My Worst Half Marathon Was My Best Half Marathon / by PJ Monson

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My Worst Half Marathon Was My Best Half Marathon

On Sunday, February 23rd I ran the Princess Half Marathon in Walt Disney World. If you’ve read my other guest posts, then you know I’m no stranger to runDisney. In fact, my first half marathon was a runDisney race. That was also my fastest half marathon time, so when I ran the Princess Half, I wanted to improve my time and run it better, faster, stronger. Here’s why I thought that would happen but it actually didn’t.

Happily Ever After

Not long after I finished the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler, I had to start training for the Princess Half. I decided to use the runDisney training program provided by Jeff Galloway. It’s a simple program similar to the ones I had done in the past. It involved two short 30 minute runs during the week and one long run on the weekend. Pretty easy to work into my ever-changing schedule.

The few weeks started out great. I got my runs in and had no problem with them.This was a huge change from the 10-Miler training where I was lucky to get more than one run in per week! These first weeks of training were a big confidence boost.

It wasn’t until the fourth week of training that I missed my first run of the training program. It was the week before Thanksgiving and that weekend I was flying to Florida. I got the first two short runs in with no problem, but didn’t get my long run in on the weekend. At the time I was still finishing my M.S. at NYU and had a Saturday class, then my flight was on Sunday so the weekend got away from me. I forgave myself since training had been going so great and knew next week would be better.

I was right. The following week I got all three runs in including a 5K when I did the Sarasota Turkey Trot. The long run that weekend was a 6.5 mile run and I did surprisingly well on it. I averaged a pace of 10:35 per mile, which was unexpected. Normally runs longer than five miles, I run at an 11 minute pace.

The problems came in December. The first week in December was my final week of graduate school. What happened? I finished my requirements to graduate, but I did not run at all. It didn’t get much better as the month went on.

Because I was lacking training, my times were getting worse. During the tenth week of training my runs were around an 11:30 average pace and it was frustrating. Especially because I had a race the next weekend. I had signed up for NYCRUNS’ Hot Chocolate 10-Miler in Central Park in January because I wanted to use it to check my pacing before going into the half. I was really worried about it because my training had been lacking, but to my surprise it was an amazing race. I thought it was going to be awful because on top of the training problems I didn’t dress warm enough, I forgot my headphones, and I was tired, but I was wrong. It went great. I barely had to stop for walking breaks and I finished it in 1:46:21 coming out to a 10:38 average pace.

Genie

The next weekend I had another race. This one was much shorter, only four miles. Again I hardly had to walk and I ran it at a 10:30 pace. My confidence was hitting the ceiling. I was in such a great mood and was hoping this would carry on to the half.

The weeks after the races weren’t perfect but I continued to run even if they didn’t follow the training program exactly. It didn’t matter because I felt so ready for the half. I ran it with my best friend who I’ve known since middle school (and is an amazing runner). I figured running with her was going to help my pacing and it did. We ran basically the full race. We took two short walking breaks (outside of water stations because I can’t run and drink at the same time).

So how was this my worst half you ask? Well Disney has lots of characters along the path so that meant we had to stop for pictures. After all, who wouldn’t want to meet the Genie or Captain Jack Sparrow while running. All these picture breaks meant we added a lot of time to our official race time. I was were my Nike+ SportWatch and would pause it every time we stopped for pictures. Our time according to my watch was 2:29:28 - three minutes faster than my half marathon PR...but our official race time was 2:49:41. We basically had 20 minutes of character time.

I wasn’t even upset about the time because I knew the pictures factored in and I didn’t have to take breaks while running. I’m sure stopping for pictures helped keep my stamina up for running the race because they were a type of break, but it doesn’t matter because I did something I didn’t think I was capable of yet - running a half marathon.

Despite not finishing a faster race than before, I feel great and I’m so excited to continue training for my next half. That half is actually paired with a 10K race, something run Disney likes to call the Dumbo Double Dare. This means I will be running 19.3 miles over the course of two days. Wish me luck and check out Muffy’s Fitness Blog for updates on my Dumbo Double Dare training.