I’ve lived and have been running in NYC for about 7 years now. For 6 of those years I never ran the NYC Half Marathon. But this year the lottery gods were on my side, and I finally received an entry through NYRR. I’ve always heard how fun of a race it is, and what a great course it is, so I was pumped to be part of it this year.
With the marathon about 2 months behind me and being right in the middle of the long, cold winter months, I had been feeling less than motivated to run and was getting antsy to train for something, anything. So this was perfect timing. I picked out a training plan I found online, and put everything in my calendar. Long runs on the weekends, some hill work, plans to go to the track, added in some cross training and yoga days. I was ready to go!
Week 1 came and went and - running wise - was kind of .. no it WAS.. a fail. It’s okay, I told myself, next week you will get to it. Well, week 2 came and went and same thing. Aaaaand week 3 was a repeat of weeks 1 and 2.
I don’t know what it was, but running felt SO. FREAKIN. HARD. My weekend long runs were mostly awful feeling and there were several times I thought to myself “How on earth did I run 26.2 miles only 2 months ago?!”. Any weekday hill or speed work plans I had were thrown out the window. Those runs just became about getting in a few miles.
With March 19th quickly approaching, I was feeling like I had lost my running mojo and was not looking forward to the race at all anymore. Even the day before and the morning of, the pre-race excitement adrenaline was not kicking in. I just wanted to get it over with.
Well, for how crabby pants I was about the whole thing, to my utter shock, I had SO MUCH FUN and totally crushed the course feeling strong AF. There was no PR, but it was the second best half marathon I’ve ever run. The second I crossed that finish line, before even looking at my watch to see my time, I thought to myself: “Oh yea! Stella’s got her groove back!”
So this all obviously has me thinking, what gives?! How did I go from being miserable about even running the NYC Half to having one of my best races in a loooooooong time?
Well I think it was a combination of a few little things and one more large scale thing.
So, let me expand on the smaller things first….
First, I think that not doing any real hill work, speedwork, tempo runs, or anything of that sort actually played to my advantage. Again, the marathon was only a few months before. And after a loooong, tough summer training my body just needed a break. So I was able to go into the half with rested legs.
Second, I always did my weekend long runs down the west side and then into the park - flat to rolling hills. Well, the NYC Half is the exact opposite - the rolling hills of Central Park to the flat West Side Highway. I know my running well enough to know that I am fairly consistent in naturally getting faster the longer I am out there. So to have been doing my long runs where I was building speed while running the rolling hills of the park for the end reversed on race day, I felt like I was flying! (Disclaimer: the way I was doing it was in no way, shape, or form a conscious decision as it was more so a logistic decision.)
Third, having had a great run with a fellow Fred’s Team teammate the Thursday before the race, spectators out on the course, a few Fred’s Team cheering stations to look forward to, getting to run through a pedestrian tourist free Times Square, and everyone else’s excitement was great. I pick up other people’s energy fairly easily so thank you to everyone who was excited for this - I totally fed off that energy for 13.1 miles!
Ultimately though, what I think it all boils down to is this: when I saw that following my training plan was going to absolute crap, I released myself of any small, super specific (probably mostly arbitrary) goals. I let myself be okay with just running to get myself across a finish line. Instead of being so zoomed in, I let myself view this from 10,000 feet above looking down. This race simply became a small part of a much larger journey I am endeavoring on.
This year I’ve decided (and with a little convincing from a friend, you know who you are ;-)) to venture into the world of triathlons; not just any triathlon though. A half Ironman. Oh, and I’ve never done even so much as a sprint triathlon. Crazy? Yes, I will certainly be the first to admit that.
This is obviously a huge endeavor that is going to take a huge amount of dedication - physically, mentally, and emotionally. Part of why I decided to go on this journey though, is because I needed a change from training for marathons. My body and brain have been craving a new challenge and journey.
Now this is not to say that marathon training or running marathons has become easy, trust me, they are still hard, but over the past few training training cycles as I’ve gotten more and more familiar with the process, it started to become less about the process and more about the end result. This doesn't work for me. I am one of those people who truly loves learning and being a student. I love the journey to something more than I love the end result. So deciding to train for a triathlon is my way of getting back to and cultivating that.
It was in this sense that the NYC Half simply became a small part of my larger journey this year, not something entirely separate from it. Stepping up to a starting line completely free of any expectations of myself and running knowing that I was adding another piece to the puzzle, ultimately allowed me to really spread my wings and fly. It reignited in me the excitement of training for something bigger than myself, and has me feeling ready to step into my power.