Initially, I had my eye on New Bedford as a place to run a really fast time. Lots of competition and a great course provided the perfect ingredients for a great day. However, given the circumstances of extremely tight hips and glutes from the driving, I realized I needed to be smart.
Before the race I did as much loosening as I could, cycling through the Chi body looseners and doing some strides. By the time I lined up at the start I was slightly better but still feeling really tight. I realized I would need to take this race out very slow and see what happens from there. Trying to run a fast pace from the start would likely not end up pretty.
Thanks to some deep yoga breathing I was able to control my competitive emotions and take the race out EXTREMELY easy. I didn’t see the first mile marker but I did see the second and when I passed it read “13:00” meaning I was running 6:30 pace. I was behind people I routinely finish ahead of by several minutes. I slowly began working my way up being mindful to not waste energy weaving through the crowd. When a space opened up I went with it. If I got stuck behind a group, no problem…patience grasshopper etc…
During mile 3 there was a nice hill and I was able to move past a good amount of runners. As I crested the hill I could feel my hips and glutes starting to loosen up. I continued relaxing my way through it and increasing the pace ever so slightly. I went by the 10K mark at about 36:43. Once I hit 10K the race was spread out and I was passing people one at a time rather than passing the huge groups at the beginning. This was a tremendous amount of fun. The feeling of passing people vs. the feeling of being passed is very different. I made it a point to enjoy the feeling of going by people, even though I was thinking my finishing time would not be that great.
At no point did I try to calculate what my finish time would be during the race. Doing math while running is a waste of energy! I was running purely on feel and using my competitors as inspiration to go faster. Miles 8-11 were very windy since we were running right by the water. I didn’t let the wind get my spirits down though. I was feeling great and just kept doing what I could do to continue to go by people. A couple other runners tried tucking behind me as I passed them to let me absorb the wind for them, and since I’m not a huge fan of having my energy sucked out of me, I threw in a mini surge to get them off my back and that worked out well. These runners may have went out a bit too fast and at the stage of the race were just in survival mode. Since I went out super slow I wasn’t in survive mode I was in thrive mode. At mile 9 it felt like the race was just beginning for me.
We weaved our way back towards the downtown area and I started to pass some familiar faces. I started to get a little surprised because I knew the guys I was passing typically run pretty fast times. They usually run faster times than the time I thought I was going to end up with. Based on my perceived effort level throughout the race, if I crossed the line and didn’t see the time I probably would have guessed I ran about a 1:19, the same I ran in the indoor half marathon.
As I crossed the line the clock read 1:16:30. Take away about 30 seconds of that for the time it took me to cross the start line (I told you I started wayyy in the back) and I ended up with a time of 1:16:04, much faster than I thought I was running.
Easing into the race gradually allowed me to run fast without it being a huge shock to my body. During the last 4 miles and immediately after the race was the best I felt all week. Yes, that is correct, the best I felt all week was during and immediately after running a half marathon. When us Chi Runners say “pain free half marathon” or “pain free marathon” we aren’t kidding. And you can be fast! I ran probably 20 miles total the week leading up to this race and I don’t do workouts very often yet I still managed a 1:16 pain free half marathon.
After the race I went to teach Chi Running to a high school runner who is very fast (competes at the national level) and is now dealing with some shin pain. The point I kept making was that Chi Running is a DAILY PRACTICE. I might not run very much, or do workouts but I practice the Chi Running principles DAILY. I practice focus, breathing, body sensing, and relaxation every day. I think this is what allows me to show up to a race under-trained and still put up a solid performance. Simply knowing the information isn’t going to help your running, you need to APPLY IT and PUT IT INTO PRACTICE.
Some data from the race for the number crunchers (I don’t wear a watch so I only have a few data points)
2 mile split – 13:00
10K split – 36:43
Finish time – 1:16:04