Sometime last year, a group of friends started planning to do the Little Rock Half Marathon. Due to work commitments, I wasn’t able to join in, and then in November, my work schedule changed, and within two hours of that change, I was registered for the race, had purchased flights, and had planned to room with a friend. While running isn’t my top training priority right now, I didn’t want to miss out on a fun weekend with friends.
When I registered, I didn’t really put two and two together and realize just how close this was going to be to the Donna Half Marathon. I don’t typically race this close together anymore, though I definitely used to. But hey, that just meant that getting up to race distance wasn’t going to be an issue.
While discussing my training plan with my coach, I emphasized that I didn’t want running to be my main focus. The last time I was heavily run focused was before Donna in 2015 and I just didn’t enjoy it. I don’t like running four times a week. My race that year was stellar – about a minute and a half slower than my PR, and I was delighted with my results, but I wasn’t sure that chasing a PR was what I wanted to do. I do this for fun, and if I hate all of the training, I’m failing in that goal.
So this winter, I’ve been very bike focused, while still running twice a week (a shorter run of 4-5 miles and then a longer weekend run). By doing that, I’ve still been able to pull out races in the sub-3 category, which is always my goal. My PR was set at the 2012 Virginia Beach Shamrock Half Marathon at a blistering 2:48:33, so I am quite happy with 2:55ish finishes with less training.
I did very little planning for the Little Rock Half. I mean, I trained, but I didn’t look at the course, and only sort of paid attention to the weather. As race week arrived, it looked more and more like it was going to be rainy. Not ideal, but I’ll take rain over crazy heat for any race day. (Well, maybe not for triathlons… I’ve done both and I’m not sure which I prefer.)
For race day, I knew I wanted to push the run, so I didn’t plan to run with anyone, but I wasn’t setting any specific goals, so I wasn’t nervous going in, nor did I really eat properly. Way too much unhealthy food, way more alcohol than normal (which is really any alcohol – I don’t drink regularly anymore).
Race morning dawned and it was raining and chilly. So I wore a long sleeved shirt over my short sleeved, figuring that if I got warm, I could take it off and tie it around my waist. That sort of thing doesn’t bother me. We also got incredibly fashionable trash bags from the hotel.
I ditched the trash bag before the race, but I saw people running in trash bags and ponchos for the entire half, and even saw some marathon finishers cross the finish line wearing plastic outerwear. I didn’t think it was that cold.
Now, cold weather is my jam for running. I even think that the fact that my wet long sleeved shirt pressed against my body helped my run. I was miserably cold after, but during the run, I felt great.
During the first few miles, I felt like I was going out too fast, so I tried to pull back, but wasn’t very successful. So I just decided to see how I felt.
Around mile 5, I started to wonder if I was on PR pace. I also started to wonder just what my PR was. I knew it was somewhere in the 2:48 range, but wasn’t sure where.
At mile 6, I started to do the mental math. And continued that for the next few miles, as I continued to tick off sub-13 miles. (I know, not fast for many, but my PR was at a 12:52 pace, so this was good.)
By mile 8, I knew that if I kept up the sub-13 pace, I could set a new PR. So I decided to keep pushing, but not push too hard. I knew there was a distinct possibility that I was going to blow up somewhere around mile 10, but I figured it was worth it for the attempt.
So I just kept ticking off the miles and holding to my intervals, hoping that my body would hold out. It hurt, but in the good way. I certainly didn’t feel like I was dying, as compared to many other races. I think the temperatures absolutely helped.
By about mile 12, I knew I had it, and I was right. I sailed into the finish with a time of 2:46:52, destroying my 5-year-old PR by over a minute and a half. Definitely an unexpected result, but I think going in without that expectation really helped, and the conditions were just about perfect for me.
Clearly all the work I’m putting in on the bike has helped tremendously. I love that I can see improvements like this without killing myself on run training. I love killer bike workouts and loathe killer run workouts, so this is a huge win all around.
The race itself was awesome. Amazing course support, and so very many spectators out there, even with the rain and the cold. And best of all, the finisher’s area was all held inside the convention center, so we could get out of the cold and rain when we were done with the race. This is definitely a race to keep on my list. And the finisher’s medal is awesome! Definitely bigger than normal, and the spiral on the back spins. The marathon medal is insane – literally twice as big as the half medal and it pretty much takes up a person’s entire chest. So if you race for medals, this is the race to run.