Before November 21, 2015, it had been two years since I ran a road half marathon. Running a half on the trails seems other worldly compared to road racing, meaning it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison, so I was a little nervous going into the Star City half. I’ve run this race twice before, both times shortly after having each of my kids. I’d been running a lot of 5Ks throughout the late summer and early fall, and though I’d been upping my distance, my interval training had fallen off. I felt a little blind going into the race, even though I knew I had been running strong in the weeks prior.
Race day mornings almost never go as planned in our household. It’s always easier when we drop the littles off at my parents the night before, but our daughter had ballet class and rehearsal that morning so my very amazing and accommodating parents showed up at our door at 6:45 a.m. Of course both kids were already awake (they seriously have grandparent spidey senses). I was happy to see them before the race, but it made it harder to actually get out the door. Not to mention the littlest little ate half of my bowl of oatmeal, after devouring his own.
Five minutes before we are supposed to leave and I’m still running around the house looking for my other glove and my iPod. I swear, I even laid most of my race kit out the night before (at least all of the vitals like sports bra, shorts, race shirt, shoes). No matching glove, so we leave without it. My plan is just to tuck my fingers into the cuff of my racing sleeves, and as I am thinking about this while we pull out of the driveway, I realize I left my iPod at home. No time to turn back, so I decide to run sans music (which ends up being a good thing in the end!).
We get to the race, and I don’t want to get out of the car because it’s 35 degrees F. I go through the inevitable rant about how I made the wrong attire choices, and my fingers are going to develop frostbite because where did that glove go anyway? Just five more minutes with the seat warmer. Then the husband looks over at me and says, you’ve got this Bokey: don’t hold back, and no excuses. And I knew he was right.
I tell him we have to start warming up immediately after we open the doors to exit our amazingly toasty car. We hit the ground running, and the temperature doesn’t feel so bad. After seeing the port-a-potty line I freak out a little bit, but the husband saves me a spot in line (he doesn’t have to go, so we decide this is completely ethical) while I warm up to and fro. For many of us mother-runners out there, who have grown sizable babies and then pushed them out of our bodies traumatizing our poor bladders in the process, a long port-a-potty line at a race epitomizes anxiety. Luckily (or not) the race was experiencing chip timing issues, so I made it through the port-a-potty line, but then we had to stand on the start line trying to stay warm. I got a surge of encouragement when I saw two of my new speedy RunAbout Roanoke teammates, Ed Shepherd and Pat Woodford, there to cheer on the crowd. Ed introduced me to a woman named Julie, and we had the same pace goals so decided to start off together. Her last race was the Boston Marathon, where she suffered a stress fracture in her foot at mile 20. I was amazed to hear that she still managed to finish the race in 3:24 (losing a lot of time in those last 6 miles), and thought, this tough lady is my type of running partner!
We took off at a good pace, clocking our first mile in 7:08 minutes. From running this race previously, and studying the course map, I knew miles 6-9 would be tough, so I took a chance on going out faster than my goal pace in anticipation of having to slog through those miles. Julie ended up dropping back at mile 4 due to some health issues, but I was grateful for her pushing me in the first portion of the race. Miles 2 – 6 were all slightly under 7:20 min pace, and I took my first GU at mile 4.5. I ran in second place (female) until mile 6, at which point the third place female passed me. I kept her in my sights, but my pace slowed as the course started going slightly uphill. Mile 8, much of which is on a steep set of hills in a SW Roanoke neighborhood, was my slowest mile at just under 8 min pace. I took another GU at mile 8, and felt a surge of energy as I crested the worst of the hills, settling into a pace under 7:20 again for the rest of the race. Miles 9 & 10 breezed by, and I felt good going into the last 5k. There were spots of slick mud on the greenway, so I had a few instances of having to start and stop trying not to fall. I knew I was still feeling good because all in all, it was easy to get back up to speed after these.
I never caught up to the lady that passed me at mile 6 (she finished about a minute ahead of me), but I maintained my 3rd place position through the finish line. I saw the husband on a portion of the last mile where you pass people that are going the opposite direction in mile 11. I was so proud of how close he was, and knew he was having a great race too. A few more friends’ words of encouragement helped me finish strong, and at mile 13 I had one of the best kicks of my life. A woman yelled to me that I needed to finish strong if I wanted to keep my position, because the 4th place female was 10 meters back. I was so glad I didn’t have my iPod (thank you rushed morning!). After such a hard fight, I wasn’t giving this up. I ran hard and crossed the line with a shout (or grunt, maybe) of joy to be finished in 1:36:11, 3rd female overall and 25th overall finisher. Some work friends even came out to cheer me at the finish line with a congratulatory 6 pack of Get Bent IPA in hand!
My goals were to PR (check) and to run under 1:40 (check). My secret goal was to run under 1:35 in an effort to beat my dad’s PR on the same course, which I just missed by about 30 seconds. Next year :). Overall it was a great race, with really good running conditions. I’m happy to cap off the season with a podium performance and a PR, and am really looking forward to taking my running to the next level in 2016.