Star City Half Marathon, Roanoke VA, November 19, 2016. (Time: 1:46:33)
This year's Star City Half Marathon was my 23rd race, and my strongest race yet. This was my fourth half-marathon of the year. I not only PR'd the race, I finished with such a strong PR that I don't know when or if I'll be able to top it. I did a number of things differently before this race, and any one of them might have been enough to throw me off my game. Instead, it all seems to have added up to the perfect set of new variables. I went into the race prepared to just have fun and not worry too much about my splits or my time. I ended up running strong and feeling great, and I was really happy with my numbers.
One of the changes I made was running in very light knee braces. More sleeves than braces, really. The heavy, metal-hinged braces I've been racing in cut my inner legs so badly that I always finish races raw and bloody. After the marathon last month I decided I was sick of the distraction of the extra pain caused by the braces. I would rather run a little more slowly for a while with less knee support than spend another post-race day constantly un-sticking my jeans from the raw sores inside my legs.
I also went into this race feeling under-trained. I like to have a couple of ten mile runs the week before a half marathon, and during the week that lead up to this race I just didn't have time for anything more than my de rigueur six mile runs.
But the biggest change, the biggest distraction, is the incredible woman who's come into my life since the marathon in October. Out of respect for her privacy, I won't refer to her by name here at this blog. Given the profound effect she seems to have had on my running, I'll give her the nickname "Lucky." Having her in my life feels like the sun has come out from behind the clouds after years and years of struggling.
Lucky is also a runner. She ran with me some during the week leading up to the race, and she ran the half-marathon with me as well. Maybe our relationship is good luck for her, too, because she finished the race with a PR of her own.
Other things I did before the race seemed like logical pre-race strategy, and I'm glad to have at least taken a few things more seriously this time out. I ate right, I got plenty of rest, and Lucky gave me a pre-race leg-rub that made me feel more capable and better tuned than I've ever felt before a race.
All of it added up to the best I've ever felt during and after a race, and I hope it's an indication of the current direction of my life in general. I can't remember having been this happy in a really long time.