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December 12, 2011

The Palm Beach Half Marathon

by Anne Paddock
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I’m scheduled to run 13.1 miles in the Palm Beach Half Marathon and nervousness and anxiety are setting in because the temperatures are predicted to be in the high 70′s, which is very warm for a runner like me who has been training in 40-50 degree temps.

Six months ago, just ten days before I was going to run the Simsbury (CT) Half Marathon, I fractured my second metatarsal which sidelined me for seven weeks, 49 very long frustrating days (and, yes I was counting every single day).  Four months ago, I started back running albeit slow and short distances. Although I’m not back where I was in late Spring in terms of speed and endurance, I’m feeling great, my foot isn’t talking to me, and I’m eager to tackle a half marathon again. 

About a year ago and just a few weeks before the race, I signed up for my first half marathon: the ING sponsored Hartford race in Connecticut. Having never run more than ten miles and being on the cusp of the big 5-0, I thought a half marathon was doable if I slowed my pace down.  The first ten miles were smooth but the last 3.1 miles were really difficult and by the last half mile, I was counting foot steps to keep myself going. Finishing in 1 hour, 53 minutes, I was happy that I finished but found it difficult to be overjoyed because I was disappointed in my speed (runners are never happy with their times). Realizing I didn’t train properly, I set a goal:  do a half marathon in under 1 hour, 40 minutes.

I’ve always looked like I’m fit even when I’m not and that has given me a false sense of confidence at times. When I found myself pacing behind a 5 foot 10, 225 pound guy the last 3 miles of the ING Hartford Half Marathon, I fully realized there is a lot more to running than just looking like a runner and hitting the road a few days a week. I was as tall as the guy setting the pace and he weighed 100 pounds more than me (his knees clearly had the bigger burden)…but, I was following him and doing everything I could to keep up with him.  I had to make some serious changes and commit to speed, tempo, and endurance runs every week if I was to meet my goal and not let 5 foot 10, 225 pound guys with grey hair pace me.

For the past four months, I’ve gradually increased my speed and endurance and peaked out at 12 miles in 1 hour, 40 minutes two weeks ago which indicates I’m probably going to finish the race in about 1:50, above my goal but hopefully better than Hartford.  I’ve scoped out my competition and learned that the top three runners (2010) in my age group (50-54) finished the race in 1 hour, 43 minutes to 1 hour 46 minutes. I even scoped out who was 49 years old last year and there was one runner who finished in 1 hour, 41 minutes.  I felt like a stalker but I have to know what I’m up against and there are some serious competitors out there which is good…keeps me on my toes (literally).

A friend of mine from California told me to visualize so I keep seeing:

1:40:00

and imagining myself running across the finish line (even though I know I’m still a long ways away from reaching my goal); hopefully without any embarrassing gastrointestinal problems (which I tend to have whenever I run long distances of 10 miles or more).

I’ve got my plan which primarily entails wearing my heart monitor and keeping my heart rate within specific ranges throughout the race.  I will also have to keep reminding myself not to look at other runners and above all else, enjoy the early morning sunrise run.  Hopefully, I won’t get disqualified for wearing my ipod (which is prohibited) because I love my music when I run.

Epilogue:

The race started 15 minutes late because the wind (gusts up to 35 mph) knocked some trees down onto the road (I thought for a moment I was back in Connecticut). Temperatures were warm – in the mid-70′s at start time so the wind was somewhat welcome (I ate those words a few minutes later when the wind became a serious headwind).

After 10 miles, the heat was affecting me and I slowed down considerably focusing on putting one foot in front of the other and drinking water when I could (several water stations ran out of water). 1 hour 56 minutes after I started, I crossed the finish line and just wanted someone to hose me down with cold water. I finished 13th in my age group and last years second place winner finished a half of a second behind me, which made me happy for about 30 seconds. I’ve got a long way to go but I’m glad I finished the race…and the foot is ok.  

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