After 20 years hosting the Rock ‘n’ Roll running series in Virginia Beach, 2021 was the final year for the event here in my hometown. I ran this half marathon with mixed feelings as I have never really wanted to run this race, mostly because the weather in early September can be pretty brutal – fairly warm, but lots of humidity.
I prepared a quality training program in mid June and worked through twelve weeks of running, walking, and crossFit. My training stalled around week six of a twelve week program, as I started to suffer from bouts of fatigue for a couple of weeks. I maintained my runs and workouts as much as possible, but there was definitely a decline in mileage and a couple of my long runs were pushed out a week or two. This didn’t worry me too much because I would rather allow my body to rest and recover than to continue to fatigue myself. I was okay with peaking my long run at 10 miles prior to the race instead of the programmed 12 miler.
Fast forward to week ten of training (two weeks prior to the race) – on my nine mile long run, I started to feel a niggle in my left foot around mile seven. I pushed through and finished the run, but with a noticeable irritation in my foot. A couple of years ago I suffered a stress fracture with my left foot during an ultra challenge in which I capped at 16 miles. So although I didn’t consider my foot injured, there were the voices in the back of my mind that it could become an injury either during my ten mile training run or during the half marathon.
I decided not to run the 10 mile training run and instead opted for an easy pace 5 miler and then incorporated some walking. My hope was to keep miles on my legs but not overdo it before the race. My foot was feeling fine and my hopes for the race started to become hopeful again.
The morning of the race I met up with Jacob and Andrew at my office (not far from the race start) and we used the distance to the start as our warm-up walk. The weather was beautiful, not too hot or humid – mid 70s. As we walked to the start, I realized this was the first half marathon that I wasn’t nervous to run, more excited to finish as I thought this will most likely be my last half marathon race.
I finally decided on a race strategy based on how my training deviated from the plan and how my body was feeling maybe only 85% ready. The plan was to run the first 1.1 miles then switch over to intervals of 5 minutes of running and 3 minutes of walking. As the intervals started to kick over on my watch, I initially thought about continuing my run but I knew I had a plan and decided to stick with it. I felt really good through the first 8 miles, but at that point my body was started to feel the run. By mile 9, my body was wrecked. I knew Jacob and Andrew would finish well ahead of me so I kept running. If they weren’t there at the finish waiting for me, I would probably have walked the last 4 miles. But, I continued with my intervals as best as I could and with each mile marker I just focused on getting to the next one. By the time I got to the boardwalk, I was at about 11.5 miles and the end was almost in sight. The crowd lining the boardwalk was very motivating and I was able to finish strong.
I figured that I would finish anywhere between 2:20 and 2:40; my finish time ended up at 2:32 – right at mid range of my estimate. Even though I had hoped to run a little faster, my time for this race is the second fastest half marathon time out of five races.
“When you fall in love with running, you fall in love with struggle. And when you fall in love with struggle, you fall in love with life.” ~ Michael D’Aulerio