Originally, this post was going to be titled “RACE RECAP: Popular Brooklyn Half 2018” but let’s be real here – this post is less about the race itself (which was so awesome BTW) and more about the interesting things I learned from running a race I didn’t actually train for and still somehow finishing with a 2-minute PR.

I would be remiss if I didn’t start out by saying that the running coach in me doesn’t generally advocate for taking this lack of training approach to races. I’ve got 17 marathons and 6 ultramarathons under my belt so there was never any doubt that I’d get through the race just fine. And it’s not like I was just sitting around on my couch over the past seven months since my two Fall marathons – I’ve been running 1-2 days per week and training like a crazy person for CrossFit competitions since December.

Needless to say, I’m clearly in shape to run a half marathon. I just really wasn’t expecting it to end with a PR – especially considering the terrible conditions we had on race day. So rainy. So cold. And as we ran down Ocean Parkway toward Coney Island, so windy.

As I mentioned, the race itself was totally awesome. This was my second NYRR race (the first was the 2016 NYC Marathon) and the second time I’ve run through Brooklyn and let me just say that the people there rock! It was pouring and so cold and they STILL lined the streets to cheer us on. Oh and did I also mention that it was during the Royal Wedding coverage too. I got so much love for you, Brooklyn.

Also, sending a massive, heart-felt shout out to my girl Tam who invited me to join her, luring me in with the promise of post-race Coney Island dogs (smart gal), and then both housing and feeding me all weekend long. She really is the hostess with the mostess, the bees knees if you will. Tam also nabbed herself a shiny, new PR at this race. In fact, it turns out that all our collective marathon and half marathon PRs were in races we were both in … even if we didn’t know each other at the time. She is most definitely my good luck charm! Seriously, I plan to take her everywhere.

So … I promised lessons. Here they are:

  1. It’s really hard to project finish time and pace without training. Intuitively, as a coach, I know this. I always ask my athletes about their race goals but ultimately, the goal race pace is determined by the training. Each prescribed workout has a target pace and each completed workout gives me a data point from which I can draw conclusions about where the athlete is. To put it another way, specialized race-specific training is practice for the real thing. Without practice, it’s hard to know what you’re actually capable of. So I lined up on race day not really sure of what pace would be reasonable – no practice. In the end, I decided to go with whatever pace by body gave me and luckily that strategy worked flawlessly.
  2. Pull-ups are the best exercise runners aren’t doing. If you’ve seen my Instagram feed over the past 7 months, you know that pull-ups have been something I’m working on a lot … like A LOT a lot. Mostly it was to be able to compete at a higher level in CrossFit competitions. What I didn’t expect is how it would affect my running posture. When every one else was shriveling up and hunching forward in the late stages of the race, my posture (and therefore my breathing) was pristine. I felt every little bit of those hard-earned pull-up muscles keeping upright and running strong for all 13.1 miles.
  3. You can faster, stronger, and fitter as you age. It really all depends on where you started. Of course, if you were an elite athlete in your 20s, there will be a natural decline in your performance with age. However, for the rest of us, especially people who like me didn’t really get into sports/fitness until their 30s (or later), it’s totally possible that your performance can continue to improve as you age. You just have to be smarter about your training. My previous half marathon PR was set in 2013 at the Nike Women’s Half when I was 32 and now at age 37, I crushed that time by 2 minutes with ease. Don’t listen to people who tell you to lower your expectations as you get older – it’s bullshit.
  4. To get better at running, you need to do more than just run. This I actually already knew. I could wax poetic all day (and sometimes I do to anyone who will listen) about how runners should be doing more than just running. We get so wrapped up in logging those miles that we forget that our bodies were meant to do more than just one thing over and over and over. And even though a certain amount of specialization and focus is required to master any movement, the key to running well and doing it with as little down time for injury as possible is to keep your whole body mobile and strong – not just your running muscles.
  5. Running is exhilarating when you remember to love it. It’s really easy for running to become just another line item on your to-do list especially if you do a lot of races and/or a ton of mileage. Every once in a while, take a step back and reconnect to all the reasons why you fell in love with the sport to begin with. Give yourself a chance to run because you genuinely love it not because you feel you have to.
  6. Hot dogs are still the best post-race food ever. Period.

Have you ever PR’d a race that you didn’t train for? How was your experience?

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