Last year I ran the Famously Hot, Surprisingly Cool {half} Marathon. A buddy of mine lives in the area and I wanted a good pre-Knoxville test race. That race died, but I was pleased when I learned it was resurrected as the Run Hard Columbia {half} Marathon. Despite the new name, all the major components – course, date, time – stayed the same.

Unfortunately, the race was the same day as my last scheduled long run for the Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon. Both races are “for fun” type things, so I decided to compromise. A couple of buddies experienced in distance training assured me that 20 milers aren’t all they are cracked up to be for the training process any way. I guess time will tell if doing this race instead hurt me!

As with my other races this year, this was a “training race.” Instead of an all-out effort in an attempt to PR, I was once again tweaking my negative split strategy. My previous half this year was a 2:07:51 finishing time. During that race, I’d started at a 10 m/m and had too much left at the end. The plan for this race meant starting with the 2:07 (or rather 4:15 marathon) pace group, then speed up at the end.

The plan worked. Kinda. I enjoyed chatting with the group, and they really helped me from going out too fast. With the exception of mile 2, most of the beginning of the race is flat or downhill. Given that, we very rarely hit the 9:44 mark. As a matter of fact, until the final 0.1 kick, I was behind them for the last 3 miles of my race, yet averaged a 9:24 pace. Suppose they were banking time for lap 2?

Mile 1 – 9:41

The 2nd mile of the race is where I lost the pacers last year and never caught back up. Despite the crowds early on, I had no trouble as we weaved in and out of traffic up the hill. Then once at the top, I really had to pull back to not get too far ahead on the downhill.

Mile 2 – 9:31
Mile 3 – 9:21
Mile 4 – 9:19

Those early miles were just about settling in to a comfortable pace. Honestly going that slowly was the hardest part. And “that slow” doesn’t look all that slow looking at the numbers. But they felt really good. We all chatted about past races, future races, and our goals for this particular race. 

Mile 5 – 9:04
Mile 6 – 9:15
Mile 7 – 9:28
Mile 8 – 9:35

Last year, I started to struggle on the long slow pull towards the end of the race. This time around, I’d hoped to conserve enough to make it up without a problem.  While I didn’t feel great, I didn’t feel defeated like last time. I thought it was just a pacing/mental thing. Turns out despite my half marathon specific training last year, my splits for the last portion were better this year.

 Once again the local Hashers had beer on the course. Everyone else in my group was running 26.2, so it was too early for them. Not me – I walked through the station and enjoyed a cold, crisp beer. 

Mile 9 –  9:40
Last year – 9:48

The plan called for me to pick-up the pace around mile 10 and blast it in. There is a series of 2 steep hills during this mile, so effort was greater despite a slower pace. I took a 1 minute walk up the 2nd hill but quickly got back to running.

Mile 10 – 9:53
Last year –  10:05

With the major hills behind me, I truly picked up my step. Too much, I suspect because early readings showed this mile in the 8:XX range. Obviously I wasn’t able to sustain that pace.

Mile 11 –  9:10
Last year –  9:17

The last 2 miles were relatively flat and I was able to pass a few people. Some could have been doing the full marathon, so this is no feather in my hat. Just a sign I was picking it up a bit. Towards the end of the last mile, I passed a dude who seemed to be struggling a bit. I checked for a green half marathon bib, and when I saw it said “This is it dude! We’re truly almost there.”

Mile 12 -9:39
Last year –  10:16
Mile 13 – 9:23
Last year –  9:33

I had been talking early about my new found kick at the end, and was a bit disappointed with my splits thus far. By the close of mile 13, I’d caught back up with the pace group. I hollered my appreciation for their company on the run. My new buddy Kevin said “let’s see that kick!” and I took off.

Final 0.1(7) – {6:30}
Last year –  {8:36}

What the what??? I don’t run that fast. Ever. Especially after 13 miles. Except I must.

Chip time: 2:04:00 – hit my goal right on the nose. How does that happen? This race has me feeling confident leading up to the Knoxville Marathon, but also excited about half marathon specific training and the awesome new PR I’m going to earn when the time comes!

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