For the fourth and final year (for awhile at least), I participated in the Kentucky Derby Festival half marathon. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs at this race over the years, including powering through pouring rain, dodging frat guys with footballs, and battling bronchitis. This year proved to be no different, but ended on the uppest of ups with a new PR of 2:08:49 (9:50 average)!
My training season got off to a slow start with a major work project consuming my life in January and February. I finally hit a groove in March only to start developing plantar fasciitis in my right foot. It was fine during some runs but very painful during others. I set weekly appointments with Carolyn at Myo-Fit Therapy to stay on top of it. She is the real MVP! There’s no way I would have felt as good as I did on race day without her help and expertise.
Because of all that, I had very low expectations. I didn’t set any pace goals but instead wanted to enjoy every inch of the course. I’ve gotten to know this race almost as well as the Monumental and I got a little nostalgic. The city of Louisville has showed up every year, rain or shine, to cheer us on. The churches, senior homes, girls academy, drum band, U of L students…and this year two of my good friends who saw me at mile 6 and 10. All of their support is incredible.
My first mile was slow but that was fine; my heel didn’t hurt and that was all that mattered. I kept getting faster with each mile split though. I was excited to be running better than expected but also worried I would crash and burn later. There was so much race left, especially on this course which doesn’t feel like it really starts until you leave Churchill Downs in mile 8.
At mile 10, my heel was still pain-free (though my right hip was hurting) and my pace continued to pick up. I realized I had a chance to come close to my PR, which was so insane. My competitive side kicked in and I decided to risk it and go all in. I remembering saying to my friends “I’m feeling really good. I have no idea what’s happening right now!”
The last three miles were miserable and the hardest I have ever worked in any race, especially the last mile when I wanted to quit so badly. No one can make you go faster or push harder. It’s all on you. You have to want it. You have to fight for it. You have to shut down all doubt in your mind and just grind.
I crossed the finish line, checked my watch, and immediately broke down crying. Going into the race, I was just trying to get through 13.1 miles and not be slower than my slowest time. I didn’t think a PR was even remotely possible. But I fought for it with every ounce of physical and mental energy I had left. So many emotions came pouring out: Surprise, relief, shock, pain, and immense pride.
This was half marathon #10 for me and I still have a bad habit of saying “I’m a runner, but I know it doesn’t look like it” or “I run, but I know you can’t tell.” Here’s the thing about running though: It doesn’t matter what you look like, what your pace is, or how far you go. If you keep putting one foot in front of the other, you are a runner.