In the last three weeks, I ran my 9th and 10th half marathons. The 9th was the Country Music Half Marathon here in Nashville. The 10th was the Viola Valley Half Marathon in Viola, TN which is about 1.5 hours from Nashville.
I would describe these two races as hard (Country Music) and hardest (Viola Valley). I would describe my preparation for both of these as half-hearted at best. I would describe my finish times as slow (for me). I would say that these two races reminded me of why I started racing, why I keep racing and why I plan to push myself harder than I ever have in the next 166 days (number of days to the NYC Marathon).
Country Music Half #9 (harder)
I went to the Country Music Half with the Eagles of Hope running group from our church. (This group deserves and will get a post all on their own.) The night before the half marathon, the church hosted a pasta dinner for our group. It was such a wonderful night of fellowship and it was great to meet more members of the church including the pastor and his wife and a new friend, Jae Jae, who I discovered is also running the NYC Marathon.
Race day started off without a hitch as the church drove us to the start (which can get a little chaotic due to sheer number of people at the race). I lined up around the 2:15 pace group and decided I would keep 2:15 as my max time and push it faster if I could. I knew where my training was and thought this would allow me to run the smartest race (ensuring no injuries and no mid-race meltdown). Right before the race started, I spotted one of my sorority sisters from Tulane (Go Chi O). Marcie said she was also shooting for a 2:15 finish so we ended up running the race together. Not only was it great to catch up with Marcie, but it was great to have someone pushing me the entire way. The course was harder than most others I have run with a lot of elevation changes a lot of heat, but we pushed through – walking only through the water stops. I slowed down a few times but always made sure I quickly caught my breath and caught up to Marcie. We crossed the finish line in 2:14:50 right under our 2:15 plan.
Viola Valley Half #10 (hardest)
This past Saturday, I ran the inaugural Viola Valley Half. The race was my replacement race for the Cleveland Marathon which I was supposed to run this past weekend. The race was priced well, and I love supporting small local races. The course was really scenic with lots of rolling hills and beautiful countryside. The downfall of the course was that there was no shade and with an 8am start, it was really hot when the gun went off and just kept getting hotter. The heat got to me by mile 2, and I felt dizzy and nauseous. Thus, the next 11.1 miles were some of the most challenging of my life. I tried to limit walk breaks and just tried to kept pushing on. Thankfully, I am really stubborn and refuse to quit. Many other runners were also feeling the heat, so we kept motivating each other which is one of the things I love about the running community.
The town of Viola put on a great race, and I was really impressed with the number of water stations and support that were on the course. For a small race on country roads, you don’t always get that much course support. I knew I loved the town when right before the start, there was an announcement for someone to move their truck so the ladies could set up the Fried Oreo stand. I also loved everyone along the course who set up their garden hoses to give us a nice cold spray when we ran by. I loved the little kid right before the finish who while directing our last turn into the town square yelled out (in the cutest country accent) “Two-tenths left, pick up the pace ladies.” He was tough, but I followed his directions and crossed the finish line in 2:17:54. I’ll be back Viola; next year, I promise a speedier finish.
These races were so different. One was huge and fancy, and the other was small and homey. Both were great for their own reasons and both reminded me that I need to buckle down with my running and get back in tip top running shape. My finish times were far from my half PR of 1:56:04. It’s time to start training hard so I cross the finish line under 4 hours on November 4th.
I am more excited about the next few months of running and training than I have been in a while. In the words of my famous marathon coach, #dreambigrunlong.