I trained pretty hard last week, with two quality days (Monday tempo and Wednesday track). I didn’t cut back my mileage, because tapering is what you do when you’ve been training. I just started training for Myrtle Beach a couple of weeks ago, with two weeks of mileage in the 40s, a few 10-mile runs and one 12-miler eight days before the race.
The Charleston Half Marathon would be my longest run since Race 13.1 Charleston in October, which I ran as a marathon-paced workout.
I looked at the Charleston Half as a great practice race. I plugged my most recent 5K time into a calculator that predicted a 7:42 average pace. Since I haven’t done many long runs, I thought starting around that pace might be smart, but I was ready for whatever my body and mind would bring on Saturday morning. I wasn’t too anxious and was just happy I could get out for a run around my city.
Friday night, I enjoyed a wonderful carb-loading dinner at Eryn’s house with some other Charleston Beer Runners, and I met some Marathon Maniacs and a few beer runners who were in town for the race. We had a great time, and I came home to get some rest.
Saturday morning’s alarm went off way too early, and I drank extra coffee to wake up and toasted a Red Velvet Cake pop tart for the drive to the start. It’s ironic that the paper towel had a picture of a runner on it, too. I don’t eat particularly healthy before a race, but pop tarts are easy on my stomach. It’s enough pre-race calories without sitting in my tummy during the race, and maybe the sodium from all the preservatives makes a difference in the heat and humidity here, who knows?
I won’t ever eat this pop tart again because the red crumbs got all over my car, then smeared on my khaki shorts than afternoon. Yuck!
I got to the race early to stand in the (short!) potty line, hang out with friends, and take a few pictures. I saw a lot of familiar faces, and being at the start line brought back memories of my last four Charleston Half Marathons. I have a long history with this race, because it’s a hometown race and always has the best race shirts. The XS is tiny terror sized and the only race shirt I wear.
At the start, I met the 3:15 full pacer, Martin, who said he planned to run even splits around 7:27. He even had 7:27 written on his arm. I told him my previous PRs but said I wasn’t sure I could run a 7:27. Heck, two months ago I had an injured knee and couldn’t run two miles. He insisted that with my 1:38:28 at last year’s Hilton Head race, that I should give it a shot. He told me to run with them and I’d know by mile 5, and if I felt rough then, it was okay to fall back a bit on pace.
I decided I had nothing to lose, so I went out with Martin’s 3:15 group, silencing the voice in my head that told me I’d probably fall back.
Running with Martin’s pace group was a lot of fun. Everyone was talking, laughing, and staying entertained. Martin told us about running 100 mile ultras, including Western States, running 3 hour marathons, and beating cancer. Martin’s battle with cancer made me think of Jimi’s battle. I’m grateful I haven’t had to battle cancer.
We ran down Lockwood, on the Battery, then up King Street where we saw tons of spectators and signs. Running by Rodney Scott’s BBQ, I pointed it out to everyone and told them about how Rodney is from my hometown and opening a restaurant here. Martin also spotted the bar called Recovery Room and noted that it was aptly named for post-race recovery celebrations.
We clocked off the miles, and when I looked at my watch, I couldn’t believe the paces I saw.
At Mile 9.5, I had to say goodbye to the pace group- not because I was fading, but because the full course turned off from the half. I wished them the best and found myself in No-Mans-Land on the half marathon course. I popped in my iPod, looked up at the few runners ahead of me, and stayed positive.
It was time to run fast, take chances, and dream big.
Running was tough, but my legs were keeping up the pace. At Mile 10 and Mile 11, I expected to see my paces slow down, but they were still spot on. One lady passed me, along with a guy who looked relatively young. I told myself I would try not to let any other ladies pass me and focused on my music and how many minutes I was away from the post-race party. “Ten minutes to mimosas” is a great mantra at Mile 12.
At this point in the race, I was outside of my comfort zone and past 12 miles, my longest pre-race run. Running through Riverfront Park, we had a gravel section of the course and a small hill. A band was set up but not playing. With a half and full marathon, it would be a long morning so I didn’t blame them. My body and mind were exhausted.
There’s not much you can control on race day. You can’t control the weather, the course, or who shows up and wins awards- but you control how you talk to yourself. You can be your best friend or your worst critic. Knowing from experience that I can be harder on myself than anyone else, I stayed positive. Racing is hard enough with a good attitude.
You are here because someone believed in you.
I saw my Mile 12 split slow down, knowing that was the hardest mile of the course. I knew I would get a mental boost running into Park Circle. I saw Andy, Deanna, Kaitlyn, and some of the Charleston Beer Runners snapping pictures. Andy yelled that I had 1/4 mile to go, and I envisioned this as my last 400m interval at Wednesday night track. Spectators were yelling Tiny Terror.
Crossing the finish, I realized I PRed. I grabbed my medal and a volunteer asked if I needed medical attention. You know you ran a good race when a non-running volunteer thinks you need medical.
After the race, I rolled the arches of my feet on a water bottle, propped my legs up against a wall (of a building in Park Circle), and hung out with friends. I ate copious amounts of shrimp and grits but only drank two mimosas. I like mimosas, but drinking too much post-race hinders recovery, and I wanted to get recovered to resume training the next week. No mimosa drinking records were set for me this year.
I watched all of the awards ceremonies- seeing my friends and training partners place was exciting. This race does awards by chip time, and I did not place, but I was satisfied with my bright, shiny new PR. Placing is only about who shows up. We’re all winners, so we partied like it.
I looked for Martin to thank him, but never could find him. He even won an award for the full marathon, but didn’t go up to accept it. I may never see him again, but I’m grateful he invited me to run with them at the start and that risk paid off. I’m not sure if anyone in the pace group I ran with for 9.5 miles met their goals, but I know they gave it a hard effort and hope they all finished uninjured and smiling.
The temperatures got hotter and my heart went out to the marathoners. A few of my friends running the marathon met their goals and even PRed, but for the most part, it was a rough day for those running 26.2 miles. Only in the South do you run a marathon in January and leave with sunburn. I was thankful my race swag didn’t include sunburn.
In the end, it was another great year of the Charleston Marathon. This is one of my favorite races in the area, and each year, I have fun and learn a lot about myself during the race. I plan to run or volunteer every single year and hope the race continues to grow. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a destination race to Charleston or any local looking for a bang for your buck as far as local races go.
Splits/Pacing: My Garmin logged 13.22 miles with an average pace of 7:26.
Splits: 7:28, 7:12, 7:20:, 7:33, 7:28, 7:26, 7:23, 7:22, 7:23, 7:24, 7:25, 7:45, 7:38, 7:01 (last .22)
Race Name: Charleston Marathon (Half Marathon)
Location: Charleston/North Charleston, SC
Date and Time: January 14, 2017, 8 AM
Swag: Gender-specific tech shirt, backpack, offers/samples, finisher’s medals for all races
Post-race food: Shrimp & Grits, beer, mimosas, apples, bananas, muffins, beet juice, boiled peanuts, roasted peanuts
Weather: 55 degrees, 100% humidity at start.