I Own The 10K World Record

KenenisaBekele_001Kenenisa Bekele, a long-distance athlete from Ethiopia, is the current holder of the official 10,000M world record with a time of 26:17.53.

On 26 August 2005, Kenenisa set the current 10,000 m world record at the 29th Memorial Van Damme meeting in Brussels, taking nearly three seconds off his previous world record 26:20.31, and running with 5K splits of 13:09 and 13:08 minutes.

Except that, official records show I have actually run faster.

You see, back in late 2012 I ran the Philadelphia Marathon. If you look at the official results from that year you will notice that my time at the first 10K split was 21:46 – a full four and a half minutes faster than the current world record.

I wish!

worldrecord001Of course, that’s complete nonsense. For some reason my official time seems to discount the first 36 minutes of running, which if included, would give me an actual 10K split of 58:22. Let’s be honest, that’s a much more realistic number given my level of experience.

Where It All Started

smallwood2013Two years ago I ran a neighborhood 5K with no training or real race preparation. I had just started running for health reasons and wanted to test my abilities in a relatively low pressure situation. The race bug bite me that day, I haven’t looked back since. However, that remained the only 5K I ever ran and my time has stood (as a rather poor) personal record. That is until the other day.

Jess and I were spending a few days with her family at their summer retreat in the Hudson Valley area and as is tradition, we gathered up a group to run the local fire company fundraiser 5k. Two years ago the conditions were not favorable, with rain showers throughout the run and a lot of standing water on the ground. This year we had the opposite, the sun was beating down by the time the race started at 9:30AM, melting everyone and everything around it. Combined with the high humidity and absence of any noticable breeze, everyone was suffering.

The course itself is pretty challenging, with a few short sharp hills mixed in with some lakeside flat sections. The last mile or so is mostly downhill, making for a quick finish to the race. The pack was small, so I started out near the front and set a solid pace up the first hill. By the time I reached the summit at the one mile mark in eight and a half minutes, my knee was already hurting and my legs felt like they were on fire. I guess six weeks away really set me back in terms of my levels of strength and stamina.

Admittedly, I had to stop and walk for 30 seconds to catch my breathe and give my legs a break. Following that brief respite I kicked off again and covered the next mile in a little under nine minutes. I took another walking break along the way, again to cool down and catch my breathe because of the heat. As I passed the two mile marker, I committed to finishing the race with no more breaks and ran through some labored breathing and heavy legs to finish in just under 27 minutes. For a first run in six weeks, an 8:40 per mile pace was not too bad. In fact, it was good enough for fifth place in my age group.

I definitely experienced some conflicting emotions during and after the run. At times I regretted my decision to participate, longing instead for my warm comfy bed or the pedal power of my bicycle while jogging up the sharp hills around the lake. At other times it felt good to be back running again after a month and a half. I guess what this run taught me is that I need to work on the mental side a little more, in addition to building strength in my leg and stretching more. I need to arm myself with some tools to fight the twin desires to walk or quit whenever they rear their ugly heads.

By the way, I have to give an honorable mention to Jess who also ran the race and finished third in her age group. Way to go Jess!


Two Weeks, Two Races, Two Records

jingle_bell_jog_002Only last Sunday I pulled out a new personal best during the Join The Voices 5M race in Central Park. Unfortunately, through some oddity in the New York Road Runners results database, my total time of 39:56 was recorded as an average pace of 8:00 per mile (rather than the more accurate 7:59:20). Even applying proper rounding rules, the time should have been 7:59 per mile. I have no idea why they rounded up, but that really irked me. Strange how such a simple thing could take the sheen off an otherwise excellent run. I was clearly at my peak following all that marathon training and it was showing in my training and race times. Aside from the scoring anomaly, that was a great run and with one race left on the 2012 calendar I was even more determined than ever to go out again and run a race under 8:00 per mile before the years end. Mentally and physically I was in the best condition I had ever been, and I was sure as shit not going to waste the opportunity to score a new personal best at the my favorite race on the NYRR calendar.

The Jingle Bell Jog is a pretty significant race for me, it was the first NYRR race I competed in – only one year ago. In the lead up to the race I was reflecting on how far I had come over the last twelve months. Having made a commitment to run, I can honestly say that I have achieved far more in the last year than I ever would have expected. Last year I ran the modified course in a fast time of 8:17 per mile and that was with very little training under my belt. With all my training, I knew I had a good time in me – it was just a matter how much the previous race had taken out of me and whether I could get myself in the right mental state to go out and record a new personal best.

