In 2014, I ran my fastest half marathon, breaking through the 2-hour mark for the first time, crossing over the finish line at a stunning 1:59:11. It was barely under 2 hours, but it was under nonetheless. Then I stopped racing road halfs and dug more deeply into trail and ultra running, which is really where my passion lies.
But this year, I decided to do another road half – really because of one specific reason:
After an incredible spring of running the 30-mile Art Loeb trail and racing Yamacraw 50k again, I came into the summer on a DNF. I attempted a 50-mile trail race, and dropped out at around mile 21. While I do not think dropping was the wrong decision on that day, it still felt like a kick to the stomach. I didn’t like thinking about it let alone talking about it. Which is why you have likely not heard anything about it.
With the summer approaching, my motivation to run was all but gone. My confidence in my own running abilities was just shot. I had planned a pretty ambitious year, and I didn’t think I could do any of it any more. Toeing the line at another ultra seemed like a terrible idea.
So I decided to go small and build back up, snagging wins along the way. I don’t mean medals and awards – but injections of confidence: I can run, I can work hard, I can achieve. And that’s just what I did. With Doug’s guidance, I got into speedwork like never before. At first, I wanted to go for a 5k PR, but shortly into that, I thought it wasn’t enough. I wanted to dig deeper, so I set my sights instead on the Evansville Half. This would mean hard track workouts under the blazing summer sun. Tough tempo runs through the streets of Evansville under the blazing summer sun. Long runs with speed work – under the blazing summer sun.
While the miles wouldn’t be quite as long as what I had gotten used to in training for ultras, they would be tougher miles. And I loved it. Heading to the track to bust out 400s, 800s, and 1600s at paces I had never run before was incredible. I could feel myself getting stronger, and the confidence that has come with that is priceless.
A few weeks before the race, I hit the road for the longest run of the cycle. It was 15 miles, with the first three miles at race pace and the last 3-5 miles also at race pace. When I finished, I had busted my half marathon PR by three minutes. So that sort of set my goal for the race even higher. Not only do I need to break by PR from 2014, but I also wanted to break my NEW PR from a training run.
I was thrilled.
I got into the starting corral on October 14 with a few thousand other runners, ready to tour the city and see what I’m capable of.
The Evansville Half Marathon course is flat and fast. The first 8 miles, there are basically no hills at all. The last 5 get a little rolly – with 4- to 5-foot hills, which can seen a little insurmountable after running hard on flat roads for so long.
Ashley rode her bike through town to see me at a few places along the course, which was always a welcome boost. She waved and yelled, and I grinned and ran.
The first few miles, I eased up to my sub-8:30 pace, and it really felt pretty comfortable. My legs were turning over well, and my breathing wasn’t too labored. Eventually, it would start to feel more difficult to keep that pace during those last 5 miles. When the going got tough, I turned up my tunes and focused on keeping my form under control. Turning corners, climbing little hills, wincing into the bright sun and blue sky.
I knew this is what I worked hard all summer to do. I knew that I could do the distance; I knew I could hold the pace.
I picked up the pace slightly over the last 1 or 2 miles – or at least increased the effort. The finish line came into view. I locked eyes on that big inflatable frame.
At 1:52:36, I crossed through. Tired, sore, sweaty.
Proud, confident, strong.