Posted by: Drew | May 8, 2009

Capital City Half Marathon

I haven’t written here in a while, but I wanted to share this.

This past weekend, I participated in the Capital City Half Marathon in Columbus, OH. This was my first half marathon since October of 2007, and the first distance race where I felt even close to being adequately trained. That’s not to say that I’m as trained as I could be, but running at least five days a week for most of the last two months is more consistency than I’ve ever had in my running life.

I ran my first half marathon in 1:54:07, and since I hadn’t really raced anything over a 4-miler since then (newsflash: I didn’t race the Monkey) I had no idea how, or if, to set a goal time. I felt that I’d be okay shooting for a new PR, but I like having a more defined target. My first inclination was to try and go sub-1:50 and be happy with whatever happened. I thought it might be a little soft, but was hesitant to set a goal that I had a good chance of failing to achieve. As race day clicked ever closer, I decided that failure to meet a predetermined goal wasn’t the end of the world and that being a wimp in the goal setting process was unforgivable. I had seen too many people I respect set goals and fail to reach them (gloriously, no less) to think that I was above such a thing. I decided to go for broke and try to break 1:45. I thought I had an outside shot at doing so, but it was aggressive enough that I could easily bite the dust in pursuit.

Less than a week from unseasonably warm highs in the mid 80’s, race morning found me enjoying very nice 50 degree temps with a few clouds in the sky. This was good, because I didn’t want to have the built-in excuse of weather if things went badly. Jerry and I made it to the start line just as the national anthem was finishing up and we snuck into the crowd just behind the 2:00 projected finishing sign. The herd shuffled toward the start line, and as I crossed the mat I pressed the start button on my watch and headed out on the journey. Only 13.1 miles to go.

The first half mile was uphill, and this combined with the narrow streets (for the beginning of a 5,000 person run) made for much weaving around people as I tried to maintain a decent enough pace for the start. I figured the first mile or two might be a little slower than goal pace, so I wasn’t surprised when the first mile clicked off at 8:39. Once I got through this crowded section, I knew I could fall into a rhythm and get down to business. The next four miles went as follows: 8:25 / 8:09 / 8:02 / 7:53. Looking back on this five mile section, I can see that I had banked 68 seconds in the wrong direction. But in the heat of the moment (and running by feel, not projected pace/time) all I was thinking about was how I was feeling, and that was good.

Though I wasn’t really racing anyone other than myself, I was comfortable in using those around me to build a little bit of good-natured “race hate” to keep me going. I kept reeling in those in front of me, and feeling a little salty at those that blew by me. I counted at least three times in the first five miles where I would pass a few people running together, and they would state some variation on “that’s okay, we’ll pass most of these people later in the race. They’re going out too fast and they’ll fade, so if we stay consistent we’ll beat ‘em.” There was a small part of me that knew they might be right, but mostly I was thinking that they had no idea what I could do. Interestingly enough, neither did I.

Just after the start of mile 6, we made the right turn onto High Street and the next 2.75 miles were laid directly before me. The high rises of downtown loomed in the distance, and I knew I didn’t get another turn until then. I put my head down and soldiered on. I noticed at about this time that I hadn’t taken any water or Gatorade. I was feeling great, so I hadn’t stopped to this point. The weather was perfect, and I didn’t feel like I needed any replenishment. While I was still owed the time bank over a minute, I wasn’t doing the math correctly and figured I was good to go. But there was a part of me that was fearful of stopping to drink, get my Gu out of my pocket, or do anything but continue to run. I was afraid that if I slowed/stopped, my goal would be cooked. So as each aid station came into view, I slid over to the opposite side of the street to miss ‘Pit Row’ and kept on rolling. It was probably a very dumb thing to do, but I was feeling great and until my body said “no more” I was going to continue to push.

Mile 6 was 8:03 (bit of an uphill to start), then miles 7-9 were knocked off at 7:44 / 7:59 / 7:39 (downhill, good crowd, felt great!). Mile 10 was by far my least favorite on the course, and I ran it in 8:01. Boring scenery, no crowds, and things were pretty thin runner-wise at this point. So back to the math (in retrospect), I still have 33 seconds to shave off to make my 8:00 average. As I was five miles ago, though, my “in-the-moment” calculations had this one in the bag. I’m not sure if I had known the situation if I would have changed anything. I was running as hard as I thought I could get away with at each moment given the time I had left, and if you had told me I needed to make up 11 seconds per mile to hit my goal I probably would have been done right there. I guess I’m thankful that there was enough blood diverted from my brain that I was unable to do simple calculations.

I’d heard from so many that in a half marathon, the first five miles you find a nice pace to run, the next five you pick it up and push a bit, and the last 5k is where you really “race”. Well, here I was with 5k to go and I wasn’t sure what my body was going to allow me to do. Seven days before, I ran a PR 5k in 22:28. I know now that to meet my goal I wouldn’t be able to run too much slower than that and still see 1:44 on the clock when I hit the line. But as I completed mile 10, I just dug into whatever was left and started putting wood on the fire. I never quite got to the point of extreme discomfort, but I’m learning that maybe that’s not the goal of racing. Race to run fast, right?

Mile 11: 7:45 Nice.

Mile 12: 7:48, including a quarter mile of old uneven brick paving and a half mile of the biggest “hill” on the course. Not fun, but still feeling good.

Mile 13: Now I can see Nationwide Arena and know its only one turn to the finishing area. I start to crank it. Some jerk in a car tries to cross the course about 50 feet in front of me. The cop who was blowing a gasket in his general direction got me even more fired up, I keep pushing. We come around the bend and I can see the streets lined with people. It’s all downhill from here. All the guys who had passed me in the last half mile were in sight, and I used gravity and guts to put them behind me. Holy cow, I’ve got a little kick! I can see my wife off to the left right at the Mile 13 marker. 7:24 for the mile: wow!

As I navigate the cheering gauntlet of spectators, I’m locked into the last turn. I hear my wife scream “KICK IT, KICK IT!” My vision is so focused on finishing that Cheryl mentions later that she didn’t think I heard her. I’m not sure I have much left to give, but I slam the pedal to the metal and fly. I turn the last corner, and I can’t even feel the ground. The finish line is further than I feel my kick can carry me, but somehow I just keep floating. I pass under the arch, stop my watch, and look down to see what I earned. The last tenth was at 5:21pace. My fuzzy math was telling me 1:42 to 1:44, but I didn’t think it would be close. Staring up at me from my Garmin was 1:44:45 (later amended to the official time of 1:44:47). It was VERY close, but I did it!

I went back to find Cheryl and Misty, waited for Jerry to come in (he PR’ed by about 20 minutes at 2:02), and continued to cheer on more and more friends (congratulations to Sean, Dino, Bill, and Lisa!).

I set a goal that I felt was on the aggressive side of appropriate, raced like an idiot, and PR’ed by over nine minutes. Man, what a great day. What’s next?



  1. You are so awesome! I love seeing RRs where improved training really pays off. Gives me a lot of confidence for my second marathon in a couple of weeks.


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