The Half Marathon That Happened

Written by: Andrew Ware
March 30, 2024

Looking Towards the Shamrock Half Marathon

There was a lot that happened over this past Shamrock weekend (and I might write about more of it), but it was Sunday that really gave me all the feels when it came to running. 

Far off of my half marathon shape from last year, I knew a PR was out of reach. In the weeks leading up to the race, I was trying to imagine what I should do in the race. What was I in shape to do? What could I run? I knew what my “easy” pace was, and I knew I could hold it pretty well, but honestly wasn’t even confident with the full race distance. 

The last time I ran 13.1 miles was when I had run Shamrock last year. 

Despite all of that, I still felt confident that I could run around a 2-hour half marathon, so I started looking for friends who had that as a goal. I knew there was a 2-hour pace group, but sometimes the pace groups can be big, and as we found out get in the way of getting hydration on the course. So, I found two folks in my run club who said they were looking to go “2-ish.”

I felt comfortable getting them through the early stages of the race and figured worst case scenario I could push myself to get to the end (again no idea how my body would hold up over 13 miles).

The thing I have loved about being a run club leader in my local running community, is that you get to witness the growth of all the runners who join the group. The two particular guys I was tagging along with for this race were some very dedicated members. I have watched both these guys accomplish so much to this point, but now they were looking for new goals. 

The Race Itself

We started the race and got out to a nice pace. With a bit of a tailwind, we banked some time on the front end, but still tried to keep it easy and make sure we weren’t over-taxing ourselves. We struggled for hydration as we caught up with the 2-hour pace group and got caught in the pack. We tried to keep the pace strong and came through the first 5 miles under pace. As we came up Shore Drive (between miles 3-5) one of the guys started pulling away from us and was looking strong. Meanwhile I and the other guy kept up the same pace and looked to tick off the miles.

As we approached mile 6, we turned into Ft. Story and began our trudge through the hottest miles of the course. With no tree cover and clear skies, the warmer weather really started to affect me. We crossed the Mile 7 banner, and I told my running partner we were over halfway there and to keep it strong. 

The Struggle Begins

What I didn’t want him to know was that I was starting to struggle. I was not fatigued, but my achilles, which had been causing some fuss the couple of weeks before, started really screaming at me. Not even 8 miles, and I felt like I was letting my guy down. We were in good shape when it came to pacing, so I encouraged him to stick with the 2-hour pace group. 

“Keep them in your sight. I’ll be back!”

I then stopped for a moment to walk and loosen my calf and achilles. I wanted to make sure it wasn’t going to cause too much of a fit if I kept going. In my mind I kept waiting for that inevitable “pop” that signals real danger when it comes to tendons and ligaments (luckily it never came). After 100 meters or so I resumed jogging, albeit slow to begin with, to work myself back into it. Once I got to the next water stop, I walked the water stop, to make sure I was getting good hydration and had time to sip my water. With the warmer weather, this was the best decision I made. 

I made my goal of catching back up to my friend before we got out of Ft. Story (around mile 9). After some water, and a couple more walk breaks, my achilles hurt less (hey I’ll take that win). However, my next problem was catching up. Unfortunately, this didn’t prove tough as my friend was starting to fall off and was struggling with his own issues. 

Intrusive Thoughts

This was the tough part, I was meant to be the strong one. I was meant to be the one keeping him on pace. I was meant to get him to 2-hours…NO MATTER WHAT. 

I had failed…

However, I didn’t need that negativity, and neither did he. 

So, what did we do?

I threw time out the window. 

For Kevin (I admit this): 

I knew exactly where we were on the clock the whole time. I lied when you asked what our pace was. When you asked if I thought we were at 2:08 or 2:10 at mile 10, I told you it didn’t matter, when I knew we were actually around 2:03-2:04 at that moment. You hadn’t lost as much as you thought.

But you didn’t need that message at that point. You needed to hear that time was arbitrary and right now all that mattered was gutting out your performance and getting to the finish line. I knew about what your finish time would be, I just didn’t tell you until we were coming down the boardwalk. All that mattered was that next mile, that next marker, that next section. You could have killed yourself to go faster, but you needed to walk that water stop to help you get to the finish. You need to make the decision about how you were feeling. 

Did it matter whether it was 2:05 or 2:10?

I knew you had a chance, and I was going to get you to the finish best I could. 

Yea I felt guilty about letting you down off 2-hours, but you were getting home, and you were going to do the best job possible!!!

The question wasn’t getting you to the finish. It was how was I going to make it?

Back to the Race

Aerobically I was fine, but my legs were SCREAMING!!!! My heart rate was well maintained for what was essentially an easier pace for me, and my breathing was controlled. My hamstrings though, were done (they didn’t like 10 miles much less 13.1). My achilles, to boot, was now fully angry at me and was probably ready for me to just chop it off by the time we hit mile 11. However, my spirit still had some fight to give. 

There were more important matters to attend to.

Helping Others Achieve

Have you ever gotten so caught up in helping someone else that you get lost on yourself for a moment?

As a proponent of self-care, I remind folks, I am not self-centered. I am not egotistical. I do not seek to only care for myself. I seek to care for myself, so that when I have an opportunity to care for others, I know that I can full send it (Gary, I worked it in there). 

I knew I could get my friend home. I knew I had time after this race to recover. I am not in a hurry to train for another race right now. I knew that I had and would have the opportunity to care for myself. At that moment, getting Kevin to the finish line to a PR was what mattered, and it was going to happen.

My legs hurt, but I used my aerobic energy to hype the crowd and get them going. I used it to cheer him on. I used the energy I had to get him where he needed. 

He deserved it. All the work that he put in and the gutsy race he had.

When I ran my half marathon personal best last year, I had prime conditions for a half marathon. The temperature was in a good zone, and I had a tailwind on the second half. The problems were there, but it happened. This day was far from perfect, but the performance stands as one of the best I have witnessed. It was awesome to be a part of it. 

It reminds me that sometimes we should put aside our own accomplishments or reevaluate where we are and take a moment to help others in theirs. Exploring this scene of race pacing has gotten me excited. I know that I will have opportunities to run PRs, but WOW how awesome is it to also help others to get to theirs.

My other friend who left us earlier on (around mile 5) hit his sub-2 goal, and to see the joy on his face made the pain I had endured (and am still enduring) so worth it. 

This race hurt (more than last year), but I honestly am enjoying the pain because the journey that got me to the pain was so worth it.

Author

  • Andrew Ware

    My vision as the RunninRev is to build community and faith relationships through running and self-care. I have become an advocate in the church for clergy care, and helping clergy prevent or recover from burnout. I see my primary outreach to the community as building these communal structures through running and having fun together on the run.

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