It was a perfect day for a PR. The weather was perfect and the company was spectacular. Sunday I woke up at an ungodly early to meet my pack to carpool to the Great Western Half Marathon in St. Charles, IL. The race started at 8:00 am, but we arrived an hour early so that we could park close to the start. We didn’t want to have to depend on the shuttle busses to take us back to a remote parking lot after we finished. The forest preserve parking lot was great because not only was it close to the start but we had access to a bathroom. Once we parked we took our time hanging out and closer to race time we walked the half a mile to the start of the race. We waited in a short line where we shed our warm layers and checked our gear. So far everything about this race was stress free. Easy parking, easy gear check and easy line up at the start.
This race was a small with only 1000 participants. It was an out and back through a beautiful forest preserve trail. The path was sometimes paved and sometimes crushed limestone. There were also a handful of bridges to run over and not too many hills.
My goal for this race was to run it in under 2 hours. I was a bit anxious before the start because I was filled with a bit of self-doubt as to weather or not I could meet my goal. At the start I took off a little too quickly. But after the first mile I was able to hover consistently a few seconds above or below the nine-minute mile mark. I was able to stay on top of my fuel, which I ate before each water station. I ran through the water stations trying to perfect the cup squeeze and suck maneuver that I saw runners do at the Chicago Marathon. I need a bit more practice, but I was getting better as less and less water was spilling all over me after each attempt.
I listened to my music throughout the run. Sometimes I was focused on it, sometimes not. There were definitely times when I had to talk to myself when I felt like I wanted to stop and walk. I just reminded myself that I will eventually be able to stop running and when I do I will be filled with such a great feeling of accomplishment. I would try to concentrate on how my body felt fine and that it was my mind that was getting in the way. I found it easier to keep a faster pace when I was surrounded by other runners. When I found myself on the trail alone I had to really push myself to keep up the pace.
When I saw that I was a bit more than a mile away from the finish line I picked up my pace and gave it all I had. I crossed the finish line and met my goal. 1:58:27 was my official time. When ever I finish a race and often times during a race I am overcome with emotion and almost cry about how lucky I am to have found running and the people who I run with. This race was no exception. I am proud to have earned another medal and accomplished another goal.