For the second weekend in a row and the third in four weekends, I found myself at a race! I ran the Columbia Marathon back in 2012 before it was taken over by the current organization and absolutely loved the course, so I figured heading back for a half marathon would be a blast, too! It didn’t hurt that this meant I had a chance to hang out and stay with Bobbi (my friend and coach) and her husband, Chuck, since I rarely get to see them now that we live in Greenville.
Packet pick-up for the race was kind of odd this year – they held it at the Fleet Feet Sports store about 15 minutes outside of Columbia on the day before the race. Runners could also pick up their packets on race morning, which is great, but I just thought it was strange to have the “expo” at a rather small store. Bobbi and I sailed in and out quickly and easily. While I’d like to say I was super cautious about my dinner and everything, in reality, I think I drank at least 4 glasses of delicious wine and played with a dog in a lion hat, then fell asleep on their couch. Note to self: limit pre-race wine to 2 glasses. Or 3.
Does anyone else immediately regret their decision to race as soon as they wake up on race morning? Because I do every single time my stupid alarm goes off at some ungodly hour on a Saturday morning. Especially after 4 glasses (or more) or wine the night before. Oh well. After warm weather at the Swamp Rabbit Half Marathon the weekend before, we were greeted by below freezing temps on race morning – mid 20s! Like I said, we were regretting our life choices.
Bobbi and I parked easily at the start and set off to find our friend Allison, who was visiting from Denver with her boyfriend! We met when we all lived in Columbia and ran for Team in Training together, then we randomly went to Nepal together last year. This was our first time to all be together since then, so it was extremely exciting! Also, cold. It was very cold.
At the end of last week’s race, Bobbi kept me motivated by telling me we would run easy this week, so that is the thought process I had going in. Since we hadn’t seen Allison since Nepal, we wanted to all just have a good time running and catching up while getting some miles in. Plus, Bobbi and Allison have been dealing with some injuries, so running hard wasn’t a great idea (ironic given that the name of the race is the Run Hard Half Marathon).
The course is a 13.1 mile loop (double loop for the marathon) that really does a great job showcasing the best of Columbia. Columbia is not a city that I personally find very exciting, despite living and working there for 7 years, but this course is really fantastic. You go through beautiful old neighborhoods in the city, past parts of the University of South Carolina, and run through the Saturday market to finish in front of the State House. The course is pretty hilly and it definitely catches people off guard, but I think the rolling hills are great. I tend to run best on hilly courses anyway – my marathon and half marathon PRs are both on extremely hilly courses!
This was one of those races where the miles seemed to fly by, in part because every part of the course is filled with memories for the three of us. We used to run on those exact streets all the time together! I personally wasn’t feeling my best (probably thanks to the four-ish glasses of wine…) and I didn’t feel like I was warming up or finding my groove. That said, the effort didn’t feel hard, and I would say it even felt easy – it just didn’t feel natural. Does that make sense?
Around mile 9, it was like a switch flipped and I suddenly found my groove. I was genuinely sad we only had a few miles left in the race because I was having so much fun running with Bobbi and Allison! I also had no idea of our pace because I hadn’t looked at my watch at all the entire time. I couldn’t have cared less about time, but I knew we would come in under 2:10.
There are a lot of hills in this race, but the two big ones are around mile 11-12. On our way up the first of the two hills, we passed the marathon’s 4:15 pace group, led by my friend Rick. That was the first time I really had an idea of what our pace was. Although the hills are tough, we were relentless and kept pushing up them. With just a couple of miles left to go, you might as well, right? After making it up the final hill, we headed in downtown Columbia for the final mile. Our watches beeped in unison and Bobbi said “Um, did you see that last mile?” Allison chimed in and I said “Nonononononononono don’t tell me!” I’m getting better at my mental running game, but I’m not that confident yet.
With about half a mile or so left to go, we saw Allison’s boyfriend, Chris, who had long since finished the race, standing on the corner of the final turn. We waved him down and he said “You guys look great! I’ll jog it in with you!” At this point, we were pushing the pace pretty hard and there was no jog about it, so I couldn’t help but laugh and say “Um, we’re running!” With all these “fast for me” races I’ve been doing lately, it’s nice to be served a slice of humble pie every once in a while, haha! (PS, Chris finished third in the half marathon – his first road half marathon ever. So yeah, he was jogging with us.)
As we crossed the finish line, I was really excited to see a finish time of 2:03:26! I definitely hadn’t expected to only be about a minute and 40 seconds slower than last week’s half marathon, especially given how much easier this effort felt on a much harder course. The cold weather definitely helped, but I know I’m getting stronger, too!
After going back through my Garmin stats, I was really excited to see that once again, I negative split! That’s the third race in a row! This one was a negative split by 37 seconds, so not a lot – but still something! And once again, the last three miles were the fastest and the last mile was the fastest of the whole race! That’s still really exciting to me, and I’m proud of it. Especially since this race wasn’t meant to be a “race” in the first place. That’s a great sign for the Prague Marathon! I can’t wait to see what the next few weeks of training bring!
LEAVE A COMMENT: Do you prefer hot or cold weather when you race? Hilly courses or flat?I can't believe @thetrexrunner negative split her third race in a row - and neither can she! All the #halfmarathon… Click To Tweet