This weekend I will run my eighth Hartford Half-Marathon, my tenth halffy over-all. After a dismal start to my half-marathoning career at the New Bedford Half-Marathon on a brutal wintry day in 2006, I have learned a lot about myself (and taken two full minutes off my race pace). Here’s a recap of the previous 7 Hartford Halfs.
2006 – 2:55:28
Although my nearly three-hour time had me coming in tenth to last among female finishers, this still felt pretty good to me. When I did New Bedford six months prior I had walked a lot of the race, and finished well over three hours. I’d decided to do that race because I was sick of sitting on the sidelines while my friends participated in events, so I put on some tough running shoes and started training.
This time I ran the whole time without having to stop to walk. Go me.
2007 – 2:57:00
I don’t remember much about this race, though I think it is the one at which I wore my “I Heart Jesuits” t-shirt. I don’t remember why I was slower than the year before. But I finished, and my mom drove me in just as she has every year, and met me at the finish line and poached some of the delicious food that they offer in Bushnell Park after the race.
If not for her company, I probably wouldn’t keep doing this race. But it’s a nice opportunity to go home for a few days, fuel up on dinner with the family, and spend a day with her.
2008 – 2:40:00
Now we’re cooking. I was preparing for my first full opera role while I was training. I lost about ten pounds, which I have learned is the only thing that affects my pace (after losing that weight the director still put me in ghastly pleated pants that made me look like a mountain, but that’s another story).
This was also the year that I was accidentally given a marathon chip, so my time was initially recorded as being in the top ten for the full marathon (NB: even only having run the half, I still was not first in the full marathon listings. Ergo, there were 7 women who literally ran twice as fast as I did). I was listed in the newspaper which seriously confused my family, who know well my athletic limitations.
Notably, this was also the first race I blogged about.
2009 – 2:29:59
Nearly 45 seconds came off my mile pace between these two races. This one felt good.
I did a lot of soul-searching while training that year. The practice of writing that I had developed had me looking for lessons even more than I had previously. Here’s a section of what I wrote at the time.
So what have I learned from running? That when you’re exhausted and you think you can’t push any farther, you can always push a little harder – but if you collapse and cry (or vomit) there will still be people who will be nice to you and help you out. That it’s better to push to the top of the hill and then take it easy on the way down. That when it hurts in one place a tiny adjustment can take the edge off – although you’ll just end up hurting in another. That there’s benefit in doing the things which embarrass you the most.
2010 – 2:25:53
Just over an 11-minute pace! That was a huge accomplishment for me. During the race I was distracted and cranky, but it still yielded a great time. Just goes to show you can’t always trust your moods.
I didn’t know it at the time, but this would be my last half-marathon without Crohn’s disease. I wrote again about things I learned in that race. Here’s a summary:
1. Spectators never expect you to cheer for them first.
2. “The new course moved all the hills to the front of the race” is code for “the first nine miles are hilly as hell!”
3. Sometimes the most trying experiences result in success, not failure.
Three things were notable about this race:
1.I had trained for a triathlon while training for the race, which got me in great shape.
2.I had an as-yet-undiagnosed chronic illness.
3. I had a sweetheart waiting for me at the finish line.
(Both the sweetheart and the illness had affected my training that fall. I can only blame the glow of new love for the “happy pounds” that may have contributed to my pace being a teeny bit slower than the previous year.)
2012 – 2:27:33
Last year the training was grueling, and included a mighty spill the likes of which I hadn’t had in years. The day before the race I was feeling symptoms and could barely eat dinner (I had two yogurts instead of the pasta my mother had planned). Still, I finished with one of my better times.
I’ve written many times about why I run: It gives me something to be bad at. It challenges me. It keeps me healthy. I can be totally uninvested in my success. It is a practice in humility.
I hope I have a good race tomorrow. I hope my health holds up so I can keep doing this. I hope my fast training runs are a harbinger of a PR. But none of those things needs to happen. I’ll do what I can control: get up, tie my shoes, and put one foot in front of the other.
Do you have something you stick with even though it challenges you?
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