It’s About Time – Kiawah Island Half Marathon Race Recap
Yogis preach the value of being present. One’s mind should be in the current moment instead of drifting off to recount the items on the grocery list or obsess over a bad day at work. But I question whether we are already too deeply rooted in the present moment and specifically our present feelings.
When I’m injured, I feel like I will NEVER run again…or at least not for a very long time. Every day without running seems like an eternity. But when I’m healthy, I feel so strong. So solid. I think I can run 70 miles a week of hard workouts when in actuality I may be flirting with an injury.
It’s no secret that I suffered through a couple years of injuries that started with a sprained ankle and turned in to stress fractures, muscular atrophy, plantar fasciitis, and several other smaller injuries that I’ve probably already forgotten about. Now that I’m finally healthy, I feel so removed from that dark time. But reflecting on that sad period reinforces how special the Kiawah Island Half Marathon was for me.
My boyfriend, Franklin, and I headed south down I-77 early Thursday evening before the Saturday race. We decided to stay in downtown Charleston instead of Kiawah Island. Kiawah is beautiful, but there is no replacement for the Charleston single houses, cobblestone streets, and amazing restaurants that make up the peninsula. Our hotel, the Indigo Inn, was also quaint and more affordable than the options we viewed on the Island. On Thursday night, we grabbed a quick bite and a Coast Hop Art IPA (an old favorite from when Charleston was home) at The Rarebit. On Friday night, the eve of the race, we carbo-loaded on hand-crafted pasta at Indaco on Upper King Street.
Race day started at 4:15 am. By 5:00 am, I had finished breakfast which consisted of a chocolate chip cliff bar, banana, orange juice, and, of course, coffee. The drive to Kiawah Island from downtown Charleston took us about forty-five minutes on race morning. The race website suggested that we arrive no later than 6:30 am to ensure that we weren’t late for the 8:00 am start time. When I saw the long line of traffic upon approaching the island, I was glad I followed instructions. But before I could get too anxious about making it to the start line on time, we were parked and hopping on the heated charter bus that carried us the rest of the way. The race folks were pros…The 39th Kiawah Marathon certainly wasn’t their first rodeo.
The only hiccup we had was with a key piece of Franklin’s race wardrobe, his bib. To gain entry in to the fastest coral, Franklin gave proof of his New York City Marathon time. While I am impressed with his 2:47 in the Big Apple, the race organizers must have been less so. I’m not sure if it was because he gave a full time instead of a half or registered late, but Franklin was stuck in the coral behind me when the gun went off.
I had trained to run at a pace between 6:05 and 6:10. 6:10 would have me break 1:21:00, which would qualify me for Chicago Marathon’s American Development Program. The sub-elite program allows runners to start directly behind the elite coral and is geared towards those racing to qualify for the Olympic Marathon Trials. I am not embarrassed to say that a trials qualification is a dream of mine. I’m not certain I can make it, but I do believe I have a shot. And a goal isn’t worth making if you already know you can do it. Anyways, a sub 1:21 would mean a qualification for the American Development program, which would take me a step closer to a trials qualification. A sub-6:05 pace, on the other hand, would have me break 1:20:00, which has been another goal of mine for a long time. Coming in to Kiawah with a personal best of 1:22:36, I wasn’t messing around with modest goals.
The first mile of a race is almost always a little hairy. Emotions are high and runners sprint past you in the first 100 meters only to come back to you a few minutes later. I tried to stay calm and ease in to my race pace. I hit the first mile in 6:05. There was the smallest of hills in the second mile, and I remember just keeping my foot off the gas pedal. I wanted to coast with the most minimal effort as possible for a while. I completed the second mile in 6:07. My watch was beeping before the mile markers so I knew I may be slightly over 1:20:00 in the first few miles. My game plan was to hover around the 1:20:00 mark…If I crashed and burned in the end, I could hopefully still pull out a sub-1:21. However, I had grown more confident in my fitness in recent weeks, and I thought that I had potential to run a stronger second half and break the magic 1:20:00 mark. Still, I was in unknown territory and didn’t want to run too fast so soon.
After the initial craziness coming of the start line, the runners around me grew sparse. I was starting to worry that I was going to have to run the whole race by myself. But, no woman is an island. I heard a runner coming up behind me. I looked over at it was Franklin. He had sprinted off the starting line and weaved through the crowd until he caught up with me. “Man, am I glad to see you,” I told him.
Franklin and I ran together, or rather, Franklin ran slightly in front of me until mile 13 (he likes to be the pack leader 🙂 ). During some of the earlier miles, the distance would lengthen between us as I stuck to my watch, careful not to run too fast. He’d usually realize that he was leaving me and slow a bit. But later, after he dropped a gel at mile 8 (fortunately he had a spare), I pushed him along. I thought he was struggling a bit (he was), and I was a little nervous that he may be running out of gas. Thankfully, it was only a small lull.
The first half of the race, I ran fairly conservatively. But once we hit mile 10, I was fine with pushing. I believe if you aren’t uncomfortable by mile 10 in a half marathon, then you just aren’t running fast enough. Mile 11, I ran in 6:00. Mile 12 was 6:01. At the beginning of mile 13, I told Franklin to go. (He went on to drop a 5:50 in the last mile.) At that point, I knew that I was just moments away from breaking 1:20:00. I was uncomfortable, but I honestly wasn’t any more uncomfortable than I usually was at the end of a long training run. I had struggled through workouts that felt more difficult at the time. Countless progression runs where I would run the last 15-20 minutes hard had prepared me for these last miles. Still, I had no desire to run any faster. Looking back, I wonder if I was a little weak to not push any harder on that last mile. But I honestly can’t beat myself up too much. For mile 13, I clocked another 6:01. And then I was home free. Here’s my Strava record.
I crossed the finish line with a net time of 1:19:29 (gun 1:19:30) and almost cried. Franklin (who finished 1st in his age group with a time of 1:19:15) greeted me and asked if I was OK. I explained that I was just so happy. I had won, but I didn’t care so much about that. Instead, it was about the time. Breaking 1:20:00 had been a goal for years. However, for years, I had not been healthy enough to train or compete. I was forced to be patient, far more patient that I thought I could be, waiting for the day that I could arrive at a starting line healthy and fit. A sub-1:20 marked a comeback. And it was about time.