It’s no secret that I put a lot of pressure on myself. At one point, I had set a goal to run a sub-1:50 half marathon, but between training for my first marathon, and then a series of health problems, this didn’t seem like it would happen. Race prediction calculators told me it wouldn’t happen. My own head told me it couldn’t happen. And then… it did on Sunday morning, which is why it took me a few days to write my Aramco Houston Half Marathon recap.
I had signed up for the Aramco Houston Half Marathon hours after finishing the Chevron Houston Marathon last year. No more marathons for me, I said, resolved to do the half distance and enjoy it. I submitted my time from January 2018 for A Corral seeding, and then began the wait. And the training.
This time, I chose a different half marathon training plan; I used the F.I.R.S.T. training method detailed in Run Less, Run Faster – of which I am a big believer. It doesn’t make sense to me to run a lot of junk miles, which are just the same stressors on my joints and muscles. I’ve done training plans with three quality runs for a while, but now I was kicking it up a notch. One thing that Run Less, Run Faster has you do is hold a faster pace for your long runs. You don’t get to sandbag them, so you get used to holding a more difficult pace. The only thing I didn’t do was traditional cross training; even though the authors of the book say you should, and even provide sample workouts, I was CrossFitting instead.
I credit Run Less, Run Faster with providing a training plan that helped me reach a PR. All the runs are longer than what I previously did in my half marathon training plans, and they’re all serious work. There are no “junk” miles in this plan; you get to build your aerobic base by cross training. If you’re not a CrossFitter, the book includes sample cycling, rowing, and swimming workouts, as well as stretches, strength moves, and nutrition information for runners.
Go Time: The Aramco Houston Half Marathon Recap
Fast-forward to Sunday, January 19, 2020. I’ve been doing great on my long runs, okay on my tempo runs, and mediocre on my interval runs. My race time predictors say I’ll get a 1:53-ish; I need a 1:52:50 to keep A Corral seeding. But I really want a sub-1:50. I spent entirely too much time overthinking it, then decided to go for it.
But the nerves… I can’t even describe how nervous I was driving up to downtown Houston for the Aramco Houston Half Marathon. I tried not to scare my passenger, but at that point, I was positive something unpleasant would happen. I’d twist my ankle…I’d lose focus…I wouldn’t hit any of my goals (acceptable goal: 1:52 and change; ideal goal: anything sub-1:50:37, my current PR; big audacious goal: 1:48). We got to the George R. Brown Convention Center in plenty of time to park ($30!), foam roll, stretch, use the porta-potties, and have a panic attack (me). And then it was time to trot out to A Corral, and I did, literally. I used that as my warm-up jog, then stretched and warmed up some more.
Once I crossed that start line, I let out a whoop of joy. I was doing it! I was running! That was the first time I got emotional during the race, but certainly not the last. I thanked God for bringing me to the start line strong and healthy, and for the opportunity to run in this sea of amazing humans who were pushing their own limits and committing to their goals. And, as usual, I went out too fast and had to tell myself to slow my roll several times.
I clocked my first mile at 8:04, way too fast. My second mile was more reasonable, at 8:12, but then I got caught up in the adrenaline and did a 7:56 mile. Nope, had to slow down, and for the most part, I did. And I tried to enjoy the experience; it was an absolutely perfect running day in the mid-40s, a light breeze that turned into a crazy wind once I neared the finish line, and sunny. I sang along a little to my music and waved at spectators. I thanked the police and volunteers. At the split, where the half marathon runners go one way and the marathon runners go another, I felt a little sad. There was definitely a part of me that wanted to run the marathon to see if I could get a better time.
But no time for that! That’s also historically where I slow down, and Sunday was no different. Miles 9 and 10 were my slowest, at 8:19 and 8:20, respectively. (And I was kind of shocked at that, to be honest!) When my watch beeped at Mile 11, I said to the guy next to me, “Oh my God, I’m going to PR!” He sort of rolled his eyes. Somehow I don’t think he was about to hit a PR. That’s okay; I hope he enjoyed the race anyway, because if there is one race you have to do as a Houstonian, it’s one of the Houston Marathon races. You cannot beat the crowd support and course support.
My husband texted me a few times throughout the race, encouraging me and telling me I was doing great. After 12 miles, my coach texted me to dig deep. So I did. I ran that 13th mile at 8:04, and then that last sprint at a 7 minute/mile pace. I dug into it with everything I had and crossed the finish line in… wait for it…
My previous half marathon PR was 1:50:37, in 2018.
Needless to say, I immediately started crying. If I had liquid left in my body, there would have been tears. Instead I just kind of hiccoughed and gasped. Not only did I PR, but by nearly one minute and 50 seconds. That’s huge, especially considering how I struggled earlier last year just to run more than two miles.
Here’s what I’ve learned, and what I’m taking away from my Aramco Houston Half Marathon Recap:
- Your 5K time may not be an accurate predictor of your half marathon time, especially if you’re really good at endurance but not so good at sprinting. Trust the process, and trust your training.
- Don’t let anyone tell you what you can’t do – especially yourself.
- Even if you train alone, you don’t run alone. There are so many people who contributed to me hitting this goal, and these are just a few: my husband with his unwavering support, my children for being proud of me, Coach Holly of Clear Lake CrossFit for believing in me, Melissa for encouraging me and telling me I could do it.
I’m so incredibly grateful to my support system, to the Chevron Houston Marathon organizers for putting on yet another amazing race, and to God for bringing me across that finish line. As I posted on Instagram, all the feels.