RU Unite “Half Marathon” (9.55 miles due to flooding) – 1:11:53 (pre-HRT)

#half marathon  #pre-HRT running  #RU Unite  #rutgers 

Unite 2011 medal
Yesterday, I set out for what was to be my third half marathon over the course of 364 days. I wish I could say I actually ran 13.1 miles though. Unfortunately, due to some pretty torrential downpours on Saturday, one of the parks the race runs through was flooded. Thanks to this flooding, the course had to be adjusted to just 9.55 miles.

While I only had a month to train for this race after two months off from tendinitis that I’m still not fully recovered from, I really wanted to run the full half marathon. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from my body given the circumstances, but I was hoping to at least repeat my 1:47:11 from the same race last year. The RU Unite Half Marathon last year was my first half marathon ever and even though I said I didn’t think I’d do it again after that, I’m now addicted. Three months ago, I ran my second half marathon, the Disney Half Marathon, and pulled off an incredible time of 1:33:05 that I’m still extremely proud of…especially considering that I ran in pain. I knew I wouldn’t be able to touch that time yesterday, but I did feel good enough to at least know my time from last year was doable again.

Like everyone else that ran yesterday, I prepared for and woke up for a 13.1 mile race. I think just about everyone was disappointed when they heard the announcement that a large portion of the course was flooded and the race would have to be scaled back. We paid for 13.1 miles. We trained for 13.1 miles. Some of us ate (or were planning to eat) for 13.1 miles. A lot of things were done expecting 13.1 miles. Obviously, no one can control the weather, but it is no secret Johnson Park in Piscataway floods often. It really doesn’t take much, a little drizzle can make that park flood. My unscientific estimate based solely on anecdotal evidence would be that Johnson Park floods at least 3-5 times each year. It’s just something that’s expected by anyone who lives around here. It is a wonderful park and I really enjoy running through it, but if you’re going to plan a race that runs through it, you have to have a plan B. You just have to. You’d be silly not to. Unfortunately, CGI Racing did not have a plan B for yesterday. Again, I know they can’t control the weather, but this was something that should have been planned for. I know putting together an event this size and getting road closures and such is not easy, but when you’re putting that much work into something, you need to plan for things like this.

What made the length of the race even worse was that at the start, runners were told over and over that the course was shortened to 10 miles. 10 miles, not 9.55 miles. That’s not a huge difference, but it’s enough to make a difference. I think most people felt lied to about this. I know I did and I know my fiancée and our co-worker also did.

Not cool.

Alright, enough complaining, right?

The weather was sunny for most of the race and the temperature was nice, if not a little on the warm side, but the wind was strong. The wind was so strong that it was a definite factor for everyone. Parts of the course were with the wind at our backs, but it felt like the majority of the time was spent with a strong crosswind that noticeably moved runners around. At two different points, gusts were so strong it they blew my left leg sideways into the back of my right leg mid-stride as I was pulling it forward, almost causing me to face plant. It also seemed that every uphill portion was straight into the wind.

With a significantly shorter course, I adjusted my expectations and my plan. I ran faster than I would have for a full 13.1 miles, but still, I didn’t feel as strong as I would have liked. In fact, I felt downright weak early on. It took me a while to get my stride on and settle into the run, but it never really felt quite right. I averaged a 7:32 mile which is pretty respectable, but that’s still 10 seconds slower than the 13-mile training runs I was doing four months ago and almost 30 seconds slower than my pace for the half marathon three months ago. But with an injury, you’ve got to be happy with anything and I am…ish.

I finished up with a semi-sprint and crossed the finish line at 1:11:53 (chip time) to place at 290 out of 2881 participants. My knees felt like they were going to give out during that last little push. It was awful. I ran 12 miles last weekend and felt stronger at the end of that than I did yesterday. What gives? At mile 8, I had a nice little second wind boost, but that didn’t last long, only about a mile. I came home and felt dead, the rest of my day was shot. Even taking into account how much harder we all had to work because of the wind, I shouldn’t have been beaten up like that for a sub-10 mile run. I really shouldn’t have. I hadn’t felt like that since the half marathon last year. I could make excuses for it like my injury and the wind and whatever else, but I was just off and that’s that.

Despite not feeling strong at the end, I still wanted a 13.1-mile race. I wanted to get a third half marathon under my belt. I really did.

So the fiancée and I have decided that we’re going to sign up for another half marathon next month that we were on the fence about. I want it, but I do want to be careful about my ankle. It’s still healing and, while it does feel better than it did a month ago, it has a little ways to go still.

More importantly, we signed up for the Philly Marathon in November. It’ll be our first and we’re super excited, yet insanely nervous about it. A year ago, after my first half, I said I would never run a marathon, but here I am, already signed up for one.