I'd like to share a story about the 2006 Brooklyn Half Marathon. I've eluded to it previously in my blog but figured this was a good time to tell the tale. Depending on how you look at it, this is either a story of an extraordinary feat or the ultimate heart break.
I ran my first half marathon in October of 2004 in 2:19:24 (10:38 pace). I later decided it would be awesome if I could squeak a sub-10:00 pace half out and was able to do this in October 2005 (2:06:38, 9:40 pace). At the time I thought this was amazing. So what was next? I threw out a fairly arbitrary goal of running a sub 2-hour half marathon. I am going for full discloure when I say I thought it was within the realm of possiblity but I did not think it was a terribly realistic goal for me. That 2:06:38? I had a great race that day and was pushing hard. I didn't think I had much left. I said I'd die a happy runner with a sub-2 half. It gave me something to work towards, but I didn't think I'd ever really achieve it.
In March 2006 I was already in training for the Safaricom Marathon which was to take place in June. Looking back at my log I was doing a few pick-ups (a couple of minutes here and there of increased perceived effort) during various runs but no real measured speed work. I had built up to a long run of 14 miles one week before the half marathon. There is precisely ONE run up until the race where my overall pace was sub-10:00. It was a 7 miler done at a 9:33 about 1 month before the Brooklyn half. ALL of the other runs the entire 3 months previous hovered at an average of 10:25 pace.
I had signed up for the Brooklyn Half Marathon mainly because it was a favorite half course and it fell on my birthday that year. Who can resist a race on your birthday?! I had no aspirations of PR'ing or even really pushing at all.
I'll never forget the first few miles of that race. For one, I totally regretted them later. But secondly, I remember not really feeling "on" those first few miles. I remember questioning whether or not it was a good day to even be attempting to run 13.1 miles. I thought it was going to be a total slog of a run. But as the race went on, something amazing happened. My splits got faster and faster and they didn't feel that hard. If you're at all familiar with the Brooklyn Half course you'll know the first 9 miles or so are pretty flat and the last few are pretty hilly. At about mile 10 I knew I was going to be really close to a sub-2 and I started running my little heart out. It wasn't pleasant. I remember thinking that I had better sub-2 that day because if I didn't I sure as heck didn't want to go through this feeling again! I threw up twice in my mouth at the finish.
Mile 1: 10.00.02
Mile 2: 9.59.29
Mile 3: 9.44.62
Mile 4: 9.17.58
Mile 5: 8:56.30
Mile 6: 9.02.03
Mile 7: 9.00.84
Mile 8: 9.08.01
Mile 9: 9.10.33
Mile 10: 9.04.77
Mile 11: 8.52.47
Mile 12: 8.23.35
Mile 13: 8.37.31
Pesky 0.1: 49.14
I will spare you the mental math and let you know this added up to be a 2:00:06 race per my watch. When the net time was figured out and the dust settled, my official time was 2:00:04 (9:09 pace).
To put this in perspective, my 10K PR pace at the time was (and still is) 9:09. My 5K PR pace was/is 8:20. I had just run a half marathon at an overall pace equal to my 10K PR with a few hilly miles at the end close to my 5K PR pace. I did this all without it being planned and without any specific training. For a second I was amazed. And for all the seconds and years after, I have just been pissed.
Five seconds over 13.1 miles is NOTHING. At one point a pedestrian crossed the road in front of me. I pulled up short to avoid hitting her. That's one second lost. Walked an extra step at that water stop? Another second. Putzed around those first few miles when I thought this was going to be a La La Land type run? More than 5 seconds there!
Let me tell you, I'd rather miss a goal time by 30 minutes than 30 seconds because there are just too many what-ifs in almost-executed races.
So basically ever since this race I've known a sub-2 is a realistic goal and I'm aching for a little bit of redemption.