Any day you can run 13.1 miles is a good day. Any day you can do it faster than ever before is a great day. And any day where your friends and family are there is an awesome day. This past Sunday proved to be one awesome day.
And when your coach gives you a shout out on Instagram … #nothingbutgood
Let’s backtrack a bit further first.
During my triathlon season, a pattern emerged during races: I’d rock the swim and bike and would simply hang on for the run. Bottom line, the off-season needed to address this weakness, but I had no idea where to start. (More detailed off-season running post to come!) So I enlisted Coach Pat to help me become a better runner—and hopefully, this translates to being a threat off the bike.
And here we are.
Even though it’s easy for me to dedicate myself to training, I become more invested when there’s a race on the schedule. As my weekly mileage increased, Coach Pat and I talked about doing the Philadelphia Half-Marathon as a long training run. Er, technically, I approached him, and he gave me the green light—and kept me on a tight leash. He broke the race into three sections (miles 1-7, 7-10, and 10-13.1) with specific paces. We hoped to negative split it and targeted a sub-1:50 finish. Basically, as a short-course triathlete, I would not be racing the Philly Half. It would not be a goal race, but it would be a training check-in point and opportunity to practice pace execution.
In the days leading up to the race, I felt zero pressure—which was a nice change from triathlons—but I was a tiny bit anxious: what would happen after mile 11? Even though I logged two, 11-mile runs, I didn’t know what my body would do past that point. But I did know this was hands down the best I’ve ever been running and the most prepared I’ve felt for a running race. What would happen between miles 11 and 13.1 would be what it would be; I trusted my training. And going sub-1:50 would be icing on the training cycle cake.
And unlike tris, I don’t have a detailed race breakdown. Sure, I could talk about the perfect, 37-degree weather, the PR-friendly course with only two hills at miles 7 and 10, and the delicious post-race soft pretzel and chicken broth, but I’m feeling a bullet-point format. So let’s run (get it?) with it.
My brain remained “off” during most of the race, but I did find myself repeating three phrases: “Slow the eff down, Red!” because the crowd made it way too easy to go too fast; “discipline” because I needed to stick to the plan; and “wow, that guy is cute!” because 98 percent of the male spectators were gorgeous. Walls of Dudes lined the streets, which was entirely welcomed because they were not riding two- or three-abreast like their usual triathlon congregation. And this phrase was usually followed by “slow the heck down!” because I’d get excited and run faster—and I didn’t want to tell Coach Pat I blew the race because cute guys made me run too fast at mile 6. But really, Philly is doing something right. (And seriously, Philly gentlemen, come to NYC anytime!)
The fans were awesome. As if you didn’t know that from what I wrote above. The energy, the cheers, the LOL-inducing posters, even the drunk college bros, it all contributed to an unforgettable race experience. I will definitely do the Philly Half again–as in next year.
I smiled for 12.5 miles and felt invincible for 12.5 miles—no cramping, no GI issues, no negative thoughts. I’m finally getting more race experience and maturing as an endurance athlete, and it’s paying off. It’s rare when everything feels effortless, and I felt like that for the majority of the race.
Race plan: stay at 8:30s for miles 1-7, check; work to 8:20s for miles 7-10, check; see what’s left in the tank and unload for miles 10-13.1, check. It blew my mind to see 7:40-7:55 post-mile 10, but that means the engine is there.
Bottom line, I accomplished what I set out to do in Philly. I followed the plan, felt amazing, and secured the sub-1:50 finish. Sure, I rode the pain train for the last 0.6 miles, but I felt great overall and crossed the finish line feeling satisfied (and “amped and wired” according to my parents because I said something about running back to the hotel). Turns out I like running long. And you know what would make it even more fun? Going faster, yes—and biking beforehand. Maybe 56 miles or so. And I guess I could swim a bit too.
Woah, slow down, Red. Let’s leave the 70.3 distance out of the equation for a few more years.