Last weekend I ran the Soaring Wings Half Marathon in Conway, Arkansas. This was my 4th Soaring Wings experience and I’d have to say it was my best.
I ran it for the first time in 2009. It was actually the first half marathon I ever trained for while training for my first BQ. That year I ran a 1:39:00. We moved that same weekend (just across town) and between packing and cleaning I remember being worn out for this race. Big note to self- never move and run a race in the same weekend!
I ran it again in 2011 about 9 months after Ashton was born and I had big plans to average a 7:00 min pace. I made it almost 8 miles and then hit the wall hard. Big positive splits for this one and I finished about 4 minutes slower than my goal in 1:36:33. It was rough but my 2011 SW Half experience taught me so much and changed the way I’ve raced half marathons ever since.
In 2016 I was fit and ready for a good race. Weather was a little warm and I ran solo the entire time. I finished in 1:26:20 (about 1 minute behind the first female).
Fast forward to 2018… I had a small ankle issue in September that threw off a few weeks of training. I wasn’t very confident in my fitness and even considered not racing Soaring Wings. In the three weeks leading up to the race my training started to click and I was feeling better. I decided to go ahead and race just so I could see where I was in my training. Racing 5ks is not the best indicator of marathon fitness and I think that’s all I’ve run the past few months!
My A goal was to run a 1:25:xx but I wasn’t sure if I was as fit as I was in 2016. Soaring Wings has a lot of rolling hills and climb. If I wanted a 1:25 I was going to have to work for it and I knew my overall watch average would need to be under a 6:30 pace.
I started a new job two days before the race so life was a little more hectic than usual. We decided to make our trip short so John and I left around 5:20 Saturday morning and planned to come home right after the race since he had something to get to before noon. Conway is about an hour away but we had some trouble with roads closed so he didn’t drop me off until 6:30. I jogged to packet pickup and then jogged back to John who was at a nearby gas station. I used the restroom and left my jacket and packet stuff with him. I ran into my friend Kelli there and we finished our warmup and headed to the start together.
The race started at 7:10 and temps were in the mid 50’s. It was pretty overcast with high humidity but all in all decent weather compared to my previous Soaring Wings races. I planned to ease into it the first mile around 6:30-6:35 pace. When the race started I quickly found myself in first place. I knew being the lead female was a possibility but I never imagined being the overall lead runner. This race has had some fast times in the past so for me to be leading the way in the 6:30’s was very surprising. Fortunately there was a lead motorcycle and bike escort. Mile 1 clocked in at 6:32 and right around then a runner I recognized came up along-side me. Karl is a seasoned runner (60 years old) and this was his 11th Soaring Wings Half so he knew the course very well. I knew he had run much faster times on this course before but I wasn’t sure what his plans were that day. Karl started talking- asking me my goal and sharing his and provided a lot of course insight. I am not much for talking while I’m racing at tempo speed but I appreciated his expertise and the company was nice. We ran the next 5 miles together and he warned me about every incline along the way. The miles clocked by slightly slower than I wanted and I wasn’t sure if I would run faster then my 2016 time.
Mile 1- 6:32
Mile 2- 6:32
Mile 3- 6:25
Mile 4- 6:38
Mile 5- 6:31
Mile 6- 6:42
During the hill climb in mile 6 I pulled ahead of Karl and decided to pick it up. I saw John for the first time during the race and he looked a little confused that I was in the lead. After that batch of hills I wasn’t feeling great but I focused on getting to mile 8 to the neighborhood section. By mile 8 I was feeling better and ready to pick up the pace. I really wanted to keep all my splits sub 6:30 so I made a mental game of it. I was running solo and needed something to focus on so this helped.
I was doing well until the big climb in mile 12. Fortunately mile 13 has a big downhill which made up for 12 and I was able to bring my overall pace down during this stretch. I still had no idea if I would beat my 2016 time. It wasn’t until I saw the finish clock after mile 13 that I knew I could make it.
Mile 7- 6:32
Mile 8- 6:32
Mile 9- 6:27
Mile 10- 6:29
Mile 11- 6:27
Mile 12- 6:31
Mile 13- 6:15
(Last 0.21 at 5:38 pace)
l saw the clock and sprinted in to make it- 1:25:42.
Official results can be found here.
I didn’t see John at the finish so I borrowed someones phone to call him. He had taken a wrong turn at mile 10 so he was parking and heading to me. I told him my time and he knew I was happy with it. Then I started my cool-down so I could pace in one of my coaching clients.
There was a little mix-up at the awards which thankfully got resolved within a few minutes. Apparently there was a woman who had registered for the half marathon but switched to walk the 10k (on her own) so it caused a little confusion on the results until they fixed it. This has happened to me other times but usually when there’s a 10k and 5k combined. (A 10k runner decides to switch to the 5k but keeps the timing chip for the 10k…) Anyhow, it was sorted out it was great seeing a few running friends who had great races. Huge thanks to the race directors for putting on a great race event!
This race left me pretty pumped and motivated for this training cycle. It also left me wondering what I could do on a course that isn’t quite as challenging. I haven’t set a half marathon PR in almost 5 years so I’m anxious to give it another shot! Until then, marathon training continues…