Yesterday, my running group was meeting at 7am for our long run. I had 14 on the schedule and typically the people in my pace group don't run more than 10, so I decided to arrive at 6am and get in 4 miles before the class started.
This way, I could start earlier which I prefer when it's cool and not humid and end earlier since I had an afternoon wedding to go to yesterday. Also, if I run 4 solo miles before class, I'd run 10 with the group to get my 14 in as opposed to running 10 with the group and then adding on 4 solo miles - I thought this way would be tougher.
When I arrived in Ann Arbor at 6am, it was still very dark. I had planned on running 2 of our usual 2 mile loops, but they were through some residential areas that I wasn't sure were lit up well. So, being a scaredy-cat, I opted to run up and down Main Street instead, as it was very illuminated. As soon as I started, I saw a bunch of Wanted signs on the downtown businesses. I had completely forgot about these two men that were attacking women in the late night/early morning hours for the past couple weeks (mostly on the way home from bars).
Yikes! I contemplated just going back to my car and waiting for class to begin at 7am, but I had an hour to kill and 4 miles to squeeze in. So, I literally ran up and down Main Street in the very-lit part being super-aware of my surroundings. I was very careful on the corners to take them wide in case someone was on the other side and uber-aware of all the little spots a person could be hiding in to jump out at me.
As freaked out as I was, it really made those first 4 miles fly by as I wasn't looking at my garmin at all! Overall I finished the first 4 miles in 45 minutes and then met the group at the store to get our routes for the day.
We headed out the door at 7am for a ten miler. Everyone in my pace range was doing ten yesterday, so I was really happy to have finished my 4 before class. The cool thing about today's run was that there were about 12 people in our group that stayed together for the entire run! Typically, if I run with my usual running buddy, Patti, we're off in our own world, just her and I. Yesterday was nice in that there were a variety of people to catch up with chat with and pick their brains.
The first 4 miles with the group (miles 4-8 for me) went very smooth and then we hit some hills. The good news is that with a group, I feel like I should always keep going and not separate too much. So, I pushed through and kept going. Overall, this run started out faster than our usual long run pace, but I felt I could keep it up.
I tried GU chomps on watermelon for the first time today. 4 chomps after my first 4 miles and then 4 more chomps at mile 9. They tasted pretty good and seemed to keep my fueled the entire time. I was never hungry which is rare for me - typically by mile 10, my stomach starts rumbling for real food and that was a pleasant surprise not to happen.
We extended our course a bit to go out 8 and then directly back to the store for the last two miles which sounded great to me. There's something about the simplicity of a straight route with minimal turns at the end that keeps me going mentally. I like to visualize where we're going a couple miles up and I can't typically do that at the beginning of our long runs as a lot of the routes are new to me. But having the last 3 miles easily mapped out in my head is really helpful.
I felt pretty good the whole run and my group was awesome to check up on my here and there knowing that I had extra mileage in the morning. The 12 running partners really kept me going and it was nice to pair up with someone new after each water break.
I was having no troubles throughout this run and then at mile 12, I really started feeling GREAT. I don't know what came over me, but the fact that the end was in sight (mentally) and I was still feeling so good really pumped me up. I also glanced down at my garmin, did some quick math and realized that I was on a roll to not only kick ass finishing this whole run, but very possibly beat my best half marathon time.
As mile 12 came and went, we were on a straightaway that was slightly downhill. I comfortably picked it up and kept watching until the glorious 13.1 had shown on my watch. When it did, I looked down and saw 2:28:33!! HOLY CRAP!! I DID IT! It's been an inside goal of mine to finish a half under 2:30 and this is the first time I successfully did so! I've completed three half marathons and my best time is 2:33:53 and I nailed it by 5.5 minutes!! Success and totally counts in my book!\
I was so excited and continued to push through to complete the 14 miles. I've never run further than a half marathon so I wasn't sure if my legs would just stop after that distance or what, but they carried me - almost in a floating-like way - to complete the full 14 miles and it felt AMAZING!
I can not express in words how great this run felt and how much confidence I've gained going into it and also coming out of it! I feel like I'm where I want to be and DAMN PROUD of it!! Overall, my average pace for these 14 miles was 11:21 - a FULL MINUTE faster that our typical Saturday long runs! Clearly, I needed this run to show myself that I can do it!
Thank you all for your support through my running adventures of the past year and a half and I'm so excited to see what's next!!