My training schedule called for a 16 mile long run on Sunday, and since I was fortunate enough to be able to spend the week in Florida, I decided to use a half marathon as a training run. We’re staying about an hour north of Fort Lauderdale where the Publix A1A Marathon & Half was held. This year was the 10th anniversary. The race metal is a doozy and weighs a ton. The swordfish spin over the night/day background, which was fitting as the race started an hour before sunrise.
My husband is awesome for traipsing around after me at these races. I told him he didn’t have to come for this one, but he did. He’s complaining that I am mean because I “made him” run around nine total miles today and, in his opinion, running sucks. It couldn’t have been that bad since he grabbed a Starbucks in between jogs. I’m jealous that a guy who never runs can just up and run nine miles. Swimming really does get you in aerobic shape.
After getting up at 3am to make it for a 6am start, we made our way south. The race is point to point, so we parked the car near the finish line, which was three miles from the start. My husband jogged three 10 minute miles with me as my warm up. I know it’s often advised to do a few miles warm up before a race, but I’ve been too nervous about doing extra miles before races longer than a 5k. But this was to be a training run. I ran several tough workouts this week, including a steady state run on Monday, for a total of 51 miles including the race. No taper whatsoever. I had a goal to run an even pace and maybe finish the last few miles faster if my stomach felt up to it.
The course is super flat and the temp started 48 with 5mph breezes. The race was self-seeded and it was impossible for me to get in the right section for what I wanted to pace. I wasn’t crazy about the mass start. I was hoping to finish right around 2 hours. I ended up stuck between the 9 & 10 minute mile pace flags. No worries — this was a training run. (I repeated that phrase a lot to myself during the race to keep me reined in.) The first mile would’ve been problematic except that after the initial start line crossing, the road was wide enough to allow the runners to spread out and hit their paces fairly quickly.
The first few miles ran through Fort Lauderdale’s cute shopping district. It was still dark out but there were little lights strung overhead. It was pretty. I tried not to laugh when a couple guys worried over the “hill” that was maybe a 15 foot climb over a bridge. We turned left to run along A1A where we could see the ocean as the sun rose. A guy with a steel drum played “Under the Sea” and I quietly sang along. Around mile 4, we turned into a park and spent the next couple miles in beautiful greenery away from cars. This was probably my favorite section of the race.
I saw my husband around the halfway point, which brought us out of the park. Not long after that, we saw the front runners headed back. The lead guy looked kind of in pain. I like out-n-backs because I like seeing the lead runners do their thing.
We ran along with the water on our right for a bit before heading through a less attractive portion of town. Lots of road construction and half the roadway was still open to traffic. This caused some slight bottle-necking at points, which would’ve bugged me more if I’d been running for time. I saw a guy in an RnR NOLA race shirt from last month and I said hello. Then I passed him and trundled along.
We ran with the full marathoners until about mile 8.5, where the half did a gentle turnaround. I was feeling good, relaxed and happy. So I decided to play with gently reeling in runners. I’d wanted to try that three weeks ago at RnR NOLA, but I felt wretched at the same point in that race. Right before the turnaround, I’d seen a girl in a hot pink shirt. She was probably a mile ahead of me, heading back towards the finish, when I first spotted her. I made it a goal to not completely lose sight of her. I also picked other closer runners to catch up to.
I wasn’t really paying attention to my watch at this point, instead enjoying the run. I saw a guy dribbling two basketballs heading the other direction. There was another guy carrying a tray with a bottle of champagne on it. The beach and ocean was to my left — so beautiful. I felt strong, my breathing calm and steady, my legs doing their job. It kept popping in my head that I’d run three miles before the race and felt great. What had I been worried about for those warm up miles?
Right around mile 13, I caught up with hot pink shirt and passed her. I negative split my race and finished feeling like I could’ve kept going for a long time. This was my second fastest half, but sooooo much easier than my 1:53 PR 3 weeks ago because my stomach behaved. I finished in the top 9% in my new age group of 45-49 with a 1:54:17.
The race’s finish line was pretty impressive. We didn’t stick around, but there was plenty of post-race goodies to enjoy. I recommend this race for anyone looking for a winter half PR.
Sunday’s run was a fairly easy paced run. No stomach issues. Lesson of the day: my race problems are probably in my head. I need to keep working on it and get my sub-1:50 half I know I’m capable of. I’m still getting faster in training. These old legs still have more speed in them. I just need to foster the confidence to not let nerves ruin my race efforts. Clearly, this remains easier said than done, but I’ll keep trying.