Well, we did it!
The weather leading up to this race sure kept us guessing. For the most part, we had been having a nice extended summer here in New England. We had trained through the summer heat, and weren’t expecting that kind of warmth for raceday, but we also weren’t expecting the FIRST FREEZE OF THE SEASON. Yeah, that made things interesting.
After waking up bright and early (5 AM – not too bad as far as early morning races go!), my mom and I fueled with our customary bagel with almond butter/raspberry jam and then headed out to make the short drive to the Tsongas Arena in Lowell, where the race was going to begin. But first, my mom had to scrape the ice off the windshield.
Luckily, we had no problem finding a parking garage once we got to Lowell, and then making the short walk to the Tsongas Arena which was packed to the brim with runners. It was awesome that they opened it up to us – we were able to use REAL restrooms and stay out of the cold until the very last minute.
The whole time we were sitting inside, I was second guessing my clothes decision. I had worn capris, a shortsleeve Under Armour shirt, with a longsleeve tech shirt over it. I had a fleece on as a jacket, but I had planned on checking it with my bag. The 30 degree temperatures had me seriously struggling with that, though I finally forced myself to part with it, knowing that I would warm up quickly once I started running. My mom and I tried to keep each other calm and happy, and we devised a plan for me to call my mom when she would be around mile 20 for a quick encouraging pep talk before she would be heading into the last 10k.
Finally, it was time to run! My mom and I split ways, as I went and lined up with the other half marathoners. It was a self-seeded start for the half, and for the first time in a half marathon, I lined myself up right near the front of the 8:00 min/mile group.
My A-goal was to break 1:50 for the first time. My previous PR was 1:53, but one of my coworkers had encouraged me, saying she thought I could definitely run a 1:49 (which comes to 8:19/mile). I wasn’t so sure, but I figured that with 11 other half marathons under my belt, I could try to run an aggressive pace from the start, and if I crashed at the end, then so be it. I figured that the worst that could happen would be that it would turn into a lesson learned.
The National Anthem played and we were off! For the first 3 miles or so, my legs felt TIGHT. I rarely have issues with shin splints, but my shins were aching through the first few miles. I would start to worry about my shins (I’ve never had shin splints! Why is this happening? Are my legs going to be like this the whole race??), but then I would catch myself and remember that I was still warming up.
Mile 1 – 8:17 ♦ Mile 2 – 8:16 ♦ Mile 3 – 8:11
I was a little nervous when I saw my first splits coming up all a little bit faster than my goal pace. I knew that I felt good, but I was very aware that I had another 10 miles to run, and I had never held this pace for that distance before.
The course only had a few minor hills on it, and every time we hit one, I tried to think back to the hill workouts I had done with my mom over the summer. The wind was beginning to really pick up, which only made things colder, but I tried to focus on enjoying the race.
Mile 4 – 8:16 ♦ Mile 5 – 8:19 ♦ Mile 6 – 8:17
By this point, I felt committed to running a 1:49. I was excited by the splits I was running and I finally felt warmed up. I felt strong. The course was a double loop, so around mile 6.5 or so I passed the finish area and could hear the announcer reading off people’s names. Surprisingly, I didn’t feel demoralized at all to still have over 6 miles to run. I was still feeling pretty good, and I was hoping that my mom was feeling just as strong wherever she was in the marathon.
Mile 7 – 8:18 ♦ Mile 8 – 8:19 ♦ Mile 9 – 8:21
Just after mile 9, I passed the speediest of the marathoners going in the opposite direction across one of the bridges the course took us over. They were all looking strong, and the crowd support right at that area was awesome, with people cheering for both marathoners and half marathoners. Most of the course was lacking in spectators (not too surprising given how cold it was), so it was an awesome mental boost as I headed into the final 5K.
Right around this time, I caught up to another woman, who was running just a little bit faster than I had been for the previous miles. I could feel that I still had gas in the tank, so I started pacing myself a few steps behind her. We were perfectly matched and passed a lot of runners who were beginning to struggle.
Mile 10 – 8:09 ♦ Mile 11 – 8:05 ♦ Mile 12 – 7:54
I was so excited to be near the end of this race, and I was thrilled with my splits. I wasn’t crashing and burning! I was actually getting faster! With one mile to go, I could hear the announcer again, and me and the other woman began to sort of race each other – it was awesome having her there to push me to run my absolute hardest going into the finish.
Mile 13 – 7:50. My fastest mile of the race.
As I crossed the finish line, I was ecstatic to read the clock – 1:48. Not only did I achieve my A-goal, I actually beat it!! After all my worrying about my training leading into this race (between traveling for work and moving into my new apartment, my running in the last 2 weeks leading into the race had not been stellar), I still managed to accomplish my goal. My average pace came out to 8:16/mile, which I’m still slightly shocked about! Between this race and the 5k series this summer, I’m finally beginning to feel like a fast runner.
After finishing, I quickly reclaimed by checked bag and immediately started adding layers – sweatpants, a sweatshirt, and a fleece on top of that. I knew I was going to cool down fast and I still had a lot of time to kill before my mom would be finishing. The post-race food was good, although I wish they had had more hot options – they had cold sodas, bananas, chips, PB&J’s, and hot soup. I had the chicken noodle soup which totally hit the spot.
While I waited for my mom, I made a quick walk to Dunkin Donuts and got a hot chocolate (<- Best decision ever!) and then I set myself up at a good spot near the finish.
It was honestly so inspiring watching the runners come into the finish of their marathon. I saw so many fly into the finish, with huge smiles on their faces (This is a big race for people looking to qualify for Boston, so that might have had something to do with it.) BQ or not, a marathon is such a huge accomplishment, and I felt weirdly emotional thinking of how proud I was of my mom, out there running her second marathon. Especially when I think back to the days when she told me she would NEVER run a marathon! Oh, how things have changed!
At 11:30, I called my mom as promised. She had already passed mile 20, so clearly she was cruising! She sounded a little out-of-breath – understandable, given that she was still running. 🙂 I told her she was doing awesome (which I actually knew for a fact, since I had signed up to receive alerts on her progress along the course). She was excited to hear that I had broken 1:50, and after wishing her luck again, we said our goodbyes.
Just about an hour later….
Woo! And guess who also achieved their A-goal (and beat their previous marathon time by approximately 30 minutes)? ^SHE DID! Final time: 4:26. 🙂
My mom and I are so thrilled with how the weekend went. Both marathon and half marathon were extremely well-organized, and we both ran fantastic. Of course, my mom will have to fill you all in on how her race went in more detail! I’ll start bugging her to write a post. 🙂
Thanks again to all our friends and family who wished us luck, offered training advice or a sympathetic comment on this blog, or congratulated us on Instagram this weekend. You guys make writing this blog the most fun thing ever.