I love half marathons. They are the perfect race distance. Long enough to be challenging, but not so long that you feel like your entire body is going to crumble at any moment, like a full marathon. This past weekend, I ran my 3rd half marathon at the 2014 Canada Army Run.
A month out of the Toronto Waterfront Marathon, this half marathon presented a good challenge for me. It was an opportunity for me to go through my race day routine and work through any kinks that there may be. It gave me the ability to race - not just run. There’s a big difference. Races are full of hype. There’s a special vibe and sense of community that comes with a major race. The Army Run has grown in popularity over the past few years, with over 25,000 runners participating this year. Not to mention the thousands of supporters that lined the course to cheer us on - a feeling that I cannot even begin to describe. A race also allows me to push myself to new limits, to reach for goals that I have set for myself. Sometimes you reach them, and sometimes you don’t. For me, I entered this race not only looking for a personal best (my previous half marathon PB was a 1:34:36), but to complete the race in under an hour and a half. I knew I had to keep my pace between a 4:10 and 4:14 per kilometre to reach my goal.
I love everything about race day. From the early morning jitters, to the grind of the final few kilometres, to enjoying my post race burger and beer with family and friends.
I was really excited for this race. I’ve been training really hard, and was anxious to get out there and prove to myself what I could do. As I filed into my corral, I found myself at the front of the pack. As the minutes slowly ticked down to the start, I looked around me at the racers beside me. I was intimidated. These guys and girls were all in stellar shape, and many of them were a part of run groups and teams from out of town.
As the cannon went off to signal the start of the race I found myself running much faster than I had planned. After the first 4km, my average pace was 3:56. I knew this was too fast and that I wouldn’t be able to keep it up for the entire race. I slowly started to level out my pace and got myself into a comfortable groove at a 4:09 pace. I felt great. Breathing was smooth, legs were strong.
As I reached the 16km mark, the sky opened up and the rain started to come down. Within minutes, we were found in a complete downpour. This wasn’t just rain. This was heavy, large drops of rain. On the plus side, it helped cool down an unexpectedly humid day. On the contrary, being completely soaked is never fun. Your clothes start to stick to your skin. Your shoes become water logged and heavy. Your mindset and focus begin to suffer - only if you let it. The key was to stay focussed. To run through the weather. I’ve ran in the rain before - heck, I’ve ran in blizzards! This wasn’t going to stop me from achieving my goal.
As I came around the final bend of the course and towards the finish line, I squinted to make out the clock time above the finish line. 1:27:something. Perfect. I pushed hard that final half kilometre and finished in a 1:27:44.
I was stoked, as you can see with my arms-up-hand-clap-high-five-a-soldier celebration.
Personal best. Damn, that felt really, really good.
This time placed me 18/580 in my category (men ages 25-29) and 96th overall out of 12,048 runners.
The aforementioned celebratory burger and beer was glorious, but my focus quickly shifted back to my main goal. Boston. Yeah, my white whale. The Toronto Waterfront Marathon is my next chance to qualify. Only 24 days to go.