Friday, April 19, 2013

A New Goal

A pre-race picture with my friend, Sarah
On Sunday, April 7th, I ran a half marathon. I've run several, and when I decided to run this one, I wanted a time goal. In January, I picked 2 hours. I had recently run a 5K in less than 26 minutes, and I knew I could run one mile in less than 8 minutes - two precursors (apparently) to running a half marathon in 2 hours. So, it was an informed decision, even though I sort of picked 2 hours out of the air. My fastest previous half marathon time was around 2:18 (my last pre-Mary half).

I ran this race as a fund raiser for a friend of a friend, Erin, who is pursuing an international adoption. Erin is also a personal trainer, and she agreed to train me to run this race in 2 hours.  She sent me weekly work outs. I did them, and I got faster. I felt well prepared.

Race day was the most beautiful day we'd had in awhile. For the first 6 miles, I was right on pace. Miles 6-8 were mostly uphill - a part of the course called "Holy Hill". The night before, I had driven the  course, so I was aware of how these miles would go. Still, when I reached mile 8, I was struggling, and slightly off pace. The hill, combined with warmer weather than I'd trained in, required me to drink more, and that took time.

My family waited to cheer me on at mile 9. I knew they were going to be there. (What a beautiful sight for me - those four precious people!!) I told Gary that I was struggling, and he encouraged me, saying he thought I was only one minute behind. At mile 9, my 2-hour goal was still well within reach.

I felt better after seeing my family, and I ran well to mile 11. I looked at the clock and realized that I had 20 more minutes to reach two hours. My target pace was 9:10/mile, so 2.1 miles in 20 minutes seemed very doable. I knew I was losing strength in my legs, and struggling some mentally, but I really thought I might have enough left to get it done.

In the middle of the 12th mile, though, there was a hill. Halfway up the hill, I made the decision to walk. It was excruciating, because I knew that if I walked, I was letting go of my two-hour goal. At that point, I knew I had no extra time. Walking felt like quitting. I was afraid that if I didn't walk, though, I would literally have to quit, because I would not be able to make it to the finish line. So I walked - feeling so discouraged. While walking up the hill, I texted this to Erin: "I'm walking at 12. I'm not going to make it." Honestly, in that moment, I was so sad. Erin and I texted until I got to the top of the hill, where I told her I was going to run again. With only about a mile left, I knew I would finish the race. I wanted to do it running.

And I did. I ran as hard as I could. I just put one foot in front of the other. When I could see the clock, I realized that if I kicked it in at the end, I would be able to finish in under 2:05. All of the sudden I had a NEW goal!! I started running as fast as I possibly could, and I finished the race in 2:04:27.

(Erin was getting texts informing her of my progress, and when I crossed the finish line, this text came to me from her: "2:04:27!!!!! That's awesome.")

In thinking back, I can't help but be a little disappointed that I didn't reach the goal I set for myself in January. I trained the best I could. I was well-prepared, but in the end, there was just one hill too many. I'm proud of my time. I know it's good one. But I did not run a half marathon in 2 hours or less.

But also in thinking back, I realize that there may be more to be learned and gained from the experience of not quite meeting a goal, than there would be from making it.  Not giving up, and setting a new goal, may tell me more about myself, than what running a half marathon in 2 hours does. Having my kids see me struggling along the race course, and working my hardest, at the end, to accomplish my new goal, may be the best lesson I could teach them through this experience. My need for the encouragement of others was much different in this race, than it was in other races that weren't as hard. I appreciated my family and Erin so much, and I realized that they loved me and were proud of me, no matter which goal I reached!

The sentiment of equating life to a marathon may be overused, but the truth is, life IS like a marathon! And I think it's more like a marathon that is hard and hilly and unpredictable, where goals are not reached and new ones are set, than it is like the races that simply go according to plan.

Friends, if you take anything away from this post, please take this: When things get hard along your course, walk if you have to, and when you can, set a new goal!!


  1. I am hoping to train for a half marathon this summer and run the race in the fall, so your post is very inspiring in many ways!

  2. That's great, Rach!! Have fun training!