Although the morning was cold and wet, the rain held off and I was in good form as I made my way to the park for the early morning start. After picking up my race bib and going through my pre-race stretches, I took my place in the start corral and was set to go. All around me, people were getting into the spirit – some dressed in Santa suits while one or two braved the zero temperatures to run in nothing more than shorts or a speedo.

The race started and the first half mile was relatively fast as the lead pack made it’s way east on the narrow Center Drive. We turned north and took in the only major hill approaching Grand Army Plaza. The first mile marker appeared at the top of the hill and my time was just under 8 minutes. Over the next two miles, I kept up the high pace on very familiar roads and by the third mile marker I my time was just over 23 minutes.

I started to feel the effects of the high pace on the last mile, especially around the tops of my legs. But I was determined to keep going and record a good time, so I fought the urge to slow down or walk and pushed on up the long drag towards the left run on Center Drive. As I took the bend I glanced at my watch and knew I was on course for something remarkable. The last quarter mile was uphill and probably would have hurt more if it wasn’t for the adrenaline coursing through my body. With the finish line in sight, I managed a slight kick and cross the line in a time of 31:12.

It took a minute or two to catch my breathe, grab some water and food, and make my way out of the finish area. I must have had the biggest smile on my face as I made the quick calculations and realized I had shattered my previous best for a 4M race and a per mile average. Not just shattered, but completely demolished! It was a fantastic way to finish up the race calendar for the year and the perfect gift to myself going into the holiday season.

Join the Voices 5M

join_voices_001I was really looking forward to this race. Two weeks had passed since I ran my first marathon and I was getting over the disappointment of missing my target time. I had taken it relatively easy over the intervening fortnight, clocking up just shy of 30 miles over five different runs. Just enough to keep myself in race shape but not too much to put unnecessary stress on my legs after the damage they sustained in Philadelphia. On the morning of the race I felt strong, so strong that as I was leaving I promised Jess I would do a personal best. My pre-race routine had gone well, I was dressed and ready for competition. I felt like I had a good time in me, and hoped that posting a personal best could erase the last shreds of doubt that still clung to my psyche after the marathon.

I arrived early at the start area and picked up my bib. I was in the 3000’s – and therefore starting toward the front of the field which helped me relax. After the slow start in Philly I am definitely becoming more conscious of my starting place and the early miles. Sitting towards the front alongside other reasonably fast runners, I figured I wouldn’t have to worry about blowing my target pace in the first mile.

My last 5M race was also my first one back from tendonitis of the knee, so my personal best for the distance was a modest 47:40. Setting a new personal best in this race was almost mandatory. I was targeting a 42:30 time, which works out to 8:30 per mile pace. I felt like I was in decent condition following the marathon, and the sessions since then had gone reasonably well including some high tempo runs. Anything better than that would be a massive bonus.

By the time the race started I was eager to get going. We moved off from our corral fairly slowly but quickly got going by the time we crossed the start line. The pace was high as swept around the southern end of Central Park, but nothing I couldn’t handle. In fact, even though I knew the pace was high I felt like I was coasting along. It was just a matter of checking my confidence and not burning out too early. As we passed the first mile marker I glanced at my watch and was delighted to see a time of 8:07. The second mile was up the east side drive, including Cat Hill and behind the art museum. Passing the two mile marker around 86th St, I was maintaining my fast pace. We continued up the east side to the 102nd St transverse and I hit three miles at 24:25. My early pace was starting to effect my legs though, and I could feel the workload taking it’s toll. However, I was in no mood to slow down and I pushed on – relentlessly pursuing a new(er) personal best.

At the mile three marker my mind started to calculate and I quickly realized I was on course for a 41:00 time. Considering my pre-race goal, that would very impressive and would also reflect an improved per mile pace over any of my previous races: from 8:13 down to 8:10. If you’ve run this 5 mile route around Central Park before you’ll know that the next mile or so, over the three sisters on the west side, can be the hardest of all. This is where the temptation to slow down or walk was the strongest, but again I pushed on. I was sticking with the runners around me and felt like losing contact with them would be a bitter mental blow at this late stage.

By the top of the third hill we had passed the four mile marker and my time was 32:30. Knowing the last mile was mostly downhill, I made the decision to push myself even harder and go for the 40:00 barrier. It was a stretch at that point, but I felt like I could at least make the effort. I may miss by a few seconds, but at least I had to try. And so I dug in …

Every stride became a litte bit longer. Every breathe became a little bit deeper. I started to pass other runners who had been in front of me for the last mile or two. I passed someone hold a sign that said, “put the hammer down” and so I did. In my mind, every marshall and supporter was cheering for me – I used every single clap, shout, and cheer to spur me on. I knew I was going fast, I just didn’t know if it would be enough or if I could sustain the effort.

