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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 This year, I wrote in a provision that stated that the altered agreement superseded all previous agreements.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.

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8 Comments

  1. Tyler says:

    Very, very nice work. Helluva improvement from last year!

    1. Ruth Carter says:

      Thanks Tyler! It’s still sinking in that I did so well. Having cheering sections along the way was enormously helpful.

  2. Something that I learned at the Long Beach marathon, where I had a terrible race, is that you also have to give yourself permission to fail. I am often overly ambitious with what I think I can achieve with a race. In shorter race, even a 5K, you can run hard and know you’re giving your all. You also know that if you pick up the pace, you only have a couple of more miles (or less) to go.

    In a long race, the hardest part is running slow enough to finish the whole thing. And picking up the pace for the next, oh say 20 miles, can be more hurtful than helpful. You can push toward the goal, but if you find yourself off your goal pace, hurting and with several more miles to go, it’s okay to realize, and then say, “it’s not in the cards today, but I can cross the line today and try again in the next race”.

    In these long races, crossing the line in spite of all the pain can be a bigger motivator than any target pace time.

    I’ve run three marathons in the past five months. I have yet to achieve my goal time, and from the state my body is in after each, it’s not for a lack of giving my all. But with more time, more training and more racing, it’s still achievable.

    I’m really happy for you Ruth. I thought about you quite a bit while running and reading people’s signs along the way. I’m glad you had such an awesome race!

    1. Ruth Carter says:

      Thanks Heather! I think you’re amazing for having such a high goal for your marathon finish and the tenacity to keep going after it. I suspect running a full marathon is as much mental as physical, if not more so because it’s so long and you might have to deal with the fact that you’re not going to have the race you wanted early on, yet you have to find a way to persevere and finish.

      1. The same is true of halves – they are as much mental as physical. I’ve done 3 (I think), and I think they’re just as difficult as a full.

        1. Ruth Carter says:

          That’s good to hear. The half is difficult enough. I’m glad that it’s not twice as hard to run twice as far. I think training for a marathon takes a lot more dedication because of the time needed for all those long runs.

  3. Chris Lee says:

    1:52, that’s killer! Think my best ever was 2:30 so I don’t even know what it’s like to run that fast. 🙂

    1. Ruth Carter says:

      Thanks Chris! It’s crazy to run that fast. I wasn’t sure my legs were going to sustain my pace for the whole race.