There aren’t many days in life that you can point to and say this is the day I overcame an obstacle. Today was one of those rare moments.
I ran my first half marathon eight years ago. Since then, I’ve probably run in a half dozen halfs where I have finished around two hours and five to seven minutes. For some reason, whether the external challenges of the course or the internal challenges of fighting through fatigue, I have never been able to break two hours.
For the last couple of months I trained to break this barrier. Overall, my training was good but not perfect. I had some of my fastest training runs, but also had persistent issues with my ankle and some long training runs cut short by heat and humidity.
While I much prefer running in the winter to the summer, training in the heat served me well on this 80 degree day, as many people who signed up for the half changed to 5K or 10k. The course for the first ever Hilliard Classic Half Marathon followed a converted rail trail. This meant running in a straight line for six and a half miles, turning around, and running back. While we didn’t have any hills to climb, there was little scenery and a whole lot of sun.
Nonetheless, I felt good for the first ten miles. At the half way point I had built up a 30 second cushion ahead of the needed 9:09 pace to break two hours. The next four miles ticked off on pace. After passing mile 10, I began to regret not doing more longer training runs. I was not alone, people I had been running at pace with began falling off. The sun beat down on us and my cushion evaporated in miles 11 and 12. I looked down at my watch and realized I had no time to fall back on and began to wonder if I had the endurance to break two hours.
Then something happened. I don’t know what. With a mile to go, running around the Hilliard school campus, I found an unkown strength. I finished mile 13 at a pace around 8:30, saw what I thought was the track where we started, and knew for the first time I was going to make it.
But I ran to the wrong track! Behind Hilliard Memorial Middle School there are two tracks. I turned in to the first one instead of continuing to the second. I looked at some people gathered there and asked, where is everyone? They pointed me to the other track.
Relying on this unknown strength, I kicked it in to gear and finished as hard as I could. Even with this extra detour, I crossed the finish line in 1:59:45. The allusive barrier is broken. What is the next challenge that can be overcome?