Race Recap: National Women’s Half Marathon

As a new runner, my main race goal so far has usually been to just cross that finish line. But now that I have a couple of races behind me, I thought it was time I get a little ambitious and set the bar a little higher for the National Women’s Half Marathon on April 29. 

After all, this race was my fourth half marathon, second this year, and third race in April alone. We’ll circle back on the valuable lesson I learned from signing up for too many races this spring in a separate post 😉 

So here are my previous half marathon times:

For every single one, I have an excuse: 2013 I didn’t train! Disney I wasted time trying to get a picture with Mickey. And the most recent half, back in March, I didn’t want to push myself too hard since I had a huge conference starting the next day. I still PRed though technically… Well, I didn’t have an excuse this time around. I’ve actually been running. Based on my performances in April alone (I ran the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler in 1:55:31 and the GW Parkway Classic in 1:53:32) and thanks to my awesome new Garmin I actually have a better understanding of my pace. Realistically, I knew that my pace of 7:00-7:15 per kilometer / 11:15-11:30 per mile means I should be able to finish a half marathon in two hours and a half. With that in mind, here were my goals for the National Women’s Half Marathon:

  • Stretch goal: finish closer to 2:20 than 2:30
  • Realistic goal: finish under 2:35
  • Worst-case scenario goal: finish under my previous half marathon personal best of 2:41:31

So how did I do? If you follow me on instagram, you probably already know the answer. If you don’t, you should (here!)! But let me tell you a little bit about the race first. This is the first time this race was held in D.C. I snagged my spot pretty early on, meaning I paid almost nothing to register (the initial registration price was $1 and increased as the race got closer.) I’d never done nor sought out a women-only race and that wasn’t a factor in me deciding to do this race. From the start, the event seemed pretty disorganized so I didn’t have very high expectations of how things would run the day of. To be fair, packet pick-up at Pacers was a breeze (love my Pacers!) This wasn’t my first race so I didn’t care really that there was no expo, but I know for a lot of women, this WAS their first race ever and I’m sure they would have liked a bit more of fuss with maybe a backdrop for bib pictures and the opportunity to buy race souvenirs. 

I made a slight mistake the night before the race and watched the two new episodes of the Handmaid Tale. I don’t know if that’s why I didn’t sleep well but I felt tired Sunday morning. I still stuck with my usual pre-race routine: got up two hours before the race, had an RX bar and a kiwi as I listened to the latest episode of Pod Save America. I’ve been trying out Nuun and had a vitamin & caffeine enhanced drink instead of a small cup of coffee. I don’t like waiting around too long, and I knew I wouldn’t need either bag check or the restrooms so I left my place pretty late at 6:20AM. Turns out I should have paid closer attention to the site of the start/finish line and ubered there. Typically, I’ll see a lot of runners on my way to the start and this time around I saw NO ONE! Downtown D.C. was completely deserted. I started to panic. As I realized the start line  was on the other side of the Tidal Basin and much further than I thought, I ended up run/walking 2 miles before even starting the race. Not reading the Athlete’s Guide properly is on me but that’s the worst place to start a race! I got there just in time to hop into the third wave but I started the race tired and stressed. For a while, I entertained the opportunity to run the 8K if I didn’t get to the start line on time for the half marathon and that was kind of a thought that didn’t leave me throughout the race.

Given that I had injured myself in late March and cut down on my running I knew that running two 10-milers and a half marathon in a month was a lot for me. I considered dropping out of the GW Parkway Classic but ended up running it and actually felt good afterwards. I feel like I tend to psych myself out before races so I decided I wouldn’t do that for the half-marathon. I wouldn’t downgrade. I would run the whole thing and I would do well! Except from the start, it was obvious that it wouldn’t be the case. I knew pretty early on I wouldn’t meet my stretch nor my realistic goal.  And I psyched myself out. I wasted time going to the bathroom but otherwise I was running under 11:30 for the first 4 miles. I wasn’t doing great, but I was doing ok. And then two things happened around mile 5. One, there was this sign about choosing between the half marathon (go right!) and the 8K (go left). I kinda didn’t want to run anymore and seriously entertained gearing to the left! 

And then we saw her. The leading runner. She was getting to mile 11 and I was barely at mile 5. She seemed so strong and she was going so fast. And then we saw another runner. And one more. And one more. And then lots more. For the next 4 miles all I could focus on were the runners on the other side, the ones who would finish in an hour and half. I knew I wasn’t half way threw and already just wanted to be done. Not the best mindset during a race…. I went through the motions for the rest of the race but honestly I wasn’t feeling it. 

Technically met my worst case scenario goal. I did finish “faster” the National Women’s Half Marathon faster than I did the Rock’n’Roll Half. By 10 seconds. I know it’s technically a PR. Woo hoo (<– being sarcastic here) but the truth is I didn’t enjoy this race. I had so much more fun at the Rock’n’Roll Half. I had no expectations. I didn’t push myself. I stopped and hugged friends along the course. I *finally* took some of the beer people hand out along the course. I walked some. And yet I finished in THE EXACT SAME TIME when I feel like I worked harder and struggled more at the National Women’s Half Marathon. And it’s probably due to fatigue. As I said, three races was a lot for me and my leg has been bothering me… I think beyond some minor organizational issues (the water stations weren’t efficiently managed, the start line was too far, communication was poor) I just didn’t like the run because I didn’t have fun running it. And my performance showed that. 

I do want to end this post on a positive note. Here is one thing I *loved* about this race: the girl power aspect! I never sought out a women-only race. Just their names (Divas, Princess, Queen B) are usually a turn off (unless princess is followed by Disney and then it’s awesome!) are a turn off, so are the tutus, the tiaras, the pink, the stiletto logos (really!).  But the National Women’s  like a celebration of women’s running and of women being strong and kicking some ass(phalt!) There were groups of girlfriends who were doing this together, many of them as their first big race and everyone was so supportive and encouraging of each other in a way only women are really. I wouldn’t mind doing another 😉 But not anytime soon! I had been warned I would most likely burn out signing up for all those races. I’m sure a most-experienced runner would handle the pressure better but I’m still new to this. Instead of just going through the motions at all the races, I need to focus on doing well in a few races. With that in mind, my next D.C. race will actually be the marine Corps Marathon in late October. I will be running La Grande Classique Paris-Versailles but that is it! I am not allowed to sign up for anymore fall races! One of the things I missed in yesterday’s race was the lack of spectators. Don’t get me wrong, there actually were quite a few, especially men cheering on their girlfriends/wives/friends. I loved that. But Hains Point and Rock Creek Park are hard to get to so there weren’t as many as during the Cherry Blossom 10 Miller or the Rock’n’Roll Half. I missed spectating (WAY less work than running too!) so I’m going to focus on cheering for a bit. That’s really fun too!