How To Lose A Race


I lost in a classic way this past Sunday. It is exactly what one should not do when running a half marathon, so buckle up.

I’m three weeks out from my goal marathon of the fall. This is important to note, and what I am keeping in perspective right now.

Everything felt great race morning. I felt excited and confident, not overly so, but not anxious either. I sang to the radio on the way, warmed up a bit and was happy to go. I enjoy the pain of speedwork and that’s exactly what a half marathon is to me at this point.

The gun sounded and I took off with another guy, who would eventually win the FULL marathon at a 5:39 pace. This is also important to note, because I need to start paying attention to my watch and pacing myself appropriately. During the first few miles, it felt fast, but I reasoned that this was a full marathoner and I would find my stride eventually.

This did not happen. We clicked off the first 5 miles at around 5:38 pace, although silly me didn’t know that as I don’t pay attention to my watch. Mike 5 was when it all started to go pretty much to hell.

Mile 5 was the first big hill. I’m a good hill runner. I know this. But the reason I am is because I take my time on them and run smart. Having gone out too fast and chasing that guy up the hill, my legs just stopped. Once I got to the top, I seriously thought they weren’t going to make it. My breathing was crazy and my legs weren’t moving fast anymore.

It was all downhill (actually, more hills were coming and they were uphill) from there. After mile 7, I settled into a 6:30ish pace as that’s all my legs would allow. I knew I was going to get caught, and there wasn’t anything I could do.

Oddly, I didn’t really get negative or down on myself. I gave it my best effort, and reminded myself that my big effort is in 3 weeks. There were only a few ways this could go. I could try even harder and max out jeopardizing the limited recovery time I have, or treat this as a long run workout and just cope with it.

She caught me at the mile 12 hill. I was moving better, but there is some magic in passing your competition at that point in a race. It gave her what she needed to push to the finish just ahead of me. She paced the race very well, and I should have stayed with her in the beginning.

Not a PR course, not a smart race, but the reminder I needed for Hartford.

I am thankful for the second half of the race, for the blow up, because my legs could already begin to recover from the fast 8 beginning miles. I wasn’t too sore the day after and could resume training that week. Granted, we are now in full taper mode, so the workouts are easier and as long as I don’t do something dumb, I’m about as fit as I’ll get.

Lord willing, I’ll be able to write the converse of this post.

Ellie Pell