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Race Report: Women's Half Marathon

This past Sunday, I ran for the third consecutive year in the Women's Running Magazine Women's Half Marathon in St. Petersburg, Florida. The Women's Half is the first half-marathon I ever ran, so it is a somewhat sentimental race for me. In the past two years, I'd trained exclusively for this race in the months leading up to it. This year, however, I had trained mainly for the Chicago Marathon, which occurred about six weeks prior to this race. So those six weeks were not terribly focused or dedicated training weeks; they were more like let's-see-what-I-can-pull-out-of-this-body-before-the-race weeks. I did manage to pull out some long runs, and I even improved my pace since the marathon. But having only given my body one week of rest directly after the marathon, I still had some lingering wear and tear that hadn't yet healed. I conversed with a runner-friend about this, and that conversation led me to think that pain is just a fact of running. Something is always going to hurt, and, as my friend said, it just moves around to different places in the body; once one thing heals, something else goes awry.

And this is the mindset in which I entered race day. My shins had been hurting in the past weeks, my left leg and buttock were tight from a piriformis injury, and I had a relatively new pain in my right hamstring. But I did all I could in the previous days, stretching, strengthening, icing, massaging, rolling--the usual. I knew I could run through all of these things and that, most likely, I would not cause further injury; I'd just suffer through the pain. It's what we do, right?

So when I began my 13.1-mile treck, I expected to feel these pains. But I didn't. Instead of feeling any one particular ache, I soon began to feel an overall resistance in my body. Granted, some of this is normal; it is unnatural to run such a distance if not being chased. This is why we must train for three or four months. But what I felt was more than the usual struggle. My body was tired, and it was telling me during each mile that it wanted to stop. Yet I kept telling it to push. We played this tug-of-war, my body and my mind, throughout the now familiar course that took us through the tree-lined streets of downtown St. Pete, along the waterside, around the pier, and finally through the Tropicana Field in the penultimate mile. On approaching the pier, around mile 8, signs were posted every fifty feet or so describing Katherine Switzer's moving story about running the 1967 Boston Marathon. She was the first woman to officially enter a marathon, but race officials still tried to forcibly remove her from the race while her teammates fought off the officials and told her to keep going. Shortly thereafter, women were permitted to run marathons alongside men.

I'd heard this story numerous times before, but upon reading the signs during my race, specifically a women's half-marathon, I got choked up and nearly lost my breath and control. If felt a tremendous sense of gratitude that helped me get through the remaining miles.

I made it through without incident--a few minutes slower than I'd hoped, but still my second fastest half-marathon time (2:13:18, compared to a PR of 2:08 somethin). I had three lovely supporters cheering me through the finish and greeting me afterward--one of whom made a particularly nice finishing trophy:

The race itself was as beautiful and well-organized as usual, and I was thankful to have run it with so many remarkable women--most of whom I didn't know, but I knew this was a fairly new opportunity that had been granted us women and that we'd taken it on with great pride (men are permitted to run, but most opt not to).

I was very happy to be finished, but what I knew for certain after this race was that I needed a break. I pushed aside my still half-grown thoughts of registering for the Miami Marathon and decided I had to heal before I could even think about more training.


Brianna said…
Great post! The signs had me choked up as well, but what great motivation. Rest is good. You'll know when you're ready to train again. :)

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