Chasing the 90-min Half Marathon

For a W18-34 to get into the NYC marathon she has to run either a half marathon (1:30 or under) or a marathon (3:10 or under). My current half was 1:32, and my full was 3:16.

When I crossed the Chicago Marathon 2015 at 3:11, then felt desperation that I had missed it by 1 minute, luck turned out that the standard for 2015 had been reduced to half marathon (3:13) and marathon (1:32).

p3jbantI slide into NYC Marathon through time change… but I wanted to earn that start line by the original standard.  I just had to drop my half marathon to 1:30… how hard can 2 minutes be, right?


2015 opportunities came up but I kept missing it again and again…  the courses were harder and I kept getting the same times! Mermaid Half (1:33), San Diego Half Marathon (1:32),  Rock ‘n Roll San Diego Half (1:34), Tijuana International Half (1:36), Phoenix Y-Race Half (1:33).  Carlsbad Half 2015 (Pacer 1:40 to practice pace & thought control).27d6562

I don’t come from track or organized running teams… I just printed some race plans & ran. To give you an idea in 2012 my best efforts were between 9:30-11/min miles. Proof here MapMyRun

Something had to give! The week before each race, where I failed, I would only run 2-3 times 8 miles max, hitting race pace in both workouts then I’d rest the rest of the week. So on race day, on mile 9-10 when I’d need my legs to be strong and warmed up to kick it into gear, they’d be weak… bursting after just 8 miles… Bingo.  Turned out my problem was stubbornness in avoiding track speed workouts like the plague.

stuborn-goals-flexible-methodSilver Strand Half Marathon was my last opportunity in 2015 to go for this nagging clock. I didn’t want to give up just because it would mean increasing the effort.  Effort sounds terrible, but tastes delicious.  With daylight savings darkness making it even less motivating to run after work, I needed to crave the results more than my habit. I had to run everyday so my legs didn’t have a chance to cool down. No exceptions.

Monday: 6 miles road solo, sprint every other block

Tuesday: 400 x 10 track club, all out/no looking at the watch

Wednesday: 5 miles road group, hold onto lead pack to not get lost

Thursday: 400 x 10 solo, narrow down body position for the goal pace

Friday: 1 mile loop x 3 solo, mind over cold

Saturday: 800m swim (gel), 12 mi bike, 4 mi run (gel) – Sprint Triathlon all out/no watch

** Race Day **

Roger paced the 1:40 Half, we parked at few blocks from the start line and jogged in. I had black coffee at home 2 hours before the start, ZipFizz 30 minutes before the start, then 1 gel 15 mins before the race.   I have laser focus at the start line and position myself in front of the 1:30 pacer group. I have many friends that were pacing behind me, so I was hoping to not see them until the finish!

Last year at this race I learned I have to keep the tangents tight, control my pace on the first 8 miles because the elephant cage is the hardest part to hold onto, and save just enough to turbo at the 3+ block finish line stretch.

I make eye contact with another woman that is doing strides at the line while KUSI is covering the start, and the sizing up starts. She tells me she’s trying to hit 1:25 to qualify for USA Half. I tell her good luck.  She stayed ahead of me with a pack of guys until mile 4, after I passed them out nice and steady, I didn’t see her ever again.

IT WAS SO WINDY! The wind was as strong as the Chicago Marathon.  Choosing to run alone meant I had no “wind breaker” and no drafting benefits.  I couldn’t sacrifice this opportunity to coast behind someone who could bonk.  I had to tuck in my chin and keep my arms closer to the torso than usual to control the drag. Every stride had to come from my hips, I had to push off the ground and keep the torso forward to keep momentum.

Mile 3 my friend Michelle is spectating and cheers me on which feels so great. I don’t see any other women in front of me, and have been keeping the 1:30 group far enough away that I can’t hear feet. But it was too early to think about success. Mile 5 the “Dark Horse” a local running leader  races by telling me I am looking strong and to keep it up. After the aid station on the bridge passes, it’s the dismal 5k segment that makes or breaks this race.  The instinct the minute you turn into the residential figure-8s is to sprint but I keep it steady, I know the cage is coming.

I pass a high school boy that’s been leading, he tells me good job. I go by a few inline skater family that the mom tells her daughter to look at the female runner, and I’ll be the one she would be trying to beat on skates next year.  The 10-mile split comes up and I know we are far from close to the finish.

SilverStrand Bessy 2015

As I enter the cage I visualize the intensity in this week’s workout of the 1 mile repeats & the Fiesta Island loops.  The elephant cage section has two 180-degree turns, the first one being at the top of an uphill and the second is right next to the exit. A TCSD member runs beside me asking me questions, and I can not talk at this pace.


I just give him the peace sign and keep charging.   You can see the runners on the Silver Strand on this section and can see how you are stacking up.  I hear friends scream out at me that were pacing other times, and I just grunt in response. I still don’t see any sign of the start line woman, but that could mean she’s tucked right behind me waiting to out sprint me at the finish… no time to look, I just have to focus on myself. I use the gravity as much as I can on the mile 12 downhill.  One more mile. One more 180 turn & it’s the finish stretch.  The quicker I can be done with this mile the sooner it’s over. Then I can look at the clock.

The finish line stretch could take minutes if you slow down in anyway. I tap into my 400 x 10 track club workout from that week, and try to barely touch the ground with longer stronger strides leaping forward. It’s a blur. Garmin says I went from 6:30 to 6:05. I run through, and jog a bit then immediately puke the last Gatorade and gel. Then I start laughing, and kneel down beside it to get it together for a minute. The medics come over to me asking if I’m okay. I say, Yes I just need water. When he walks over to get me a water, and says Congratulations you’re the first woman in the Half. I look at my watch and see 1:29! I start screaming and freaking out!  I hit my time AND I WON! I start jumping up and down super giddy.  Garmin Results

I see a few friends who were in front of me and just hug them.  The start line lady comes up to me after a few minutes and tells me she sprinted at mile 9. I’m like, “Ah, is this the first time doing this race? Either way, good job, today was crazy windy.”

Roger’s crossing at 1:40 with his pace group, I’m so anxious to tell him. I can’t even believe it.

Thank you to all my group run partners, friends, pacers, cheering spectators this whole year and especially at Silver Strand.  I’m so relieved I found out the method to unlock my speed, and look forward to 2016!


Credits: Maureen Friend


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