As we turned left at the 72nd St transverse I could see the finish line and the clock above it counting down. My lungs felt like they were going to explode as the strain of the last few yards registered. But I pushed on – focused only on the clock and putting one foot in front of the other. I had nothing left to give as I crossed the line and stopped my watch. And then I looked … my watch said 39:56. It was unofficial of course, but I swear I had to look at my watch two or three times to confirm that I had indeed run 5 miles in under 40 minutes.

I took some water, a bagel and an apple from the volunteers and found a bench to sit. Only after I caught my breathe and took on some sustanence did I fully absorb my accomplishment. My time was far better than I imagined. Five miles in under 40 minutes is a major achievement and represents a pretty nifty pace of 7:59 per mile! Breaking eight minutes per mile is a major threshold for me, something I have never accomplished beyond a mile and it’s also the type of encouragement I needed to move past my marathon experience. I’m not going out competing for an Olympics place or anything, but at a minimum this tells me that all that marathon training had benefits and just cause I didn’t get to reap them in Philadelphia, doesn’t mean it was all to waste. Far from it in fact!

Philadelphia Marathon

philly_001Everything was perfect. My training had gone entirely to plan. Even with the increased workload from school, I was still finding time to get my runs and strength sessions in each week. Over the last couple of weeks I had completed my final long distance training run (20M) and slowly tapered off to conserve energy. I loaded up on carbohydrates the week of the marathon, going from 50% of my food intake on Tuesday to 90% on Saturday. I shook the cobwebs out with a final run of 4M on Thursday morning. I packed two of everything I could possibly need. The weather was holding up and projected to be in the high 40s or low 50s for the morning of the race, with some cloud cover. I had a strategy too. I was confident I would do well. There was nothing in my preparations that pointed to any kind of problem. Even my knee, which had flared up once or twice in a very minor way, was feeling good in the days leading up to the marathon. Like I said, everything was perfect.

I woke up around 4:15 on Sunday morning and started going through my pre-race routine. I ate a breakfast of coffee and oatmeal, followed by some light stretching. My gear was all laid out, so getting dressed was a simple process. An hour later, after I was appropriately greased and layered up, I was all set to go. I said goodbye to Jess (who was barely conscious) and set off for the start area at Eakins Oval. For my first marathon, I was remarkably relaxed. There were no nerves or over-excitement. I had planned ahead with appropriate warm up gear. The idea was to ditch the stuff at the start line just prior to the race beginning. Good thing too – the morning was fairly cold. At the start area I dropped my post-race gear bag at baggage check and went to pre-race stretch area. I went through some basic exercises and was starting to get into the zone.

Just prior to the race start I noticed the pacers, with their signature red balloons. Unfortunately, I was in a really bad spot and someway behind both the four hour pacer. When I had registered for the race, I had filled in my expected finish time of 4:20:00, so I was assigned the appropriate starting corral. Trying to move up to the four hour pacer through the already packed corral would have been annoying, so I figured I would catch up to him on the road over the first couple of miles. That was my first mistake.

When the race started, we streamed down Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Unfortunately, Arch Street was relatively narrow which made it difficult to pick my way through the crowd. I passed the first mile marker at a little over ten minutes and felt my anxiety starting to rise. I passed Jess a block or two later, which helped to relax me a little. At that point, I decided to be more aggressive and start moving up. If I was going to meet my four hour target I had to get back on pace. Over the next couple of miles I made my way through the pack and eventually passed the 4:15 pace runner between the fourth and fifth mile marker. I was also running just under nine minute miles and had got myself close to pace for a four hour marathon.

Around six mile I passed Jess again, this time on Chestnut St and that gave me another motivation boost. My 10K split time was 56:05, not a super fast time by any means but within the expected range. From there, the course wound it’s way west through Drexel country and into Fairmount Park. There were a few hills that helped to stretch out the pack, and I took them in stride as I had done countless times around Prospect Park. I was hydrating regularly, and took on some additional Clif Bar shots for fuel, so was feeling pretty good as we exited the park and headed back toward the art museum. The thought of doing another 13 miles was somewhat daunting, but I fought off the temptation to turn take the half-marathon route and turned left to go the distance. At the half-marathon split, my time was 1:57:05. As a comparison, that was just off my time for the Brooklyn Half-Marathon in May.

