, hunker down, and get back into half marathon mode. I was confident that with my friend, speedwork, and the always decreasing times in the five other races, that I could achieve a sub 2hour finish time. I mean, at this point, I'm hardcore, right? I started at 2:21 and had a 2:09 PR. I'm a little runny know-it-all. A sub 2 hour race means running at AT least a 9:30 pace. For 13.1 miles. That would mean fast for a while with no walk breaks. Sub 2 in runners vernacular means 'legitimate runner who runs 13 miles in less than two hours, even if it's 1:59:45.
Psssssshhh.....I got this. This summer, I followed the Runner's World training plan for a sub 2 halfsie to the tee. I mean, there wasn't an easy run, speedwork or long distrance run I skipped. I.did.them.all. I got up early. I stayed at the gym late. I cross trained. I ate well (though never lost a pound). It was HOT this summer too, by the way. I did fartleks, mile repeats, tempo runs, hills. I had the plan on my fridge and entered into my Googely calendar.

My vision: A year and five half marathons later, I would return to the Philadelphia Distance Run and I would conquer it. And I would conquer it in sub 2 time. It would be glorious and the heavens will smile upon me and life will forever be grand. Every person in the world (or Philly) who has every hurt me would for some reason all find themselves on the Art Museum Steps as I breezed over the finish line. There could be confetti.
My reality: A year and five half marathons later, I ran the worst race of my life. Sometimes it doesn't matter how hard you worked or how much you've already accomplished, or what you want-- some days, it's just not your day. The Rock-n-Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon (same event, different name) was not my day. I was miserable the entire weekend because I had put so much stress on myself to get that sub 2. When I realized at mile 9 that it wasn't going to happen, I just fell apart. I finished because I had some wonderful support, but it wasn't near 2:00. My chip time reports 2:16 and I'm going to be honest and accept that. No more but my "garmin says 2:10 because I stopped to pee." I wasn't in the portapotty that long. I walked and I cheated by stopping my garmin. It was 2:16. Still 5 minutes better than last year!
But after 5 half marys?

I didn't feel the runner's high. I felt the lowest I've felt since I started running. And I was feeling pretty darn low before that. But I didn't have too much time to wallow in my running grief because two weeks later, I had half marathon #6 to take on.

Enter, The Diva's Half Marathon in Long Island. My friend Bonnie, who ran Rutgers #3 with me, asked me do this with her in the summer and the event sounded so cool. I couldn't resist. Diva's was one of the few, though increasing, female distance races in the country. The event promoed boas, tierras, firemen, and a fast course. I couldn't resist!

I was still licking my wounds from Philly as I headed out for my last long training run in between the two. I decided to JUST HAVE FUN at Divas, to enjoy the energy of running with 10,000 other women and get back to my running roots. I wasn't going to attempt a PR. I had no time in mind. I just wanted to run and get a t-shirt. The race was well organized with great swag. Bonnie and I had such a great time traveling to and around the strange world of Long Island, that the run was the last thing on my mind. I had no plan. I didn't even look at the course map.
We actually...gasp...had two beers and a shot the night before. This is unheard of in runnery world. As we lined up in a sea of hot pink and happiness that race morning, I just smiled and let it all go. I let the pressure and the pain of the previous half go. (Wow--that sounds like a fart joke.) I will also write another post recap of this experience. I don't know whose legs I borrowed from miles 1 through 10, but thank you. I finished at 2:10. WITH A HUGE SMILE. Not a personal record but a personal best. I found that runner's high again but have resisted the urge to sign up for any other races! Divas will always have a special place in my heart because it was where I learned to let go and just..... run.

Good races aren't determined by your finishing times or your training plans. A good half marathon, or any distance, is determined by your attitude and heart. Bad races happen to good runners.
Ugly race photos, however, happen to everyone!!!! :-)


  1. LOL yay I loved our Long Island Adventure

  2. Hi Lindsey!!!

    I have been horrible about reading your blog, but I looked it up and saved it to my favorites:). Also, you GO GIRL on these half marathons! I am in AW of your running ability and determination.

  3. Hi Amanda! Thanks! I love your blog too! It's a fun way to keep up on our friends while learning from them too. :-)