A local running organization put together a race series called the Heartland 39.3— three half marathons in one month, all within 50 miles of the Kansas City metro area. These races include last weekend’s Rock the Parkway, the Kansas Half Marathon, and Running with the Cows, which is in two weeks. I registered for the series back in October and got a steal for the races, it cost me $39 per race since I signed up so early. I figured it would be a fun challenge, but at the time I didn’t realize how amped up my spring race schedule would be.
Going into this weekend, I had no idea what to expect. I’ve run marathons, but never back to back half marathons before. I didn’t know if I would be sore from pacing Austin in his half on Saturday, if my allergies would subside, or how fatigued my body would be. When I got home from the race on Saturday, I slapped on my compression sleeves and pants, hydrated and stretched like a champ, and relaxed, trying to do my body the best I could with hopes of waking up feeling alright on Sunday.
It worked! I popped out of bed at 4:30am on Sunday and was pleasantly surprised with how fresh my legs felt, which raised my hopes for the day! My baseline goal for the race was to run it in under 2:30, but I really wanted to shoot for another sub-2:20. Having been on my feet for 13.1 miles the day before, I wasn’t sure of how attainable this goal was, but it was still what I was aiming for. I did my usual pre-race routine, water, bathroom, breakfast, bathroom, brush teeth, bathroom, you get the idea. The race was about 30 miles from where I live so I hopped on the highway at 6am and rocked out to my running playlist on my iPhone the whole drive. My adrenaline was definitely pumping and being able to crank my music super loud and dance in my car helped get the nerves out.
The temperature was perfect for racing, in the upper 40’s, but the wind was not. Upon arriving to Lawrence, I was greeted with 20-25mph winds…brrrrrr! It still wasn’t going to get me down, it’s not like I haven’t ran in the wind before! However, I was very thankful I packed a throwaway long sleeve shirt to wear for the first couple of miles and a pair of gloves to wear during the race to keep my fingers warm!
My friend Jacob made a 3-hour drive to Lawrence to run his first half marathon! We rowed together at Wichita State and it was great getting to see him again! I found this picture from back in the rowing days…which feels like a million years ago!
He was slightly freaking out before the race started as we were huddling with other runners in a bus waiting area in attempt to block the wind and noted that I was, “Cool as a cucumber,” which puzzled him. I realized that I like spending the last 10-15 minutes before a race soaking everything in–the people, the moment, the start line…I love it. I love being able to stand there silently and totally be in the moment. This race wasn’t huge (less than 2,000 half marathoners) and was incredibly organized; normally I like being at the start line about 20 minutes before a race starts, but due to the wind, all 2,000 of us corralled to the start line together about five minutes before the gun went off in efforts to stay as warm as possible.
Jacob and I agreed that we didn’t want to hold each other back, so we didn’t plan on running together. We stayed together for the first couple of miles and he took off ahead of me after the first aid station. I had situated in with the 2:20 pacers who were so fantastic, they were great pacers and really nice people. I didn’t study the course beforehand, just the elevation, and knew to expect huge hills at miles 4 and 10, other than that, I was cruising right along with my group and enjoying the run. My legs were so cold due to the wind that it took several miles for them to finally warm up and not feel like wooden boards, which is a feeling that I absolutely hate. So finally, when my legs got warm, they were rudely greeted by said monstrous hill. It was on the University of Kansas campus and I wish I had a picture of this thing because it was such a beast. My breathing efforts had really increased and I had to work mentally and physically to keep on running up the hill while keeping my breathing intact. Finally when we got to the top of the hill we were greeted with a cold rush of wind and I was so thankful to be back on flat ground.
This portion of the course was an out and back, and after mile 5, we started seeing the leaders of the race heading on the back portion. It was cool getting to cheer them on, but a big con was that we were running on a wide sidewalk, literally right next to these people going in the opposite direction. I feel like it was more of a con for the faster people because if they were wanting to make a move to try and pass someone, it was nearly impossible due to the mass of slower people going in the opposite direction. This race has also never had as many people run it as did yesterday, so I’ve got to give them that. I feel like if it retains popularity (which I think it will) then they will/need to alter the course to be accommodating to more runners.
One reason I did love this out and back portion was because you got to see everyone in passing, so I got to cheer on and high five several friends, plus the people watching made the miles fly by! We came up on the 9-mile marker and I could hardly believe we had been running that long…that’s when you know it’s a good time! My left shoe lace had been getting looser and looser, and around 9.5 I had to pull over to the side and retie my shoe, I knew I couldn’t make it to the end without doing so. This really messed up my rhythm and even though I was able to catch back up with my pace group, we were about to hit a sucker of a winding hill at mile 10 and then I really started to feel it. Fatigue was setting in and I had to take a short walk break. I wasn’t happy with having to do this, but my legs needed it.
The race was happening so fast, after climbing up that last hill there was an awesomely long downhill to mile 11, and the rest of the race was flat to downhill. I vowed to run the last 2.1 miles with all I had and I knew my time would be at least under 2:25 and I went with it. Kids had their hands up for high-fives coming into the final stretch and I fived maybe 4-5 kiddos which was so fun, my legs were cruising me right into the finish and I crossed with a huge, goofy smile on my face.
I seriously felt SO. GOOD. Maybe it was the runner’s high, or accomplishing something I wasn’t sure I would be able to do, or having a time I was happy with, or knowing I poured my all into it…but was so stinking happy! These feelings are what make me love running. My official time was a respectable 2:23:17 and I am completely happy with that.
Jacob finished in 2:19 and it wasn’t as pretty for him as it was for me. Let’s just say he spent some time praying over the porcelain gods a short while after the race…
Two half marathons in two days, check! This experience reaffirmed to me how important it is to believe in yourself and that the seemingly impossible is quite more attainable than we may realize. Like I said on my Facebook, you never know what you’re capable of until you test the limits, and then push past them. The end may not always be bright and clear, but you’ll never know what it looks like until you get there.