A few years back I decided that I would push beyond my limits and try to run a faster pace in attempt for a new half marathon personal best. Not just a little faster, but much faster. I was going for hero status. Things were going so well and I was on track for a new personal best.
That is, until mile 8 when the wheels came off the bus. Every mile from that point on was slower and folks I passed in the first few miles steadily breezed by with each additional mile of the race.
At mile six I was on top of the world. I glanced at my watch and realized I was about 2:30 ahead of my personal best half marathon. Indeed, I was going to be a hero and crush my all time best. Of course I chose to ignore the signs that this pace was much too fast to maintain as my mind only focused on crossing the finish line imagining the announcer commenting, “…and here comes Joby running this race at whopping 2 minutes ahead of his all time best!!!!Wow”[crowd cheering].
Here is a look at my thoughts during the last half.
Mile 7 – “Okay, this is a little fast, but I need to be tough. You’re good.”
Mile 8 – “Keep on pressing, be tough.”
Mile 9 – “Wow, this is tough. My legs don’t want to turn over. Ok, just keep moving.”
Mile 10 – “So maybe I went out too fast. How slow can I run and still beat my personal best, even it is only by a few seconds?”
Mile 11 – “Yup, I’m an idiot. I am blowing up. Why did I think this strategy was a good idea?”
Mil2 12 – 13.1 – “Can this race just end? Okay, you win. I will never try such a stupid maneuver again.”
I knew better that to run faster than I should, especially the first half. This experience reinforced some lessons:
- You cannot bank time by running the first half faster because it will catch up to you and make you pay on the second half.
- Make sure your training supports your faster race pace plan.
- The first half will most always feel comfortable, so be patient and restrain yourself.
- The slowdown that happens in the second half of a half marathon or marathon is rarely nutrition related. Often, it’s pace related.
- Leave the “hero” status to Superman and Captain America.