The final few miles of the Whidbey Island Half Marathon in April were grueling. That last stretch is always tough for me, but this was different. In addition to being physically exhausted, my mental outlook on the race went in the toilet when I saw the two-hour pacer pass me. After two lackluster halfs in 2016, this was supposed to be my comeback race. All I wanted to do was finish with a time under two hours, but thanks to the young man running with the stick that looked like it wasn’t going to happen.
There’s always a point during half marathons when I deeply question the logic of running 13.1 miles. The doubtful thoughts usually arrive somewhere around mile nine.
Why did you decide to do this again? Are you trying to prove something? There’s no shame in running 10Ks.
As the pacer pulled away, I questioned half marathon running in a more serious way than before. I’d trained hard for this race, maybe harder than I’d ever trained, and if I wasn’t able to break two hours this time around, then perhaps there was little chance of every reaching that hallowed mark again.
Perhaps 13.1 miles is too much for you at this point. Maybe you’re too old for this shit. There’s no shame in running 10Ks.
But I endured. I fought through fatigue and calves that were on the verge of cramping. I pushed myself and started to make up ground. In the final stretch of the race I picked up the pace. I turned my frustrated shuffle into something resembling running. I passed the pacer in the final hundred yards and finished with a sub-2-hour time. What’s more, the pacer was even ahead of schedule and I finished with an official time of 1:57:54.
In the days that followed, I rested, but didn’t fall into my usual post-race sloth. I kept running, albeit lightly, and even ran a mellow 5K the following Sunday. I didn’t allow myself too much down time for a simple reason… I was considering running another half marathon in June.
Since becoming a serious runner in 2012, my race schedule has been pretty much set in stone:
- Run a half marathon in spring (late April/early May)
- Run 5Ks and 10Ks during the summer
- Run a half marathon in fall (late October/early November)
- Run a Thanksgiving Turkey Trot
- Hibernate for the winter
However, I’ve been trying to get out of my stale routine and shake things up in 2017. I did not hibernate through this past winter. I’ve been hitting the trails a lot more and signing up for as many races as I can. But nothing would break up the tedium quite like adding a third half marathon to my year.
As I basked in the afterglow of my return to decent half marathon running, I researched the Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle. For reasons too numerous and boring to get into, the course is ideal for me and not too hilly, at least by Seattle standards. (I actually drove the course to make sure.) The event’s date — Father’s Day, June 18th – allows me plenty of time to ramp back into training mode and since my next half marathon will be my 10th, it also gives me the chance to celebrate the milestone by participating in a big, loud, lively race in my own backyard.
So I signed up.
I realize that for truly committed distance runners, the guys and gals who throw down 20 miles a week in their sleep, running two half marathons, two months apart is no big deal. But for me, it’s an enormous challenge, one that was made even more difficult when I came down with a cold during the second week of my eight week training plan. This prolonged illness ground my running to a near halt and has already resulted in a couple of lackluster races – a trail 10K where I hit a wall and a 5-mile road race that was a bit slower than I would’ve liked.
Now I’m less than four weeks away from the race and I’m wondering if I’ve made a mistake. Perhaps I’m flying too close to the sun. Instead of prolonging the joy of April’s success, I’m putting myself in a position to melt my wings and spend the next four months wondering if Whidbey Island was the exception rather than the rule.
There’s no turning back now, mostly because I’ve already dropped $137.48 on the entry fee. So I’m staying upbeat. I’m sure I’ll do fine. I have warm temps and sunny skies beckoning me to the road. I can do it!
I’m counting on this excessive positivity carrying me through training and probably the first 9 to 10 miles of the race. After that my muscles will cry out and the clouds will roll in. My thoughts will darken and my outlook will sour. But I will push through the doubt and the pain of a 13.1 mile race for the 10th time. I will endure and I will finish.
And if I can’t finish in under two hours, well, I guess there’s no shame in running 10Ks.