This past weekend, Lakeland hosted the first half marathon to take place in Polk County.
As a resident of Lakeland, it was awesome to be able to run a half marathon in town. But to be able to do so while supporting a local organization that provides a great service to our community made the race even more special.
When rumors started to swirl last spring about a half marathon being run in Lakeland, course layout possibilities were flying all over the place.
The problem that most people seemed to agree upon was finding an enjoyable 13.1 mile course that wouldn’t create too many problems with closing some of the major roads in town. The organizers settled on a course that ran through some of downtown and the neighborhoods south of Lake Hollingsworth.
I’d say they chose well.
The course, in my opinion, was very fair. There were 4 or 5 legitimate (for central Florida) climbs that tested your strength and your mental toughness. Though it was labeled by many as a tough and hilly course, there were lots of people that PR’d in the race. So to me, if you did the training you were rewarded. If you didn’t train, you struggled. If that’s not a fair course, I don’t know what is.
How I Did
In short, I ran this race exactly how I hoped I would.
Since this was the first race of my double, I knew I couldn’t go all out to keep up with my fellow pack runners. Instead, I had to focus on running my race and giving myself a chance for two half marathon PRs in one day, which was the goal.
Coming into the Red Ribbon Half, my current PR was 1:53:18. If I could average an 8:37 mile for the entire race, I’d be able to just undercut my PR without wearing myself out during this first race.
I targeted an 8:35 overall pace, so I’d have a little wiggle room if needed.
When the gun went off, I tried to just settle in and enjoy the beginning of the race. I really didn’t do any type of warm up before the race, so that’s all I was using the first mile for. I glanced at my watch a couple of times, but really wasn’t worried about my speed. I was getting passed by a good number of runners during that first mile, but I just tried to stay relaxed and concentrated on settling into a rhythm.
After the first mile, I picked the pace up a little bit and tried to stay around 8:40 or so. My plan for the race was to not worry too much about my overall pace until I made the turn onto Hallam. Instead, I’d keep an eye on my current pace, which I knew would bounce around between 8:15 and 8:45. At Hallam (about 4.5 mile mark) I was planning on checking my average pace on my Garmin and adjusting the pace as needed.
I made the turn onto Hallam with an overall average pace of 8:43, which was about what I was shooting for, really. With a little less than 9 miles to go, I knew I had plenty of time to make up for the controlled start of the race, but if I waited until I only had a few miles left it would tough to make up the required time.
It was go time.
From this point on, I didn’t get passed by another runner for the rest of the race, except for when I stopped at water stations. I just dug in, trusted in my training, and kept chugging along. By the time I got to mile 9, I was back down to an 8:35 pace which put me right where I wanted to be. As long as I could maintain it for the last 4 miles, which included two legitimate (for Lakeland) hills, I’d secure my first PR of the day.
With a mile to go, I knew I was good. I still had one hill to climb, but I stopped to get a drink of water at the last water station. After finishing my water, I started up the hill and passed more than a few fellow runners that were starting to fade. From the top of the hill, there was about 1/4 of a mile left, that was all slightly downhill. I dialed back my pace, as I knew I was able to, and coasted to the finish line.
1:52:58 on the clock. PR, no question.
Chip time ended up being 1:52:52. I’ll take it. Average pace, 8:33.
Race one of the day-completed in a new PR, albeit only slightly.
But that was by design.
If I had any hope of keeping my half marathon PR streak alive, I knew I needed to take this first race a little bit easy and hope I’d have something left for the night race at Disney.
Before I get ahead of myself though, I want to give a shout out to my beautiful wife for running her first half ever. She took a little longer than she had hoped, but she toughed it out like a champ and finished strong.
She’s a baller. Love you, babe!