What would convince a person to sign up to run a half marathon in August in Dallas? Maybe it’s the challenge of completing a tough race. Maybe it’s the opportunity to have a summer event on the calendar. Perhaps it’s the feeling of delight that comes when watching someone else try to figure out why we want to endure racing a half in the heat. While it’s a mixture of many factors, for me, racing The Hottest Half has become a yearly chance for mental training.
Last year I didn’t pass my mental training test. Starting far too fast resulted in my shins tightening. I had to back way off pace before picking it back up at the end. I may have won my age group (and my time of 1:34 was good enough to put me at No. 10 overall), but I was miserable. I had a headache for the next 12 hours, and my legs didn’t recover for days.
So this year, with my body not near as fit as last year, I scaled my expectations all the way back. I took all of the pressure off myself. Instead of shooting for an age group win, I focused on finishing.
I went out at a much more conservative pace this year, which allowed me to ease into the flow. Between miles four and five, I felt decent, so I picked up my pace. I’ve missed so many training days in the past four months, I didn’t know what to expect. My three previous double-digit runs (I only have three in the past three months) went poorly.
This morning, however, I decided I would walk through every water stop in the second half of the race. I did just that, taking two cups of water at each stop to drink some and douse my head and arms with the rest.
To my surprise, I enjoyed today’s race much more than last year’s. I finished eight minutes slower, even with the weather slightly cooler this year, but I was thrilled with my time of 1:42:28.
I used the entire race to improve my mental training. In the first five miles, I focused on running comfortably and letting my legs find my race pace. For the next five, I worked to stay even, without letting myself surge too fast or pick up my pace past my capability.
I had my normal thoughts like: “there’s no way I’m letting someone wearing calf-high cotton socks beat me.” But my spirit was light, and I enjoyed being on the road.
The final three miles gave me the normal Hottest Half mental training. After finding my rhythm for the first 10 miles, I started tiring. I’m note quite long-run ready, and I dropped off quickly in mile 11. But I was able to hold pace, and I didn’t have a single mile split slower than 7:53 (mile 12).
Now the fun Dallas weekend is over. It’s time to recover and build on my first week and a half back training.
I feel like I’ve rediscovered the joy of running and racing. Who wants to join next August in Dallas?