All athletes hear that at some point in their life they will peak, and then due to age, their times will start decreasing after that. Where that point is for each athlete is different I guess, but I always wondered when mine might come. And while there are still a lot of very fast athletes in their 40s, 50s and even beyond, I suspect those athletes were the ones who ran track when they were younger.
As for me, I never ran track. I never considered myself fast. I still don’t. But do I have what it takes to get fastER at my age, in my early 40s.
When I trained for my first Ironman triathlon, I hit several PRs that year. Just the sheer volume of training helped I believe. That year was the first time I broke the two-hour mark for the half-marathon distance. And that was huge for me. I had worked for years to bring my time down so I could go under two-hours and I had finally done it. So the next year when I ran the same race and came in just OVER two-hours, I was a bit disappointed. I wondered if, now that I was in my 40s, I had finally hit my peak and if I would ever get under two-hours again.
Well, let me just say that with hard work, anything is possible.
This past Sunday I ran the 3M Half Marathon again. That very race where for years I fought to get under two-hours and finally did in 2010. This year was a little different for me though. I started a run group at my church to train them for this very race. I got up on Saturday mornings to lead them through their long runs and then got up on Sunday mornings to do MY long runs. In training I did multiple runs of 12 miles leading up to the race. I did hill repeats and some speed work as well. I had done the work and I knew I would cover the distance in a decent time, but since I was there primarily for my runners, I had no time expectations whatsoever.
Leading up to the race I had told my runners (some of which had never even done a race of any distance before) to be careful and not get caught up in the excitement at the start and go out too fast. That could be detrimental to them in the end and is a classic mistake of new runners. So, imagine my surprise when I hit my split button on my garmin at mile 1 and saw a 9:02. Ok, so it’s not smoking fast, but it was faster than I expected for me. I told myself to slow down and settle in. So then I was really surprised when, at mile 2, I saw an 8:47 on the garmin. Hmmm. Had I really had a great training season and could I really keep up with that pace? I had nothing to lose. I knew even if I blew up I would still finish and could still finish in a respectable time. So I went with it.
The day was a perfect race day. Temps were in the 40s and there was very little wind. If I was going to run fast (for me), today was the day to do it. I just kept running and hitting my splits at every mile. I would kind of glance at them, but didn’t really pay much attention to them least the mind tell the body that it can’t do that. I felt good, and as long as I felt good I was just going to keep going.
I hit the halfway mark still averaging 8:51 miles and in all likelihood, unofficially set a new 10K PR as well (but I won’t count it since it wasn’t official). I got a small cramp at one point from the shot blocks and had to remind myself to drink a little more water with them, but other than that my body was not slowing down. It was a great feeling to know that I had in me what it would take and that I could keep going. There was one slight uphill during the 10th mile that slowed me down a few seconds, but I just kept pushing through.
As I got closer to the finish, I knew I would break the two-hour mark again. But then I also realized something else. Not only was I going to break two-hours, I was going to set a new PR. I was not “past my prime” and with hard work, I CAN still get faster and set some PRs. Which for me is good news, because I have a plan to set a new PR at the Half-Ironman distance in April. Game on.
Race Results and Splits Official Time: 1:55:52 for an 8:51 pace 1600 out of 4613 overall 615 out of 2656 women 110 out of 471 in my division 6 mile time of 53:08 for an 8:51 pace 7.1 mile time of 1:02:44 for an 8:50 pace
Mile 1: 9:02 Mile 2: 8:47 Mile 3: 8:39 Mile 4: 8:57 Mile 5: 8:50 Mile 6: 8:51 Mile 7: 8:47 Mile 8: 8:42 Mile 9: 8:49 Mile 10: 9:04 Mile 11: 8:53 Mile 12: 8:39 Mile 13: 8:51 Last .1: 0:59