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January 17th, 2012:

Lessons from the 2012 Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon

Photo by Crystal O'Hara

I completed my third half marathon this past weekend. My goal was to finish the race is less than 2 hours. I destroyed that goal & finished in 1:52 – 14 minutes faster than my previous personal record.

1. The Race Will Accept An Altered Liability Waiver.
I alter every liability waiver before I sign it. The race organizers wanted to avoid all liability, no matter what. I have no problem accepting responsibility if I trip over my own feet, but if they run me into oncoming traffic or a pit full of tigers, I want to sue them. This year, I wrote in a provision that stated that the altered agreement superseded all previous agreements. I’d never written in a provision & I was pleased when the race accepted it.

2.  KT Tape Is A Godsend.
I had issues with shin pain during training. I wore KT tape on my leg almost every day between mid-December & the race. It made it possible for me to finish my training with minimal discomfort. At the pre-race expo, KT Tape had a booth where they provided free tape jobs. I had them give me a fresh tape job on my shin & one on my left foot that had started feeling sore. I felt no pain in my foot or leg for the entire race.

3.  Stay In Front Of Your Pacer.
The organizers provided runners who maintained a particular pace for the race. Each one held a stick with a sign on it indicating what pace they were keeping. In my starting corral, there was a runner with a “2:00” stick. I knew I had to cross the finish line before him to accomplish my goal.

My friend’s dad suggested that I get at least a quarter mile in front of my pacer. My pacer was supposed to run 9:10-minute miles, but pacers aren’t human treadmills. They’re faster some miles & slower others. It’s best to get in front of them & stay there. Once I got in front of my pacer, I was afraid he’d overtake me. It kept me motivated to keep my speed up.

4.  The Back Of Your Shirt Matters.
In the past, I started the race with my friends who are faster runner than me, & as a result, I was passed more than I passed others. This year I had the opposite experience. I learned that the back of your shirt provides entertainment for the people running behind you.

Photo by Tyler Hurst

5.  Having A Cheering Section Makes A Huge Difference.
I saw my friends & family at miles 8, 11, & 12. Seeing the familiar faces & hearing their voices boosted my spirits. I remember being at mile 4 & thinking, “Only 4 more miles ‘til I see my friends.” After I saw my friends, thinking about them kept me motivated until I saw my next cheering section at mile 11. My friends humored my masochistic side by yelling things like, “Move your ass, Bitch!” In aggregate, I saw my friends & family less than a minute of the race, but having them there made a huge difference.

I also need to give a huge hat tip to the supporters who made multiple appearances along the route. They would be at the sideline to see their runner to go by, jump in the car, drive to another part of the race route, & be there again. That takes some serious planning & dedication. Even though they weren’t there for me, I appreciated their support in general.

6. Put One Foot In Front Of The Other & Believe.
I knew I was running faster than the pace I needed to finish the race in under 2 hours. The race clock at every mile marker helped me estimate my pace. Everyone around me was running so fast, & I had serious doubts that I could keep up my pace for the entire race. I took a risk & believed that it was possible to have such a strong finish. I nearly started crying at mile 12 when I saw that it would take a disaster to not finish in under 2 hours.

I was beyond pleased when I saw that I finished in 1:52 – average pace: 8:36. It still blows me away that I did so well. It’s a reminder that amazing things can happen if you give yourself permission to give it your all.