The Prairie State Half Marathon

date October 05, 2020 location

This Saturday I completed my first post pandemic in-person race, finishing the Prairie State Half Marathon in 1:20:42 (6:09/mi), 50 seconds slower than my PR, a 1:19:52 (6:05) that I ran back in March. With a goal of besting my PR time in March, my race performance was disappointing but did not overshadow a safe and well run event, proving that in-person racing in the post-covid/pre-vaccine era is possible. While most races this summer and fall have opted for virtual versions of their races, my hat goes off to the Prairie State Half Marathon race organizers who implemented several safety measures, notably: Staggering all runners into 5 minute start intervals, releasing each runner every 10 seconds, requiring masks in the start area, replacing traditional hydration stations with tables of bottled water and gatorade, and providing a virtual option for participants that still didn't feel safe.

The race served as a tune-up race for the Veterans Marathon, a race that I hope to run in Indiana in mid-November. Furthermore, the race has significance beyond just this training cycle for me, as it was this same point in my last training cycle, when 13 weeks into my training for the 2020 Boston Marathon, it's cancellation and a series of overuse injuries had me questioning why I run in the first place. Having overcome the aforementioned injuries, and matching last cycle's mileage with the added emphasis of injury prevention exercises, I went into this race hoping to come back with an exclamation point that I fell a bit short of achieving. At 40 degrees, no wind or precipitation, the weather was perfect and pre-race preparation went perfectly. Finding my ideal pace is always most challenging during the first mile, when I looked at my watch and saw a 6:19 first split after what felt like a moderate effort I was a little worried. The early miles that followed were similar stories, despite what felt like solid effort just didn't reflect as such on the watch. Tempted to throw my hands up and say I just didn't have it today, I know an objective reflection on the race and training leading up to it would serve me better. The leading factors that I consider are:

- Weight: I'm about 5 lbs heavier than I was in March, still not quite down to ideal racing weight following putting on a healthy "Covid 15"
- My PR race was a win: Leading the entire field during most of the Columbia Half Marathon gave me a huge mental boost, not to mention the police escort car which served as a pacer throughout most of the race
- Junk Miles: While most of workouts this cycle show improved performance at VO2 max, Lactate Threshold, and Marathon pace, I have slowed down in many of my other paces due to tired legs from prior runs or weight training

The next few weeks of training will be critical in pursuit of a PR in my 'A' race, the upcoming marathon in November. My training schedule includes some of the toughest weeks I've ever run, and if I am able to stay healthy and perform well during these workouts I think my marathon goal is still possible.