I love spontaneity; I always enjoy jumping into things without serious planning. For instance, I think it’s exciting to run on new trails and make up new routes as I go. I love traveling to new places with a very loose itinerary and allowing the wind to blow me in the right direction. I also usually don’t mind a quick change of plans or an unplanned adventure.
So it probably comes as no surprise that I LOVE spontaneous races. I love jumping in without knowing the course, without expectations, or pre race anxiety. It’s fun to just show up ready to run…and run. That’s why when one of my friends (and favorite run buddies) texted me on a Wednesday and asked me if I wanted to run the Portland Holiday Half Marathon which was that Sunday (as in 4 days away), I didn’t have to think twice. I was excited to get out on the road and see what I could do, given I couldn’t remember the last time I had run any kind of road race, let alone a half marathon.
That’s not to say I wasn’t nervous about racing. I was definitely a little nervous about the mileage and also how I might perform given I chose to do a speedy 6 mile run, followed by a challenging (and very burpee intensive) bootcamp workout that day before.
I was up early on race day (because, well, #babies) and had plenty of time to get caffeinated, hydrated and enjoy a delicious pre race biscuit before it was time to load up and head towards the starting area. Luckily for me the race started just a five minute drive from my house at Daimler Trucks on Swan Island so my husband was able to drop me off and make his way out onto the course so they could cheer me on. I quickly found my friend inside the pre race expo area, where she and her sister in law were staying warm until closer to the start time. Eventually, with only about 10 minutes until the start, we made our way outside, bouncing around with the other runners in an effort to stay warm.
We decided to start further back in the corrals – somewhere near the 9-11 minute mile pace – and just see how things went. The first part of the course was a cluster of people all trying to get around each other and up the first climb. We navigated our way into a little clearing and made our way up the hill easily; it felt so good to be moving and warming up after standing around in the cold.
The first few miles went by in a flash – we saw Casey, Colby, and Abbie around mile 3 on The Bluffs – and Abbie nearly tripped me in her excitement to see me. It gave me a nice boost to see them and we continued on, chatting easily while enjoying a familiar route.
Eventually we saw St. John’s Bridge and knew we must be close to the turnaround. The really speedy runners were already making their way back towards the finish. We ran through some residential streets in St. John’s which eventually led us to the turnaround point. With nearly half of the race done, I was still feeling really good and strong.
As we started heading back towards the finish, I started to lose Hope (my friend, not the feeling). We were on a slight climb and I could feel her pulling back a bit and I was starting to pull ahead. I was ticking off miles, enjoying the fast, flat course and trying to keep a steady, sustainable pace. When I got to mile 10, I checked my watch and did some quick math. I realized that I could probably finish under 1:45 if I just kept up with my current pace and maybe even increased it just slightly as I neared the last couple of miles.
At this point, I kind of just buckled down. I stayed focused on my breath, my legs, and what was in front of me. Around mile 11 I did another quick watch check and told myself to just keep it up. As I neared mile 12, I knew I needed to kick it into a higher gear. I could feel the excitement around me from other runners – everyone picking up their pace a little – all of us running towards a strong finish. By the time we hit the downhill portion into the finish area, I knew I was going to make it under 1:45 if I just stayed committed.
I was running quite a bit quicker, I was feeling the burn in my legs and lungs, and the start of a little rain but I just kept pushing. When I eventually crossed, I knew I had done it. My official race time was 1:44:30 (a 7:55 / mile average pace) and I’m pretty darn proud of it.
Thanks to Daimler Trucks and Foot Traffic Portland for a beautiful and fun course, to Hope for running the miles with me, and of course to my #Flexandflowrunners for all the weekly runs and training!
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