North Jersey Half Marathon Recap – A Shocking PR

Here at the New Jersey Running Company, we consider ourselves a family.  When we say family, we do not just mean our staff, but all of you who come into the store, read the blog, run the races.  We love when you all come visit us and update us on your latest and greatest runs and races, and we are happy to help when things seem amiss.  Your stories are always quite incredible that we want to be able to share them with others as well.  Thus, from time to time on this blog, we will have guest posts from all of you whether it be a great run, a PR, or a question you want to ask.  We want to hear from you, after all you are part of the family too!

Aaron has been coming to our store for the past couple of months.  His wife, Stephanie, actually just officially came on as a staff member here.   Aaron ran his first half marathon this past May.  He will tell you he was not in any way trained for it, but still managed to pull off an amazing time of 2:30.  It did not take long before he had signed up to complete Philly Marathon this November.  It has been a rollercoaster ride for him and we have enjoyed being there for him.  Today, we are happy to get to share in a really amazing accomplishment for Aaron.  Read on… this is worth it…

North Jersey Half Marathon – A Shocking PR for Aaron

A quick recap:

It’s been a month or so since I last talked about my marathon training.  To say it’s been a tough month would be an understatement.  After running the Allstate Half Marathon (and PR’ing it), Lee got everyone sick and I missed out on a lot of my training while taking care of him.  My coach scaled back my mileage and was scheduled to run 13.1 three weekends later.  I aborted the run half way through because I got stung by a bee.  I react terribly to bee stings (thankfully no need for hospitals or EpiPens) and found myself over 6 miles from home with a medical emergency on my hands.  The rest of the week was filled with Benadryl and rest.  Coming into this weekend, I hadn’t run more than 10 miles in a single session and I struggled through a 10-mile run last weekend at a 9:50 pace.  Last Thursday’s 3-mile run made me feel worse as I couldn’t maintain a 9:30 pace.  Long story short, things haven’t been going according to plan.

Race Day:

Knowing my next week or two would be crucial in my training, I set out to run the North Jersey Half Marathon.  I set my expectations at a 9:45 pace based on how my last few runs went.  I comfortably ran my first mile and finished it in 9:44.  So much for negative splitting my goal pace.

Second mile, 9:40.  At this point, I was running comfortably and felt good.  I wasn’t passing anybody and nobody was passing me.  I felt like this was a training run because I was more or less alone while running on an open course.  I was 6 seconds ahead of my goal pace of 9:45 and I was faced with a choice – do I change my plan or do I hold where I am?

"On my own...."

I decided to just adjust a little bit, down to a 9:40.  I just did a little mental math and figured out that I was 4 seconds behind my new goal pace.

I started to pass a few people and got through Mile 3 – 9:32.  Well, I ended up ahead of my goal again by 4 seconds and was faced with the same choice again.  I had already found my stride, my breath was stable, and my legs felt strong.  I decide to change my goal to a 9:35 pace.

Mile 4 – 9:24 (even with my goal pace). Mile 5 – 9:13 (22 seconds ahead).

Well, I kept changing my goal pace and I kept crushing it shortly thereafter.  On several occasions, I tried to figure out if I had a shot at a 2:00:00 half marathon and had to shake off those thoughts.  Never in my wildest dreams would that happen on this run, but I still felt good and I was passing people left and right.  I hit the mid-course checkpoint (5.75 miles) at 54:14.  I’m not sure how, but that point in the race was when I felt like I was shot out of a cannon and got a huge boost from the combination of the good split time, the crowd cheering only for me because no other runners were within 50 yards of me, and I had just gone through a water stop.

As I passed by a cluster of runners, I looked down at my Garmin and saw a 9:05 pace.  It was perplexing.  I was exerting myself only slightly harder than my cruise control stride from earlier in the course and I wasn’t tired at all.  My goal for the Falmouth Road Race was a 9:00 pace over 7 miles, but I couldn’t run faster than a 9:30.  My best 5K time is a 9:11 pace, but I couldn’t beat that 3 weeks ago.  All of a sudden, I was running at a 9:05 pace and wasn’t on the brink of passing out!?

Image 2

I finished Mile 6 in 9:05 and decided to keep pushing.  Mile 7 – 9:06.

My goal pace started to drop from 9:30 to 9:25, then 9:20.  I was in complete disbelief, but there I was, doing the unthinkable.  At this point, the 2:00:00 half marathon seemed plausible.  Yes, I’d still have to run slightly faster for the next 6.1 miles, but it wasn’t a pie in the sky goal anymore.  After doing the math, managing my expectations, and plotting my new goals, I looked down at my Garmin to see that I completed Mile 8 in 8:56!

INCONCEIVABLE!  Again, I raised my expectations and kept going.

Mile 9 – 8:57.  Mile 10 – 8:55.

That 2:00:00 goal was no longer “plausible”, it was “attainable.”  Never in my life have I managed to run 3 consecutive sub-9:00 miles and yet, I still had plenty of energy to spare.  INCONCEIVABLE!

Mile 11 – 8:53.  With every mile, I was chipping away at my goal.  It was in my grasp.  I just had to keep it up for the last 2.1 miles.

Mile 12 – 8:58.  At this point, I was fading, but I kept up the fight.

Then it happened.

Just like in my first half marathon, both of my hamstrings as well as my upper calves locked up.  I couldn’t run through the pain.  I started to walk as the Garmin’s display of a sub-9:00 pace for the mile began a “slow” 9:40 pace.  I muttered out loud to keep fighting and started to run again.

Then I saw the finish line.  The course had runners do a flyby of the finish, run a half mile loop and circle back to the finish.  It was the biggest tease of my running career.  There I was, in excruciating pain, so close to a 2:00:00 half marathon and I was running away from the finish line!?

I rounded a corner and saw a clock staring me in the face with 01:55:XX on the display.  I gave in.  There was no way I felt like I could make it.  I started to walk again.  15 seconds later and another session of yelling at myself to move, I started running again.

Mile 13 – 9:16.

I shaved off time lost from my walking sessions, but lost 20 or so seconds from the pre-walking pace.

Mile 13.1 (13.12 on the Garmin) – 1:01.  I finished at a good pace and didn’t see the usual sight of Steph yelling for me or running up to me.

A minute later, I spotted her (she finished a few minutes before me) and bragged to her about my new PR!

2:00:38

I shaved 5 minutes off my last PR at the Allstate Half Marathon.  For lack of a better term, I ran the perfect race and couldn’t be more proud of the accomplishment.  With a month to go before the Philadelphia Marathon, I’m no longer thinking about completing the run, but have begun thinking of how fast I can complete it.

Have you ever had a race where you managed to exceed even your best expectations?

Congratulations Aaron from all of us at New Jersey Running Company. If you are reading this and want to share your stories too, let us know!

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