A week ago, I ran a sub 2:00 half-marathon. Hurrah! But I lost my Garmin charger and had a busy week, so the recap has been delayed…until now! I still don’t have a Garmin charger, so I can’t share my splits, but the basic understanding of my race pace is this: FAST, SLOW, DONE.
The weather on October 20 was perfect for running, sunny and cool. I knew a million people running this race and got to see a lot of them in the corral before we started: Nic, JW and Allegra. My mom was in town to see her friend run and she managed to find me before the start, which, in a race of 25,000 runners, is a bit of a miracle. Perhaps it was a sign. I was nervous because in the week before the race, I convinced myself that sub 2:00 was an impossibility for me. I hadn’t trained as long and as hard and my body hadn’t enjoyed my training as much in the past. Damn you, knees.
I found Allegra and we had the same goal, so hung out together, trying not to freeze, until the gun went off.
I lost Allegra immediately. Not intentionally, there were just too many people. And then I was on my own.
Kilometres 1-5: Oh my god, I am running so fast.
This race was packed. I ran STWM once before, in 2011, but I have never run a race this big. Ever. The course was CROWDED, and I spent my first two kilometres dodging people and trying to get into a rhythm. According to my race plan, I was supposed to stick to 5:30 kms. Hahahaha, that didn’t happen. I was running just under 5:00 per kilometre, which was way too fast. But I felt good and was still dodging people as we rounded the corner to Bloor, so I decided to run this fast for as long as I could and put some time in the bank. I tend to positive split all my races, regardless of my race plan, so I thought having an extra few minutes in the bank would do me some good.
My race plan also involved me taking a 1 minute walk break every 5k. At 5k, I took a gel (WHY do I keep trying gels? My stomach hates them. Rookie mistake.) and walked for a minute and checked my pace. I had about 4 minutes in the bank. Let’s pick this up and try to ignore the stomach grumbles.
As we ran down Bathurst and onto Lakeshore, I knew I couldn’t keep this pace much longer. I was supposed to take my next walk break at 10k, but took it at 9k for a moment to re-set and make a new plan for my race. I decided to try 20 and 1s, but skip the break if I felt okay. I like this stretch of the course because you get to watch all the elites running back east. They are fast and it’s both miserable and inspiring to see them and to hear other runners yell for them as they go by. I looked for my coach, Andie, and my friend, David, but missed them in the giant crowd.
I passed the 10k mark in 52:29, my all-time fastest 10k. I knew I could achieve my goal if I didn’t give up. Breaking 2:00 took over everything. My water bottle got empty? Chucked it. My gloves too annoying to hold? Chucked them too. Just get to the finish line as fast as you can.
Kilometres 11-15: I’ve got time in the bank, let’s slow down.
After seeing my 10k split I knew I could ease up. I took my 20 and 1 walking breaks with no guilt, but I spent this entire stretch focused on my watch and not losing too much time. It got hot, so when I took off my long sleeved shirt (which was a gorgeous Around the Bay shirt that I love), I tossed it aside. Nothing would get in my way! Nothing! I didn’t take a gel at 10k because I didn’t want to deal with more stomach issues, but around 14k I was fading fast. So I took one. Same problem. Luckily, it never became more than mild discomfort. I also changed my walking plan to walk through the water stations and nowhere else.
This part of the course is boring, boring, boring. You’re coming back the same way to came along Lakeshore. You can kinda see the lake if you look for it, but when you’re focused on running, trying to find beauty isn’t a priority. In my case, it didn’t matter. I just wanted this race done.
Kilometres 16-19: Okay, it’s time to dig deep.
I took another gel around the 17k mark. Allegra also caught up to me around here. I tried to run with her a bit, but I was spent. She was going just a bit too fast and I had no gas in the tank left. At the next water station, I let her go ahead and started to panic about my time again. I kept focus on my watch and tried to keep my pace as close to 5:30 as I could. What’s interesting about this — and demonstrates my evolution as a runner — is that 5:30 felt like lead. A year ago, I couldn’t run 5:30 for 5k without feel like dying. I still felt like dying at this point, but for a different reason. I took another walking break around the 19k mark and another runner yelled at me “you’re almost there! don’t walk now!” I wanted to punch that guy. And while he wasn’t wrong, I wasn’t sure that if I picked it up now, I’d break 2:00. I wanted this break to assess and prepare for the final kilometre, in case I needed to sprint at all.
This is all a blur. I remember turning up Bay Street and having no energy to sprint. I wanted to rip down all the signs that said “400m to go!” “300m to go!” Whoever decided that idea was a good one is the worst. I passed the “100m to go!” sign with 1:55 on my watch and I knew I had it in the bag. I picked it up a bit (or it felt like it. I probably didn’t.), crossed the finish line and wanted to puke. (I didn’t.) I walked through the finishing corral, got my medal and my bagel and tried to not to fall down.
I found my mom easily after the race. She was on the bleachers (highly recommend bleacher viewing, race spectators. You see everything.) and we watched Lanni Marchant break the 28-year-old Canadian women’s marathon record. I then found Matt, who bought me the most delicious latte I’ve ever had in my life. We went back to the bleachers and watched marathoners come in. I missed my pal David (who broke his ambitious time goal of a sub 3:00 marathon) but saw Ed Whitlock. The spirit at the finish line was so joyous and loud. It was inspiring to see a city come together to celebrate running and personal achievement this way.
In general, I’d say this race was my least fun race to date. I didn’t enjoy any of the actual running, except watching other runners. I felt miserable and exhausted the entire time. I threw away a high quality water bottle, gloves, and running shirt for the sake of my goal. I didn’t acknowledge spectators or high five any kids. It was the opposite of the County Marathon race with Jill in every way. In fact, I felt exactly like David did (read his marathon recap here). But David, my running guru, promised me it gets easier every time. My next sub 2:00 half-marathon might even be fun. And then I read this second post and realized he’s right. (David is always right, at least when it comes to running.)
So. 1:56:49. I did it. I guess sub 1:55 is the logical next goal. We’ll see. It will probably hurt. And I’ll be okay with that.