During my long injury comeback this fall and spring I had it in my head that I needed to run a marathon to officially be “back” to normal. For some reason I felt like my ultimate goal should be a faster marathon time. I know I’ve mentioned it one or two (or a hundred) times before but coming back from plantar fasciitis took much longer than anticipated. Three weeks before the Illinois Marathon I started wondering if I really wanted to put my body through 26.2 miles if it wasn’t going to be a PR. Right now at this phase in my life I am about quality not quantity when it comes to marathons. The recovery for that race is just so much different (read: longer) than any other race for me. After talking to my husband and coach I decided to switch to the Illinois Half Marathon. Best decision I could have made!
Race: Illinois Half Marathon
Location: Champaign, IL
Date: Saturday, April 25, 2015
Time: 7:00 am
It’s about an 8 hour drive to Champaign, IL from our house. John and I didn’t get on the road until close to noon. My in-laws were keeping the kids so it was a sort of get-away weekend with a half marathon thrown in the middle of it. We stopped at a random Mexican restaurant along the way for lunch and a sandwich shop for dinner. Road trips without children are not very common so we try to make the most of them. It’s always great to talk uninterrupted and catch up on life.
I realized pretty early on in our trip that we were not going to make it in time to packet pickup. I called the elite coordinator who was extremely helpful and said she would have all the elite athlete packets in the hotel staging area next to the start. This was a huge relief! By the time we checked into our hotel I focused on getting my gear together for the morning. A 7 am start time meant I needed to get to packet pick-up around 6 am if I was going to warm-up and use the restroom.
The Weather. The weather was rough. All week prior to the race I kept checking the weather forecast and it was not looking good. If I had not booked a non-refundable hotel room off Expedia I would have probably cancelled all together!
The Pace Plan. I’ve run other half marathons in bad weather so I knew I could do it. I just didn’t know what to expect time-wise. Two weeks prior to this race I ran a 1:26:28 in the RussVegas Half and according to my watch averaged a 6:33 pace. My “A” goal was definitely to run sub 6:30 (and has been for a while) but that pace has backfired on me many times in the past 16 months. Based on weather and course my coach thought 6:30-6:35 would be a very realistic range.
The Race. This is a big race with a large elite field. I honestly couldn’t tell who was running the half or the full. There was also a relay so I had no idea where I was placement-wise and I really didn’t care. I stayed in the zone and focused on my time. I don’t remember a lot about the course- just a few sections stand out in my mind. Overall it was flat and it was not challenging. I’ve run in challenging half marathon courses before and I was glad this was not that kind of race! The weather was tough enough! The rain picked up pretty hard about halfway through the race. In some sections it was really windy too, almost blowing off my visor. I was very glad I had the visor though to keep the rain out of my eyes. On long straight sections I focused on picking up my pace. I also tried to take advantage of the times when the wind calmed down. From mile 5 on no one passed me except for one female who glided by around mile 8. I stayed right behind her and the two of us passed a few men every mile or two.
The last 5k was surprisingly my best! How did that happen?! I just got in the zone and was able to push myself to finish strong. This has not been the case in my recent half marathons this year. I was never able to catch the female in front of me but I stayed close and didn’t give up mentally or physically which felt really good. This race has a unique finish across the 50-yard line of Memorial Stadium. I would definitely recommend it to someone looking for a good half marathon.
Splits: 6:30, 6:27, 6:33, 6:31, 6:24, 6:26, 6:36, 6:31, 6:29, 6:30, 6:26, 6:27, 6:23, 1:05 (5:29 avg.) for last .2. (My watch actually averaged a 6:28!)
When I finished I made my way out of the stadium and borrowed someone’s phone to call John. Then he came and met me. It was so cold and raining hard that I didn’t cool-down at all. We got in the truck and went straight back to the hotel so I could shower and change before the long drive home. John wasn’t sure if I would be a little upset that I placed lower on the leader board. (Top 3 were 1:17.) Not at all!! I was thrilled with how everything went! This was actually my second fastest half marathon ever! It was the perfect long race to end my spring season.
It turned out that due to extensive lightening in the area the marathon had to be called off after 4 hours so several runners were unable to finish. Based on the Facebook and email messages I received I thought the race directors did an excellent job communicating and helping participants. They offered free entry into next year’s race, as well as all the finisher extras from this year.
On the way home John and I stopped in Sikeston, Missouri for a late lunch at Lambert’s. This restaurant has three locations in the US and they are famous for “throwing the rolls.” They really are the best rolls ever too.
What’s Next? You know me… I’ll be racing a lot of shorter, faster stuff! Within the next several weeks I have a 5k, 8k, 2 mile, and a 1 mile race! My next “A” race is the Fast Firecracker 5k on July 4. I would love another sub 18 there. I’m hoping to get in a lot of solid training and racing this summer so I can shoot for a strong marathon this fall. My next one is in October when I’ll be heading back to Illinois for Chicago!
Anyone else have a big “A” race this summer that’s a little shorter distance? I always love summer 5k training season!