Just after the half way point, I stopped to take on water and fuel, and to give my legs a break by walking for a short distance. By my math, I was about two minutes ahead of schedule and could afford a short break to re-energize before the second half of the race. After starting back up, the next three miles passed uneventfully. I still had not caught up to the four hour pace runner, but I was sticking to that pace myself and fought the urge to push too hard. I wanted to make sure I had something in reserve for the last couple of miles. Around 17 miles, the course took a detour from Kelly Drive and wound it’s way over a small footbridge and downhill into a park for about half a mile before performing a 180 degree turn and winding back to Kelly Drive. As I turned off the bridge on to the downhill path, the four hour pace runner passed me going the other direction. This was the first time I had seen him since the start, and it gave me a motivational boost. I made a mental note of the time on my watch, so I could see just how far back I was. Bear in mind that I had started a few minutes behind the pace runner and was holding to that pace myself, so any inroads I could make to the gap would take me under the four hour mark.

And then it happened … the pain shot through my left quad. Cramps like I have never felt before, so bad I could not straighten my leg. I tried to continue but was worried I would do some serious damage, so I stopped. Except I couldn’t stand, so I crouch like I was going to the bathroom. And there I stayed for two or three minutes until the pain subsided and I could stretch my leg out straight. I figured it was all part of the experience, and started off again – going uphill to the bridge and back onto Kelly Drive. By the time I got to the point where I had seen the four hour pace runner, five minutes had elapsed. In my mind, that was still possible and so I pressed on. At the 30K split my pace had dropped slightly but I still recorded a very respectable 2:56:03. The rest stop to get over the cramps had cost me a couple of minutes, but in my mind I was still clinging to the dream. However, the cramps returned with a vengeance, this time on my right quad. So I stopped and massaged, and waited. And then I started up again. And then the cramps returned and I stopped again. Every time I came to a slight incline of any sort, the cramps would hit and I would have to stop or at the very least slow down and walk. I can’t remember at what point I gave up on the four hour goal, but in many ways it was a relief. The reality of the situation had hit me. I was at more than seven miles from the finish and suffering from bad cramps. There was no way I was going to make my goal time and any attempt to do so would have resulted in serious injury.

From that point on I actually started to enjoy the race a bit more. At the 20 mile marker in Manayunk the crowds were cheering for the runners, handing out orange slices and beer! I’m not ashamed to say that I indulged in a small cup of beer. After all, everyone knows it’s rude to say no when someone offers you a drink. With a fresh attitude, I pressed on. I still wanted to finish with a good time, so I ran as much as I could. But just as I was beginning to get some momentum going, the cramps came back and I had to slow down. Admittedly, the remaining miles were a bit of a slog and at times I thought about packing it in. But after putting in four and a half months of training, there was no way I was going to take the easy way out. I struggled, I walked, and honestly if it had of come down to it … I would have crawled up that last hill. As I crested the hill at the art museum the crowds grew thicker, and urged me on. The cheered and yelled, “Go Jason!” (I had that emblazoned on the front of my t-shirt). I wanted so bad to keep running, and so I pushed myself past the mile marker and down the hill. As I swept around the final bend and the finish line came into view, I was overcome with emotion. At one point I could feel another cramp coming on, but using sheer willpower I held it bay – no way was I going to walk over the finish line. If ever there was a case of mind over matter than was it. My body had controlled me for the last eight miles, but this one was mine.

I crossed the line in a time of 4:21:30 and had completed the last 12 kilometer segment in 1:25:27 – that’s an average of 11:24 per mile. As I made my way through the finish area I was more relieved than disappointed. I didn’t really dwell on the time; I had finished my first marathon and that was something worth focusing on. The goal time would have been great, but more importantly was finishing on one piece. It was on later, on reflection and after talking to a fellow runner that I learned the cause of my cramps. It wasn’t my training or preparation – it was a basic mistake of deviating from a tried-and-trusted routine. Throughout my training regimen, I had stuck to a very strict routine. For all my runs over an hour, I took along some sodium supplements and made sure to take them every 30 minutes or so. Unfortunately, even though I had packed them, I completely forgot to take the supplements over the course of the marathon. Sodium deficiency is a major cause of muscle cramps in distance runners and I had fallen victim to it on my first marathon. Stupid really … something I had never paid attention to because it never happened to me.

