On October 20, 2013, I finished the Athens Half Marathon (AthHalf) with a time of 1:58:57. I am still searching for the right words and emotions to describe the experience. Running a half marathon was on my “some day I will bucket list” until earlier this year when I made it a reality and signed up in April.
Running the half marathon distance was a mental and physical challenge for me. I posted last week about having three goals and ultimately decided to give it my all and try for sub-2. I felt confident on race weekend after encouragement from running friends that I could do it. Committing to a Hal Higdon plan and training for about a year with Athens Road Runners also prepared me to work hard in this race!
Thoughts about the course: Athens is hilly! Usually when people ask me about Athens my response includes something about the hills. The hills are especially salient because I am a runner. I know I can run on Milledge and Prince and it will be flat, but anywhere else and I encounter the infamous Athens hills.
Athens Road Runners group runs trained on most of the course so I knew what to expect. The course starts out mostly flat for the first five miles, but once you get to Gran Ellen and “Zoo Rd” you encounter the first tough hill. The hardest part of the race for me was on River Rd at the 10th mile. The race organizers set up “bands for every mile” but there was no band and no spectators along River Rd. It was a really long stretch (about a mile) without any excitement. It is a steep incline to get up to E. Campus Rd behind Sanford and I walked through the water stop to give myself a break.
I did not expect the last mile to be so tough. The route crossed the bridge by Sanford Stadium, turned right at Memorial Hall – and there were more hills! Then we turned left and went up a very painful hill at Baldwin. The course was pretty manageable for the hilly town of Athens (but the last mile was not nice!) The race ends running through Sanford Stadium and around the hedges which was an awesome experience!
The best part about this half marathon experience was my training partner, Evan. It is much easier to stick to a plan when you have someone to go on all of the training runs with you. I do not think I could have found a more perfect running partner. Evan is just as competitive as I am and not only committed to every day on the training plan but patient enough to wait on mornings when I woke up late or overslept. Plus, I do not want to run alone and in the dark at 6 am so I really appreciate Evan’s company! He basically dragged me along during the race and is the reason I was able to run a sub 2-hour half! I am impressed by his improvement and commitment and appreciate everything he has done to help my running. Thanks Evan!
So what is next? I want to run more! Running is still my activity of choice for reflection, personal health, wellness, and taking a break from work and school. I already signed up to run the 2014 Cooper River Bridge Run. I am also looking into running more half marathons. And maybe a marathon one day? What races do you recommend?
First-timers often worry about pace. In your first race, you should not care. You're going to set a Personal Record (PR) whatever you do.
— Hal Higdon (@higdonmarathon) September 19, 2013
My first half marathon (the Athens Half) is one week away! For the past 11 weeks I have followed a training plan adapted from Hal Higdon. I recommend his training plans if you are looking to get into running or step your training up a notch. Those plans are great, plus I also just love following plans in general. (It’s the J in my Myers-Briggs…)
As the half is coming up I have been thinking about my goals. It really helps me to set goals for projects, running, and life. To work on setting goals for my first half-marathon I talked to my dad and learned “DT’s three goals for beginner/new runners”:
1) Finish – The first goal is to finish the race. The philosophy is that as a beginner running a race distance for the first time, the goal of finishing is an amazing accomplish in itself.
2) Realistic goal – The second goal is a goal that you are pretty confident you can meet. It is a goal that feels comfortable given how your training is going. This is good for those (AKA: me) who like to feel confident about their ability to meet a goal.
3) Stretch goal – The stretch goal is one that would be a challenge to meet. It is a goal that can be met if you run your best, but does require a lot of factors coming together.
Using DT’s guidelines for goal-planning, here are my goals for the 2013 Athens Half:
1) Finish the race
2) Sub 2:10 half-marathon
3) Sub-2 hour half-marathon
What is your running goal philosophy? Do you have any current running or fitness goals? I am excited to run my first half marathon in one week!