Pensacola Half Marathon, a race that in 2013 just totally broke me down mentally. I had, what I thought, was one of the most awful races to date at that point and I sulked and cried about it for several days. But . . . fast forward a year later and I tell you that growing as a runner in the past year, that 2013 race may have had a finish time that I wasn’t so proud of, but it helped and a year later, my pace was faster but not because that’s what I focus on but because I care about quality of the run and pace is just an awesome bonus. Live to run another day.
Last weekend I traveled to Pensacola on Saturday morning and I was excited to have another race weekend that included my Mom tagging along. We stopped off for breakfast in town with a girlfriend before hitting the road which totally helped make the start of our trip completely stress free!
We arrived in Pensacola and I headed straight for packet pickup and then off to the hotel to get checked in. We grabbed an early dinner and then back to the hotel to relax and watch some college football. I was also excited to have Mom with me to keep her mind off of some medical issues that she has dealt with in recent weeks. It was going to be a good couple of days out-of-town for her, I was going to make sure of it!
I got up early race morning and leisurely got ready, I even had enough time to stretch across the bed before we headed to the race to just continue to keep my head clear. I felt really good about my run, but the thoughts of last year still attempted to creep in. I continued to try to push it out of my mind and just focus on today’s race and nothing else. As we arrived at the starting area, I got Mom setup in her chair at the finish line because she would be sitting for the 2+ hour duration that it would take me to finish and I love seeing her face there as I cross the line!
After getting her settled, I headed over to the start line area and began to get all myself ready for the race. The National Anthem, a large cannon blast and we were off! I remembered several areas of the race that really challenged me last year and I was prepared to push myself through those tough challenges and just enjoy the beautiful run weather. I had forgotten though just how many hills that this race course would take us up and boy was I thankful for the hill work that I had put in the few weeks prior to this race. My legs really pushed through some doozies but in the end, I made it up all of them!
Pushing through tough mental portions of distance racing is truly something that I have worked on the past year. When I want to quit, I continue to ask myself a series of questions, are your legs tired? are you sick? if the answer is no then I have no excuse to stop, for when faced with a challenging hill, what goes up ABSOLUTELY must come down! Pushing myself through the race on Sunday I felt like a completely different runner. I felt strong and I felt like even if I ended up in pain after the race (because let’s face it, nobody’s body feels AWESOME after running 13 miles) that I would be proud of the race that I ran.
As we approached the monster hill at mile 8 I knew my challenge was before me. I kept visualizing a training course that I run in Tallahassee and the fact that on that training run we run the equivalent of 3 of those hills back to back. I knew that I had pushed up those hills in the past few weeks and that I WOULD push up this one! As I got to the top, completely out of breath, I knew the worst was behind me. I knew that I would press on and have a great race!
The rest of the race was just a push to the finish. As I hit mile 10 I began to have some hip pain, but pushed through. I knew that some IT Band issues and a little flare up of my bursitis were going to start challenging me through the last 3 miles. I looked down at my watch and it said 1:49:07, wow I WAS ON TRACK to have a potential Half Marathon PR (personal record) but that pain just kept coming and even though I slowed my pace it ultimately slowed me down enough to see that PR pass by.
I was still proud though, finishing this race a full 10 minutes faster than my 2013 time and seeing Mom at the finish line! It was really a wonderful race day!
My take away from this year’s race was . . .
We all evolve as runners. We constantly push ourselves to run another mile, a faster mile and comparing ourselves to our local running community. But we cannot grow as runners by constantly comparing ourselves to others. I mean, they are not us, they don’t have the same body structure or mental focus we have or lack. We must find ourselves as runners and focus on what drives our passion to get those miles in. For me, there are several factors that push me these days, and while one of them is for my little runner partner Carly, there are other factors that make me want to prove TO MYSELF that I can do this. I can be the best runner for me and that even when I finish slow, I still finished!
This race was Half Marathon #16 and what a sense of accomplishment I feel because that is 16 half marathons in a 2 year span of time. I have had some awful races, but they all have aspects of growth in them and I wouldn’t change anything (except maybe my marathon attempt) for anything in the world!
Wishing you Swift Feet & Happy Miles! xo