Looking back now, I am a little disappointed that the cause of my problem was something I could so easily have avoided. But I’m not going to let that take away from the fact that I finished my first marathon, and did so in a relatively good time. Focusing on the positives, my time of 4:21:30 makes a very ripe target for a personal best next time out. And to cap it off, I get to put one of those 26.2 stickers on the back of our car.

Yonkers Half Marathon

yonkers_001Sunday marked the half-way point of my marathon training and the Yonkers Half Marathon. When coming up with the marathon training plan, I had specifically chosen this race as a way to gauge progress and an opportunity to run with both distance and speed taking equal priority. Over the past couple of weeks, I had completed long runs of 14 and 16 miles, and felt really good on both occasions. I was excited for the half marathon, it was only my third time racing over the distance and I felt confident that I could run close to or better than my previous personal best. In the week leading up to the race I curtailed my activities, as a way of conserving energy and because my new schedule was forcing me to make some compromises in relation to my training.

The forecast for Sunday was clear skies and warm temperatures, ranging between 65 and 70 degrees for the duration of the race. I was up at 5AM to start my pre-race routine; oatmeal to line my stomach and coffee to provide the early morning jolt. Because of the early hour, the drive from Brooklyn took about 40 minutes and we arrived at the starting area in good time.

I wasn’t familiar with the course at all. I had mapped it on RunKeeper, so I knew there was a tricky hill around the 5/6 mile point. Otherwise my web-based GPS reconnaissance didn’t show a lot of significant hills along the route, so I was feeling good as the horn sounded to start us off. Once we got going, the road travelled north along the Hudson river and true to form, the early portion was relatively flat with some undulations as we wound our way toward Hastings-on-the-Hudson. I had started toward the back of the field, but was moving my way through the back over the first mile. At the marker I checked my time, to find that I had been cruising at a comfortable 9 minute mile pace. Over the next 3-4 miles I purposely upped the pace, with the intent of providing myself a buffer for the hills to come and the latter stages when fatigue would set in.

By the second mile marker I had increased to an 8 minute mile pace, and from that point on I was ticking the miles off at a relatively consistent 8:15-8:20 pace. This gave me a lot of confidence, as I was aiming for a time of under one hour and fifty minutes and that pace meant that I was on course. I would have settled for anything under 1:54 (my previous best) but I kept telling myself not to ease off if I was going to realize my target.

At about the 8/9 mile point I started to feel the pace affect my legs, specifically around the IT band area. On the positive side, my knee, which I was still concerned about post-injury, was holding up fine to the rigors of the course. Right around the same time, I passed Jess, who had travelled up with me that morning to cheer me on and provide support. The mental boost from seeing her was enormous as I cruised past the 10 mile marker in a time of 1:22. It was at this point, with a little over three miles to go that I knew my target was a distinct possibility. The final couple of miles involved some long drags, but I battled the mental fatigue and upped the pace again – determined to cross the line in under 1:50.

As I hit the start finish area, I glanced at my watch and knew I had it in the bag but I never let up. Taking the final bends at full speed and employing my new home straight kick, I was going all out as I cross the finish line in front of Jess and the rest of crowd. I knew I had gone fast – faster than I had hoped and faster than even my most optimistic of targets. My watch provided me an unofficial time of 1:48:33, but an hour or so later the race website displayed the news I had been waiting for – an official finish time of 1:48:30.

I had absolutely shattered my personal best by almost 6 minutes. I had also run thirteen miles at the a pace that previously I had only produced on a much shorter course. It seems to me that my training plan, combining long runs with speed work, is making a difference. I’m half way to the marathon and if I can replicate or get close to this kind of performance in Philadelphia then I will be the happiest debutant marathoner of all time.

The Scotland Run

scotland_001On Saturday I ran my second 10K and first warm-up for the Brooklyn Half-Marathon on May 19th. In my previous 10K race, the Joe Kleinerman 10K in Central Park, I completed the course in a time of 54:45 while averaging 8:46 per mile. To be fair, I had not trained all that much for this race as I had spent about two weeks following the NYC half-marathon recovering and easing back into running. In the weeks leading up to Scotland Run I got in a few 4 mile runs but was not feeling exceptionally fast. As a result, I did not have a particular target time for this race and was simply aiming for an improvement over my previous 10K best.

The Joe Kleinerman 10K started and finished on the east side around 102nd street and circumvented the park in a counter-clockwise direction. The Scotland Run was slightly different in that in started on the west side around 68th street and traveled clockwise around the park. Interestingly, I had never run the park in that direction so although all the sites were familiar, it felt somewhat strange to be running up sections I was used to traveling downhill and vice versa.

