Key West Half Marathon

This past Sunday, I ran my fourth half marathon. But more importantly, I learned few things. In the 5k, 10 miler, half marathons, and marathon that I’ve completed in the past, the last minute of the race goes like this: I come around the bend and the finish line arch comes into view, all of the sudden, every single mile I’ve already completed disappears and I feel invincible. I run like an absolute Olympian, crossing the finish line in an all-out sprint, staring the race clock down, feeling like an Olympian. Both feet get across the line and I can’t get my phone out of the Spi Belt around my waist fast enough to check the runner tracking for my time. How many seconds faster than before? Did I PR? Did I even come close? My perceived success is dependent on that text message with my finish time, then I quickly move to the text messages I’ve received throughout the race. What did my splits look like? Where did I run at a beastly pace that I couldn’t keep up? Where was I too conservative? I always have fun and enjoy the process, but I’m hopeful for a really great time, for an added bonus.

The Florida Keys have become a favorite vacation spot for Dan and me. During a visit in August, we decided it would be a neat place to do a race. I got home and started searching, and I found that the Key West Half Marathon was number 1 on Runner’s World’s list of top half marathons. Signing up was a must. I registered and was pumped to head south for a few days in the middle of January. I trained my best considering I really struggle with cold weather, even just to run from my car to the store, let alone running for a couple hours. In this case, I am also in the middle of marathon training for March. I went in thinking this was a test, hopefully I hadn’t lost it all. After a few months of only running on a treadmill, I thought it was quite possible that I would not have the ability to finish 13.1 miles on the road at all. I had not heard anything about runner tracking, I asked at the packet pick up on Saturday afternoon. After I explained what I meant, they laughed and said oh no we don’t have anything like that. For a second, I wondered what I got myself into. The weather was gorgeous, we were on a tropical island, and people had traveled from all 50 states and several countries, so I couldn’t be completely disorganized. I have heard horror stories of poorly organized races with insufficient water, not enough medical assistance, and a lack of volunteers.

Sunday morning my alarm went off at 5:15, standing in the shower a few minutes later, I remember that there was no runner tracking and I considered using my RunKeeper app that I use for training. Historically, I have not used the app for races for a few reasons, I am a little high strung and being reminded of my time and distance every 5 minutes in a race setting seems like something that would cause too much pressure. I could turn the notifications off, but that seems almost as bad, knowing, right there in my belt are all the details of my performance but I can’t easily get to it without slowing down. Before I even get out of the shower, I nix the idea of running the app. I finished getting ready and we were out the door by 6 to travel a mile and a half for a 7am start. We found parking, made it to the starting line, Dan on crutches, but that is a running story for another day, I took my final bathroom break and I was ready to run. I looked up and saw some piece of equipment and the other 4,000 runners were waving and cheering. A photo drone…but no runner tracking. Oh well. It didn’t take long for the race to get started, as usual the first mile or two is a little tight, people are settling into their pace and slipping into a stride. If you have never experienced Key West, it is a party atmosphere all night, so you can image what is going on at 7am on a Sunday…not too many people around other than runners and family members. As we came around the bend to see the Southernmost Point (closest you can get to Cuba in the US). People were stopping to take photos. Actually, I should clarify, they were waiting in line to take photos. I thought okay, Liz, you are splitting hairs over seconds, have fun! Several miles were along the beach with a turn around and back along the beach. The sunrise over the beach could not have been more perfect. Again, people were stopping to take photos. I didn’t stop but it did knock me out of my intense mind a bit. Overall, the participants ran hard and I would bet there were quite a few PRs. But the atmosphere did not have that negatively competitive edge. I finished the race, sprinting like crazy. My feet and legs hurt more than my last race. I am chalking that up to a few things: maybe I should have chosen a different pair of shoes and I wasn’t used to running outside.

The last few years, I have been working to find something positive every day. Sunday’s positive was this: My lungs felt amazing. 13.1 miles, and I never got out of breath. When I decided to start running, I ran for 2.5 minutes and I was huffing and puffing. With some hard work and dedication, I can run for over two hours, without a single hint of burning in my lungs.

I am so glad I decided to stop worrying about my time and do my best and have a good time. Times were posted later that evening. I ended without a PR, but it was not my slowest time. I can run a consistent time even if I am stuck training on a treadmill. Since poor Dan was on crutches and unable to enter the 5k, I guess we will just have to go back to paradise next winter!

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