My coach mentioned that often one can secure a half marathon personal record while training for a marathon. We decided to go for it and ditched last Saturday's workout in favor of a simply long run with no push so that I would be fresh. Plus, we scheduled a mini taper this week to aid in my goal to walk the start line with fresh legs.
I left my house around two hours prior to the start, walked to the BikeShare and took a bicycle, rode down and docked by the NoMa Harris Teeter, and started my warm up run by running to and around the Capitol then down the Mall near 12th Street. I put in three slow but steady warm up miles followed by my pre-race routine. In the starting corral, I saw Rob Wolfe (2:55), Alex Albertini (3:07), Amanda Hicks (1:28), and Dan Burns (1:33). Many of us chatted it up and talked about our goals for the race. Alex was hoping to qualify for Boston and he did since in 2017 he will be 35. I think his time should be enough under the qualifying time of 3:10 to get back to Boston.
When the race began, it was crowded for the first few miles. I held steady and put down a 6:37 which was in line with my goal for the first mile. Two guys in front of me were chatting and blocking me until one asked if I wanted to pass them. When I replied that I did, they parted and I darted ahead. As I left them behind, I heard one say to the other something about he didn't want anyone other than his girlfriend breathing on him. I found that funny yet I thought to myself, "If you don't want to be so close to people, don't race a large race," since the first few miles are always so crowded and people try to get around others. The second mile through southern Foggy Bottom and toward the Lincoln Memorial allowed me to begin to quicken my pace. I recall that the first water stop was manned by DC Front Runners. I didn't have a chance to get any fluids and went along over Memorial Bridge, around the traffic circle in front of Arlington Cemetery, and back over the same bridge then left down towards Rock Creek Parkway. Once I passed the 5K mark, I noticed a white guy with long dreadlocks and I thought he might be some runner I ran with at the Rocket City Marathon. I asked him if we met in Huntsville and he said he'd never been, so it wasn't him. I wished him a good race and he slowed down, realizing he went out too fast for his projected marathon pace.
On the slope and just prior to the Kennedy Center, my club, DC Road Runners Club, was manning that fluid station. I grabbed a Gatorade from Miguel Cuya and found Michael Pryce-Jones who handed me some water and cheered me. Rock Creek can be a challenging section with its rolling terrain, but I held steady in the 6:20s with my goal to keep it close to 6:25. The "Calvert Climb" is the real challenge for this course. I planned to expect to lose thirty seconds and was fortunate to keep the mile under 7:00 (barely at 6:59). Once I crested, there were more rolling hills through Adams Morgan, but I recovered well to keep the next two miles close to 6:21. I frequently run this stretch in training and knew exactly what to expect. The final real climb of the half took us up Harvard and once we crossed Georgia Ave, we were headed downhill and past the McMillan Reservoir and Howard University. Here, I simply wanted to stay consistent. Right when the race took us onto North Capitol, we passed mile nine and I did some bad math in my head and thought I was going to come in around 1:25. My course PR set in 2014 was 1:25:47 and I had to work hard at the end for it, passing a fellow club member in the last half mile.
After a mile on North Capitol, we crossed the ten mile mark which meant there was 5K left. At that point, I thought to myself that I could certainly finish within twenty minutes and that would put me close to 1:24:30 or so, which would be close to my PR and certainly faster than my course personal record. But, I felt good running through H Street - where I was cheered on by the H Street Runners and fellow GW alumni, Adam Siple - and ran a strong 6:21. The last challenge was going from H Street up 13th Street then left on Constitution and another left on North Carolina. That puts you on C Street and within the final mile where I was able to really turn on the jets. My finishing kick and the friendly downhill left me average a blistering 5:45 for the final 1.1. That effort not only earned me my personal best but helped me sneak in under 1:24 - a thirty-one second personal best!
The course was much harder than my previous PR at the Navy Air Force Half in the fall, also here in DC, which is basically the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler Course with part of Rock Creek added onto the route. If I can get under 1:23, I can qualify for the New York City Marathon; or, if I can hold onto my time and age up into the over 40 men, under 1:25 will do it. Either way, it was a great day for a race, a great job sticking to the plan, and perfect weather to accomplish my goal!
My splits = Thirty second PR and nearly a two minute course PR! Ran smart. Started off easy and held a strong pace. 6:37/27/22/20/27/24/59 (Calvert Hill)/ 21/22/11/21/26/ 5:46 for mile 13 and 52 seconds for the final .16 according to my Garmin for a 5:34 sprint finishing kick.
99 overall/14470; 89 Male/5731; 12/929 Division
Next race = the best race in the world, the Boston Marathon!