Days later, I’m still riding the high from Sunday. Was it even real? Did it really happen? Sure, that blood blister you didn’t ask about on my right pinkie toe says yes, that was real, but even with over 40 races under my belt, this is the first time that I have ever walked away from a race and wanted to pinch myself. It’s Thursday now, and it’s still surreal as ever.
It has been a long time coming, but it started with some great coaching, some confidence boosting and my “party dress.”
There’s something to be said about having a uniform. A competitive soccer player growing up, uniforms were something special, something with a sense of pride and a sense of something bigger than oneself. Practice uniforms were only for practice. White uniforms were for home games. Wearing our colors were so we could represent on the road. As a member of the Oiselle Volée team, I see my singlets the same way: they are uniforms, and they only come out on game day.
The long sleeve and sleeveless singlets have both been donned on race day, but for whatever reason the time never felt right to bust out the uniform I felt carried the most weight: the 3/4 Crop Top. Perhaps it’s because it’s the closest thing I have to what elites race in. Maybe it was because I didn’t think I’d do it “justice” if my performance wasn’t up to par. Maybe it was really because I was giving it too much power.
On Sunday, I flipped the switch and instead decided that this was exactly what my power suit needed. It was decided I would not run the Oakland Half, but I would race it. I would not try to do the crop justice, I would do myself justice. It was time to lay it all out there. After weeks and weeks of working with my Ekiden coach Jenny, putting in hours and miles, calories and sweat, it was time to do what I had worked towards. It was time to finally see a 1 in the front of my half marathon finish time.
The meet-up at the expo helped me work off some energy. It was really nice to see my coworkers Erin and Joy, running friends Brian, Sarah, and Dani, and to finally meet Felix in person. Even after, I was still too tightly wound. The night before, as I laid out my flat runner, I nervously texted my teammate Kim who had graciously offered to both carpool and pace me. I can’t recall her exact words, but it was just what I needed to hear, writing back something like, “Okay. I’ve got this. It’s time to dance at my party.” Her response of three dancing lady emojis sealed the deal.
The race itself thankfully was mostly mental. Trusting in my training, I had faith that if I ran smart, my body would do what I needed it to do. After finding Joy, with whom I had done most long training runs, and Kim’s coworker Jessica, who wasn’t as well trained as she had liked, we hit the corrals. Shit was getting real.
When the gun went off, I tried to just draft behind Kim. The course change meant that we would start off in the direction where repeat runners were used to finishing, so that was a bit weird, but I shook it off. The first two miles ticked by way too fast and I began to worry that if I didn’t reel it back, I wouldn’t be able to keep up the pace, or finish strong.
Mile 1: 8:49.6
Mile 2: 8:40.6
Mile 3: 8:31.3
Kim had run Rock ‘n’ Roll San Francisco the weekend prior and by the time we were into the first 5K, her legs were telling her they still remembered the hills. This helped me settle into a pace that Joy and I felt okay at, hovering just under and over 9min per mile.
Mile 4: 9:02.5
Mile 5: 9:04.6
I can’t say exactly where it happened, but I started dropping people. Slowly I could feel Kim and Jessica behind me, and then just Kim, unsure of where Jessica went. Joy bobbed back and forth, popping up by my shoulder and drafted behind me. As we went through aid stations, I stayed the course and waited for no one. It wasn’t a concern of mine; they knew what I was after and we all knew we’d see each other at the finish no matter what happened on the course. We had started out together, but in the end, this was my race to run, and I was going to run my race.
Mile after mile, I kept my focus on each individual mile time. My plan was to hover around 9 minute miles and assess what I had left as we headed into the fight of any half: the last 5K. By the time we hit the halfway mark, I was alone.
Mile 6: 9:03.8
Mile 7: 8:52.8
It was more than warm out there and the 9:10am start time did us no favors. While I’ve grown to love Oakland and definitely like this year’s course updates, it’s unforgiving out there on the uncovered pavement. As the heavy, hot blanket set over the runners and I saw the heat taking its toll, I reminded myself that I was literally made for this. I laughed to myself, “Okay brown girl, use this to your advantage. You’re Filipina. This heat is where you should shine.”
Mile 8: 9:04.9
Mile 9: 8:52.8
Mile 10: 8:49.5
Once mile 11 ticked away, I finally let myself really look at and internalize my overall time. (Thankfully the Forerunner 735XT showed me both my last mile time and the overall time, so I didn’t have to futz a lot.) It was in that moment that I saw something like 1:37 for my overall time and realized that this was it. YES, I COULD get that sub two, no, that yes, I was GOING to get that sub two. I tried hard to not go too hard in the last miles as I didn’t want to burn out, but no way in hell was I going to let that 1:XX overall time allude me. Not today, mother fucker, my heart said. Go smart, but go hard. My legs were ready to rally, my heart and my head were leading the way.
In those last miles, I thought about the Oiselle team and how we always tell each other that we’re flying together, even when we’re alone. “Head up, wings out” and “go fast, take chances” are common encouraging words. I thought about my fellow Team Run the Bay members on the course. I thought about everyone who put in a training run with me. I thought about Kim’s confidence in me even when I didn’t have it for myself, and about how she wasn’t the only one. I thought about my husband at home, wrangling our toddler so I could race, about every meal he cooked me to fuel up, every salt bath he’s ever drawn. I thought about how it would feel to run through the finish chute and have my daughter clapping because mama was so strong. I thought about how amazing it would be to tell my family and my coach that I didn’t just do it, I felt strong and I crushed it.
Those last miles weren’t just for me: they were for everyone who helped make it happen.
Mile 11: 9:01.2
Mile 12: 8:26.8
As I came into the last mile I reminded myself that I could cruise a 9-10 minute mile and still come in under 2. I had told everyone, “If I can get a 1:59:59, I’ll probably cry.” But I didn’t. There were no tears. There was only the pounding of my heart as I strode out that last quarter to tenth of a mile. I could taste it, feel it pulsing through my veins, feel it emanating from my very being. I was so locked in on the finish that I was prepared to courteously-as-possible mow down anyone who tried to block my path. Nothing, nothing was going to get in my way. It was mine.
As I ran through the finish, I could feel myself beaming. “YES, FINALLY!” I screamed, my arms over my head. It was mine at last. I had joined the sub-2 hour half marathon club.
Mile 13: 8:45.2
Mile .18: 1:15.7
Later, Kim snapped this picture, which I think perfectly sums up everything I was feeling in the moment, and still am!
This race quietly let me know I’ve unlocked my own ‘power suit’ of fast flats and “magic” Macs. The Brooks Hyperion racing flats, my sample sale score of plum Mac Rogas and two-pair-don’t-care PRO Compression socks (WRS boom and jailbreak stripe) are my now-not-so-secret weapon when it comes to pulling on a bit of extra confidence.
And, for the record, any Medal Monday you get to celebrate with coworkers is an awesome Monday indeed.
My last half marathon PR was at the RunDisney Tinkerbell Half Marathon, January 19, 2014, where I ran a 2:07:04.
Have you ever run a sub-2 hour half marathon? What’s the big goal that you have been chasing?
All mile times listed above are according to my Garmin, which had my overall time at 1:56:20.
HALF MARATHON – 585 of 2582
Gender Place – 177 of 1370
F 30-34 – 42 of 283
Start Time – 09:10:24
8.3 Mile – 01:17:02 09:16 min/mi
Elapsed – 01:56:17
Pace – 08:52 min/mile