I feel like I’ve spent the better part of the last week talking about the Brooklyn Half-Marathon (probably because I have). Soon it will be time for me to start training for the Marine Corps Marathon, so it’s about time to put the Brooklyn Half behind me and move on. But not before writing a race report!
Going into this race I wasn’t really sure what to expect, so I set my sights sort of broadly with three separate goals. My training had been both good and bad (depending on the day, really) and my recent races had been less-than-stellar. Part of me felt like there was a possibility I could PR, another part of me felt like I might not even be able to finish.
I tried to take it easy during the week, and made sure to hydrate and eat as well as I could on Friday. Saturday morning Nat and I had a super early wake up call since we had to make it out to Brooklyn, and it’s always hard to predict what the trains are going to be doing on the weekends. We made it with very little time to spare; I ended up jogging to the start and sneaking into the corral just as the gun was going off. Of course, since I was mid-pack there really wasn’t much of a hurry, and I had a good three to four minutes to the starting line from where I was.
The course consisted of two loops of Prospect Park (a little over 3 miles) followed by a long run down Ocean Parkway to Coney Island. My two loops of the park went well, although my pace was kind of all over the place and my stomach was feeling a little bit off. Everyone talks about a huge hill in Prospect Park, and I’m happy to say that I didn’t have too much of a problem with it (even though I did notice it the second time around much more than the first)–I guess all that hill running in Central Park really pays off! During those loops, though, I realized that I definitely would not be running a PR. It was extremely humid and a 9:20-9:30 pace felt like the best I had in me. Since that put me on target for my B goal, I felt okay about it, but I still had to wonder why this felt like the right “race pace” when I’d had training runs where I felt like I could have held a 9:00-9:10 pace pretty easily.
As I was exiting the park to start down Ocean Parkway, I started to struggle mentally and physically. Even though we were coming up on mile 7, I hadn’t had anything other than water and a little bit of Gatorade because I wasn’t sure how much stomach would react to Gu. There was a slight hill as we ran up an on-ramp to the parkway, and from there on out it was pretty flat and monotonous. I’m not sure if it was my stomach, the terrain, the humid, or the sun, but I really started to doubt my ability to finish the race. At the same time, though, I tried to keep my negative thoughts in check and remind myself that it would really help to stay positive (and that I knew how detrimental a negative attitude could be after my 15k) and that there was no reason why I shouldn’t be able to finish the 13.1 miles I had trained for.
By mile 10, I had gotten over a lot of the mental struggle and started to really suffer physically. My stomach was just plain upset at that point and didn’t feel that much better after a brief pit stop, and I just felt tired and underprepared for what I was doing. It’s at that point that I let myself walk a little bit (probably about 1-2 minutes each mile). In retrospect, I’m not sure if I really needed to, or if I just let myself think I did; either way, I feel a bit disappointed that I wasn’t able to run the entire way. I had even tried to slow down and try to rest and recover a bit while continuing to run, but I was never able to do that while keeping a pace that I felt comfortable with. It’s weird, but sometimes running slower can be just as hard as running faster.
I finished the race in about 2:08 (this is kind of the compromise between my watch time and my official time, which includes my potty break), which puts me pretty squarely between by B and C goals. Honestly? Probably not my best race. But I have come away with it with some new knowledge and a few new things to pursue during my next training cycle–for instance, I think it may benefit me to train a few weeks longer than many plans recommend, and to incorporate a few longer runs (this time around I feel like a lot of my runs were 9 miles, and very few got me into double digit territory); I also think it would really help to be more serious about cross-training and weight training in particular in order to build up my strength a bit more.
I can’t help but be a bit frustrated, though. It’s hard for me to accept that my half-marathon PR is ten minutes faster than the time I ran on Saturday. I can’t help but wonder what was different at that point, even though it may not be the best use of my time to do so. A lot has changed in the past few years, and in a lot of ways I am still building back up to where I was before my eating disorder really got out of control. It can be upsetting when I think too much about it, and especially when I’m realizing how much I am still struggling to eat well and take care of myself. I have to remember to give myself credit for what I have accomplished: I finished a half-marathon, and last November I finished a full marathon. Running has helped me to treat my body with greater care, and I know that as I continue to run, I’ll be able to continue treating myself well. Eventually I will be stronger than I was before I went into the hospital, I just have to be patient.