When you look down at your watch and see that you’re on track for a PB, that’s when the magic starts to happen. The desire to cross the finish line becomes stronger than the pain in your legs so you begin to push harder. And you keep going until you reach the finish line because the moment you realise that you are going to set a new personal best, you become unstoppable.
This weekend I ran a 9 minute PB in a half marathon that I didn’t really train for. I know… I can’t believe it either and everything that I thought I knew about running has gone straight out of the window.
I’d booked to do the Berlin half marathon sometime mid-late last year and I put it to one side because I wanted to focus on increasing my speed and stamina. After I got married in February, I vowed to train for the 13.1 mile race but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I was having too much fun sprinting and doing CrossFit. The thought of doing a “long run” sounded painful so I just avoided it. I didn’t want to destroy all of the speed work that my body had been enjoying and I started questioning my abilities. Not as a runner, but as a long distance runner. Sure, I can run but I wasn’t sure if my body was designed to run half marathons. So I just continued training as usual, doing endurance sprint sessions, strength training and I told myself that after Berlin I would retire from half marathons.
I flew to Berlin with my friends and most of them eat marathons for breakfast. But despite my lack of preparation, I felt calm. My legs felt strong and I trusted my running ability but I didn’t expect to take anything away from this race. I thought my legs would give up on me at around 13-15km so my plan was just to get around the course and then retire from half marathons.
But on race day, my plan didn’t go to plan. It actually fell apart.
We were in quite a fast wave which meant I didn’t lose any time or energy trying to weave around people. The first 5km went a little faster than I planned but my legs felt good, really good. I remember telling myself “your legs should feel good, it’s only 5k!” but I maintained my speed and continued on to 10km. The 10km mark came and my Apple watch vibrated simultaneously to let me know that I’d reached. I was impressed with it’s accuracy so I started to pay attention to my watch. I had been running for 46 minutes and some change. If I kept this up I’d completely shatter my PB but I didn’t think I had it in my legs so the plan was to maintain this speed for as long as possible.
Shortly after the 10km check point, I approached the first water station and I missed it. *Insert expletive here* That’s when the panic started to kick in. I couldn’t remember where the next water station was and the last thing I wanted to do was become dehydrated and not be able to finish the race. After a deep breath, I told myself that I’m used to training with very little water and so my legs continued to tick over.
Before I started the race, I mentally prepared myself to crash at 15km and as I approached the check point I could feel the anxiety beginning to build. I kept watching my watch. 14.59km, 14.62km. As I edged closer I thought that it was going to happen any minute…now. But it didn’t. I ran through the check point and with it I let out a sigh of relief. I checked my pace and I was still on track for a PB but I didn’t know how quick it was going to be.
“You’ve only got 6km to go girl, you can do this”.
The next few kilometres seemed to fly by. 16km, 17km and when I finally reached 18km I knew that nothing was going to stop me from crossing that finish line and I was determined to maintain my pace. I didn’t run for 18km to let it crumble in the final 3. My legs still felt strong and as I approached the final 2km I had another look at my watch to see that I was going to achieve something special. This was all the motivation I needed to summon the strength to kick it. When I ran through kilometre 20, I took off. Well, I say I took off…I ran as fast as my legs let me. I was passing runners on my left and my right, I was gaining momentum with every step. The fatigue started to kick in, my glutes and hamstrings were working overtime but I didn’t care. I was on the home straight and nothing was going to stop me.
I crossed the finish line knowing that I’d given it all and I frantically flicked my wrist to see the time that my watch had recorded. 1:40:59 flashed up on the screen. I didn’t want to get my hopes up as it wasn’t my official chip time but I sent a message to my husband to let him know I had finished.
“Huge PB” is what it read.
I got my medal and had a few friendly exchanges with runners on the way to receiving our post race certificate, which had our official chip time on it. I held my breath when they it to me. What if my Apple Watch had been out? You hear about this happening to runners all the time. Their watch tells them they’ve ran a PB then they get their official results to find that they haven’t.
I held my breath and had a look at the paper.
Almost a 9 minute PB.
Speed endurance is a huge part of my training and although I didn’t know it at the time, it was equipping me with everything I needed to not only finish a half marathon, but to set a new PB too. I have found a training method that my body responds well to and yes you’ve guessed it…I have decided not to retire from half marathons.
1:35:00, I am coming for you!
(please note I am an experienced runner and this was my third half marathon)