The weather on the day was perfect and I lined up in the 5000 corral. The early stages of the race felt slow and there was definitely some dodgy moments as I picked my way through a heavy crowd. Imagine my surprise then when my watch showed 8:30 at the first mile marker. With that as motivation I pushed on and knocked out the next two or three miles at an average pace of 8:10 – including the triple threat on the west side and the Harlem Hill. The east side provided some respite and allowed me recuperate slightly and hold back some reserves for the final push.

I kept the pressure on over the final couple of miles, and cresting the last hill, felt a wave of emotion come across me as the sights and sounds of the crowd at the finish line hit me. Although I suspected I was going to post a good time, when I glanced at my watch and saw I was on course to beat my previous time by three minutes I felt elated. The grin on my face as I crossed the line defied the pain I felt inside, but was just a reflection of how proud I felt about my accomplishment.

NYC Half-Marathon

2012_nyc_half_001And so the day finally arrived. It started as a personal challenge to myself, and began in early January with some research and a commitment to see it through to the end. Over the following months I logged many training sessions and hundreds of miles in an effort to complete my first serious distance race and it was all over in less than two hours. The physical preparation I put in payed off in spades as I managed to meet and exceed my best expectations. What I was not ready for was the emotion that would overpower me as I took that last corner onto Water St. and caught sight of the finish line for the first time.

Step back a couple of hours to earlier that morning, and all my preparations were complete. I woke early, went through my race day routine, and left my house on time. Standing in the corral for almost an hour, I managed to keep my anxiety and excitement in check. The race began on time, but it took almost 30 minutes for me to reach the actual start line. It was a strange feeling to be approaching the start at the same time that the race leaders were completing their lap of the park.

The first mile or so was a little slower than I expected, having to navigate crowded roads and a slow moving field. I think I passed the mile marker in something like 9:30 – almost half a minute outside my normal training time and almost a minute outside my target that day. However, from that point I started to move a bit faster and notched the next few miles in under nine minutes each. I completed my first 5K split in 27:12 – remarkably, four and a half minutes faster than my very first race in July, 2011. I put my recovery from the slow start down to two factors; my familiarity with the course based on all my training runs, and seeing Jess cheer me on between mile two and mile three.

The next segment of the race went quite well, as I passed the 10K split at 54:32. I was happy to see that I was keeping a consistent pace (27:20 for 5K) and I was making good progress through the field having started so far back. Physically I felt fine, my knees were holding up to the challenge thanks to all the rest over the previous week. Mentally, I was encouraged by passing so many people (almost a 6:1 ratio) and seeing Jess again along the 7th Ave stretch.

The real challenge came in the third segment, as the course turned from a nice downhill stretch along 42nd St to the south side of the West Side Highway. This was a completely new route for me, and I could feel my legs running slightly heavier on the concrete road in comparison to the blacktop in the park. Despite the struggles, I managed to maintain my pace and passed the 15K split at 1:21:05 (26:33 for 5K). Although I had harbored dreams of finishing in under two hours throughout my training, it was really only this point that those dreams began to seem like a reality. My pace was good, and I was taking short walking breaks of 30 seconds or so at every other water station. To keep my mind busy, I kept recalculating my finish time as I checked off each mile marker. Each time I recalculated the time, I got an extra shot of motivation to keep going.

The last segment was especially hard as I began to feel the full effects of my endeavor, but I kept going – taking strength from the thought of crossing the line and the joy of my fellow runners as they whooped and raised hell in the tunnel under Battery Park. I passed the 20K marker at 1:48:17 (27:12 for 5K), the same split as my first 5K. In my mind I knew I had trained well and was in good physically shape to complete the distance in my target time. As we exited the tunnel and took the service road under the FDR and onto Old Slip, I began to feel overwhelmed by the noise from the crowd. Turning the last corner onto Water St., the sights and sounds really sank in and I felt my lower lip tremble and my eyes start to water. The crowd was relentless in their cheering, fully understanding the sacrifices they made to get to that point. Jess was there too – supporting me throughout my efforts. Crossing the line with very little left in the tank, I stopped my watch at 1:54:07 – almost a full minute inside my target time.

I was emotionally and physically drained as I embraced Jess. I had set myself a goal of completing a half-marathon, and I had met that challenge head on and done better than I could have hoped for. Every training session, every mile, and all those sacrifices melted away as the time and effort I invested paled in comparison to what I had just achieved. My finishers medal is proudly displayed at home, and serves as a constant reminder to me of what I can do when I set my mind to it.