I went down to Philly this weekend and ran a half marathon today. This was the same race I ran last year so I had every reason to believe I'd do well, perhaps even PR again. Maybe it's because I was so confident I "knew" this course that I took it for granted and did not prepare adequately to run my best. I went through the motions and figured I'd just run to comfort and let things just take care of itself. I somehow convinced myself that my race wasn't all that important because my main reason for coming to Philly this weekend was to spectate and cheer my friends running the full marathon. I was running the half so I wouldn't have to stand out in the cold and wait as long for friends to finish and also so I wouldn't feel as guilty and lame watching the race from just in front of the Rocky statue at mile 26. I had no plan and that was perhaps my biggest problem.
Things for me went well for the first 4-5 miles. Although it was quite cold (~40F) at the start, I actually felt very comfortable running. I started very conservatively and was speeding up through the early going, running between 6:15-6:25 every mile, on pace for a PR, when my shoes felt loose and my laces suddenly became untied! That's when I realized I had absolutely forgotten to check my laces or double-knot them prior to this race. I cursed myself, pulled off to the side, took care of them the best I could with my cold numb fingers, and got back on the road only to find myself in that same predicament one mile later and a third time at mile 8. I figured I lost in total about 2 minutes of time because of my shoelace issues. Once I realized my race was ruined, it was hard to refocus on running fast again. Yet, I still managed to pull off a better finishing 5K time this year on my way to 1:26:54 than I did last year when I ran 2 minutes faster and set my PR there. I'm not sure there's a good takeaway from this race for me except to realize that I STILL make rookie running mistakes and I cannot just roll out of bed and run a good race even if my hotel was less than 2 blocks away from the start of the race! This is all right. I was humbled by running today. I feel you need to be that way sometimes to appreciate the training and the races where everything comes together. (One final takeaway from this race is that whoever is advertising Philly to be a flat course obviously did not run this race!)
Afterwards, I cleaned up, hiked to mile 26 and waited for the rest of the field to come through the finish. Unfortunately, my fellow compatriot who accompanied me on this trip, IronBrandon, developed G.I. issues at 11 and had to pull out at the half marathon point. (I'll let him tell you all the rest of the story...) Many others though did complete their journey and became marathoners. I even got to run a few hundred feet with my friend Madame Erica as she came through mile 26. I had so much fun cheering and spectating that I didn't even mind not running a good half earlier in the day. A couple of people even recognized and identified themselves to me as avid blog readers out on the course today, which was completely awesome!
So this trip was more about positives than negatives for me. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing old friends, meeting new ones, and watching them all become marathoners in the span of a few hours. It was a universal love fest for long distance running in Philly this weekend and I'm just so proud and happy that I got to be a part of the celebration.