2011 Illinois Marathon: My First Half!

I decided to bike to the starting line which turned out to be a great decision! No frustrating traffic or figuring out routes. I left my apartment, got there 15 minutes later, and met up with my friend who was running the 10K. I was supposed to meet up with two friends from the training group but I didn’t see them anywhere. The full started at 7:00, the 10K at 7:20, and the half at 7:30. I positioned myself behind the 2:30 pace group and tried to calm my nerves. About five minutes before we started I found one of my training partners. We passed the time talking about.. I can’t even remember. Probably just last minute prep things.

The start was delayed until around 7:40 to get the first part of the course clear of the 10Kers. The announcer kept us updated on the delay so it was no biggie. Finally the gun went off (or was it just a “runners! go!”? I can’t remember anymore). Four minutes later I passed the starting line and started my watch.

Once I got running I realized I had nothing to be nervous about. I knew the first three miles would be easy, I knew the first six to eight would likely be fine, I knew I’d run 9.8 before, so I had nearly two hours before I’d hit new territory. I felt so much better after I made that realization.

Unlike most runners I don’t have problems starting off too fast. I love speeding up towards the end of the race when I know I have the worst behind me. When I finish a race I want to be spent so saving up energy at the beginning is the way I do that. I kept near the 2:30 group for the first mile and then quit trying to stay up with them when I realized they ran the first mile :30 faster than the pace. If I was going to employ my speeding up towards the end I couldn’t stay with them at the start. At mile 2 my knee started hurting, but that went away after a mile or two.

Do you see the little white strip of paper in the top picture? It’s a pace chart generated here. My primary goal was to finish, but I knew in my mind I’d be a little sad if I didn’t finish sub-2:30. I printed out a wristband for 2:29, “laminated” it with clear tape, and closed it with a safety pin. I’m so glad I had it. I can only multiply my mile splits so many times while running…. It was very handy.

I had planned on taking Gu at miles 4, 7, and 11 on the recommendation of a pace leader in the training group. The course had Gu stations at 7 and 11 so I brought my own for 4. I took it without hitch (walking through with water) but never quite felt the effects of it. I finally saw my third training partner between miles 5 and 6. By mile 6 I hit some wind and felt fatigued. I was about :30 slow according to the pace band. No biggie.

Abraham Lincoln (aka – running club president):

I kept my eyes sharp for the Gu station by mile 7 but realized I had missed it once I hit mile 8.

The course passed through Meadowbrook Park in Urbana. I was feeling tired but strong.

I saw J right before mile 9 and handed him the iPod I decided I didn’t need. The lady in red with the Five Fingers was in my training group. I was surprised to see her, though, because she was always running in a faster pace group.

A mother and son were handing out jelly beans before mile 10 which sounded like a decent alternative to the Gu that I’d missed. Man, it took so long to eat all three! I think I underestimated my state of hydration even though I was sipping Gatorade at least every mile. Somewhere around here I passed the 2:30 pace group and didn’t see them again.

Then I saw the sign for mile 10. I was entering new territory and started doubting my abilities. I’d never run more than 9.8 before, but I knew I just had to run a 5K. Could I make it? I really didn’t know. Mile 10-11 was ok. I actually saw the Gu at mile 11 (yay!!) and slowed down to a walk to take it with water like I had at mile 4. I took a little while doing that and walked almost the entirety of the water & Gatorade stop. Once I finished I started working back up to a run but my knee killed. I hobbled a pathetic run, pumped my arms, and got back into running form after about 0.4 miles total. I knew I was running faster than the 11:26 average needed to get 2:30 but I’d lost time.

Once I hit 12 miles I was golden again. I felt strong and I felt the magnetic pull of the finish line. It wasn’t a sprint to the finish but it was probably around a 10:30 or less pace. I passed a lot of halfers, but was passed by marathoners finishing with their much faster paces.

about 1/4 mile left

I saw a friend I didn’t expect to see around mile 13 which was great!

I finished strong with a chip time of 2:28:44 (yay!!). I was elated! I couldn’t believe I did it. I grabbed my medal, a huge bottle of water, walked around in circles slightly disoriented, until I plopped down on the field in a corner to stretch. I realized I didn’t have a specific place to meet back up with J so I figured I’d remain visible and near where the stands (no spectators on the field).

The weather was gorgeous!

I'm the gray spot in the center foreground on the field.

I did it - yay!

I still can’t quite believe I finished it but my body reminds me I did.. :)

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4 Responses to 2011 Illinois Marathon: My First Half!

  1. Rae says:

    Congrats Half Marathoner!! Loved your race report! Way to reach your time goal!

  2. Fran says:

    Congrats you did it and what a great race. Loved reading about it.

  3. Astro says:

    congrats on hitting your goal time. You stuck to your pace and made it. i’m running indy this weekend, hopefully I can do well.

  4. Congratulations on the Illinois Half and 5K!! You look great in the pictures. I forgot about the boy with the jelly beans – that was super cool cause I’m CRAZY about jelly beans while running. Good recap!

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