This year I did something I never thought I would do – I signed up for, and completed, three half marathons in less than a month.
I knew it wasn’t the best idea I’d ever had as I was signing up for them, but I also thought it could be fun. If nothing else, I’d have a story to tell when it was all over.
I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the half marathon since my first year as a runner. I love being able to accomplish something that I would never have thought I could do before I started running. I hate being out there for two-plus hours and finishing nearly every race thinking I probably could have done better.
Getting passed by someone pushing a double stroller can take its toll on one’s confidence.
At the end of 2018, I had run a total of six half marathons, with my last one being the worst one yet. Not the worst time, but the most disappointing. I let some other people get into my head about how fast I should be able to run, set an extremely ambitious goal that I was not in shape for, expected race day magic, and completely crashed and burned.
I beat myself up about that one for a while and said: I’m done with that distance; It completely sucks and I’m not going to torture myself anymore.
But then I started thinking about how I came to be a runner in the first place. I wasn’t going to let something beat me just because it was hard, and that I wasn’t going to be a quitter.
I signed up for the Helderberg to Hudson Half Marathon in April 2019 and said my only goal was not to be miserable at the end. I was going to go out at a pace I could sustain and it didn’t matter how long it took me. I didn’t do anything special in training and just went and ran the race.
Turns out, it was my fastest one ever.
After that race I started thinking, how fast can I run one if I really train and take it seriously? I’ll sign up for another one in the fall and I’ll be certain to set a new personal record. I picked the same race I did in 2018, hoping for redemption.
Then, we decided we were going to take a long weekend to visit family in Virginia, and while we’re there let’s find a race to run. We found a half marathon. After I was already signed up for these two, my dad, a paramedic, mentioned that he was working the medical tent at a race in mid-September, and it wouldn’t it be great if I ran it since he would be there and would be able to cheer me on?
I looked into the race and they offered a 5K, and a half and full marathon. The course was advertised as “flat, shaded, and fast.” I decided this would be my best chance at a personal record, since I knew the other two races would be hilly.
So there you have it. I signed up for races on Sept. 15, Sept. 28, and Oct. 12 – three half marathons in less than a month.
My plan was to PR (set a personal record, in runner-speak) at the first race and then run the other two for fun. I had almost three months to train. It sounded very doable. I ran fast miles, and I ran slow miles. I ran short, medium, and long distances. And I lined up at that first race feeling like I hadn’t trained enough, but also didn’t think I could have trained any harder.
But I had a plan and it was going to be okay.
I went out at an easy pace and through the first half of the race I was on track to meet my time goal with a few minutes to spare. Then the second half of the race hit and I found myself running up a hill, and then another hill, and…well, you get the idea.
Considering this was supposed to be my “flat, shaded, and fast” race, I crossed the finish line disappointed. But I was also one-third of the way through my month of races, and I still ran 13.1 miles, so I wasn’t necessarily unhappy either.
A little less than two weeks later, I was lined up for my second race of the season. After telling a friend of mine that no, I don’t think he will die of a massive heart attack running the race, but it was nice to know him just in case, we took off.
I got hit by a falling acorn during the race and a mile or so later tripped and almost fell flat on my face. Not sure how I saved that one really. Time-wise, I did better than the epic fail of 2018, but only marginally. (My friend survived, in case you were worried about him).
Lining up for the third race, I thought maybe it wouldn’t be as hilly as I expected and I might have one last shot at my PR. About one mile into the race, I realized that was not going to happen. It’s like the race organizers found every hill in the city and mapped the course to cover them all, and when they didn’t have enough hills, they sent us back over the first part of the course to do a few of them again.
I ran at an easy pace and saved enough energy to sprint across the finish line and close out my tenth half on a high note.
I learned a lot from this adventure. I had quite a bit of time to think while I was out there.
Running has a funny way of helping you put things in perspective as you trot around for what feels like forever. I realized I really dislike the half marathon. I want to either run a long distance with no time pressure or I want to run as fast as I can and be done a lot sooner.
I feel like 10 is a nice number of half marathons to have completed and a good place to stop.
I’m not quitting the half marathon because it’s too hard. In fact, I have a feeling the goals I’m setting for 2020 will make a half marathon look relatively easy. But I’m excited about my next running challenge in a way I’ve never been excited about the half.