Monday, June 1, 2009

Brooklyn Half Marathon Report

OK, I am coming clean today. I am not a fast or competitive runner. I have been running pretty consistently for the past decade (2 times on a bad week 4 or 5 times on a good one) it's very rare for me to get through a week without running unless I am really sick. I love to run on my vacations and I haven't had an injury to hold me back (aside from post marathon stiffness that had me out for awhile.) Still I have never been serious about time goals and I was very reluctant to get involved with racing. Last year when I started training for a marathon was the first time I entered a race of any kind. Through Team in Training I did a 5k, a 5 mile, and the 18 mile marathon tune-up race with the New York Road Runners Club as part of the marathon training program. It was very strange to see my running performance broken down to a series of numbers next to my name. Numbers completely freak me out, in general objective data measuring me tends to make my inner 8 year old cower. That's why I've always been a fan of the arts. I like that it usually isn't measured in any empirical way. There are no points or rankings. It makes it much easier to delude yourself about how talented you are.

Anyway, my running buddy Jess got a new watch. So she timed our splits. I think it really pushed us to keep our pace and as a result we finished in around the time I was hoping we would. The pace was about 10 and a half minutes per mile and the total time was just over 2 and a quarter hours. Whatever time I finished with was going to be a personal record because this was my first half marathon on record. As a result I was fine with it.

At one point Jess recommended I get the watch because I would like it too and I joked, "Me and time really aren't such tight friends if anything we are just casual acquaintances."

Ughh, thus the sad truth making me squirm as I write this. Overall the race was not what I hoped it would be because of the way I felt at the end of it. Had it not been for the watch I certainly would have slowed down in order to feel more comfortable. I am glad that I didn't because I also felt that ideally I could have run it faster (given my times on shorter distances.) So I am left wanting to run another one with more conscious time goals.

I can make excuses about how I felt like I was over-heating (I swear every time I looked at the weather report it said low 60's and cloudy which would have been fine for the black running t-shirt, it was an awesome shirt by the way except that it was turned out to be so freaking hot.) Or that I was distracted by the fact that I couldn't find my boyfriend in the crowd in Prospect Park. Also, the water stops were seriously under-staffed which made that process more stressful because I really needed the water. The truth is in that last mile I felt like I wanted to die and had to let my running buddy Jess charge ahead without me. My engine dropped out from under me as I struggled to the finish line. When I saw Chris in the final stretch beaming at me and trying to run beside me with his video camera it made me want to break down and cry right there for ever doubting him.

When I finished my marathon last fall I was extremely emotional at the end out of euphoria for finishing. This weekend I felt the same wave of intense emotion but it was because I felt so awful and wrong about things. It was the ugly side of my human competitive nature that tends to make me want to shy away from the whole thing. I don't have the drive or natural talent to be a super fast runner but that doesn't stop me from feeling so weak in the face of inadequacies. My goal has always been to not worry about that stuff and just try to run strong. So therefore I didn't make my goal. Although the end number itself didn't upset me the feeling of defeat at the end did and the knowledge that had I not been conscious of the time I would have run it much slower made me see the possibility of using numbers as more of a help while training and not such a hindrance while racing.

Reading other people's blogs it comforts me to find that these ambivalent feelings are pretty universal among runners regardless of pace. The fact is it's not always a good high, you are going to occasionally have a "bad trip." As far as my music goes I am not discouraged. I want to be able to articulate all those hills and valleys, that's what art is all about. It also works to my advantage that there is a consistent inherent tempo for running regardless of your speed.

One last thought on the music front. I am not an advocate for racing with headphones but I was really surprised by how many ipods I saw out there! I sang a few songs in my head which I think helped a bit during the hard parts because I never actually stopped running except at the water stations. Also, a Ting Tings song was blasting over the finish line when I crossed which was awesome because I have a definite soft spot for The Ting Tings.

Now that it's done I don't regret anything (except not communicating a better place for Chris to stand in Prospect Park.) I still love running and want to keep training for races. Although I also want to re-evaluate some of my mental hang ups about time and get more friendly with it.


Chris said...

i said it before, i'll say it again- race spectators should be able to monitor racers using their cell phones some how..
anyway- congrats on finishing the 1/2 marathon!

PunkRockRunner said...

Nice race report! I'm surprised that you don't run with a shuffle/iPod. Unless I'm running in a busy area, I always listen to music.

Keep up the great running & music!

Lady Southpaw said...

Chris- I agree, it's probably a matter of time before GPS and mobile technology become a part of racing, we've already go the chips!

PunkRockRunner- You're not really supposed to but maybe I'm too much of a stickler for the rules in this case bc I definitely could've used it Saturday!

Lela said...

Erin, you did great on a very hot day with some seriously negligent water-stop/misting-station activity. You certainly didn't look like you say you felt when I saw you at the finish.

I've run three half marathons with wildly different times on all three - I think I'm going to make them my pet timing project from now on.

Lady Southpaw said...

Haha, yea I snapped out of it once I had some water and we were splashing around in the ocean :)

Jess said I could get the watch in blue, maybe they have it in green too? ;)

Jess said...

Aw, Lady. Yeah. I felt you that whole time, but this is why we run with people, yes? I find running to be a humbling experience, overall. I know that I will never be the best and it is hard and hurts each time I do it. But, we keep going and pushing. You did great yesterday. What's the greatest, I think, is feeling like that and then still pushing and accomplishing. Not only did you finish the race, you ran it in the time you wanted. Rock. And, always remember, you can ignore the time if you want to, since it isn't really about that in the end.

Michelle said...

Awesome! You ran a great pace!!

I ran it. Not as fast as you. But I am happy that I finished uninjured.

I did not have my music with me. Could have definitely used the boost!!!

atrusni said...

hey great post and thanks for sharing this experience!! Use time to measure yourself, and believe it feels very good when you have a new PR!! Also, be proud of just Been able to run a half marathon!! That is something not all the people can do!!

And on top of that!! You play the guitar and compose beautiful songs!!

Keep up the good work!