For my long run this week the NYRR Virtual Trainer recommended finding a race. “Go out and race a half — not only will it be fun, but you’ll get a good idea of what time you can run in the TCS NYC Marathon!” Well I haven’t raced in a little while – and who doesn’t like to have a little fun – so I went in search of a half marathon. I found the Little River Canyon Half Marathon in Ft. Payne Alabama. Ever hear of it? Me neither. But there I was with 150 other eager runners lined up in a stiff autumn breeze bright and early Saturday morning.
They say your long training runs should be as much like race day as possible so you’ll know what to expect. So I practiced my race day fueling strategy and tried to maintain my race day pace. I resisted the urge to track runners down and pass them remembering that I was practicing to run a full marathon, not that day’s half.
As Don Henley’s New York Minute filled my headphones I came down from the canyon rim. On one downhill stretch I was actually able to count the number of runners in front of me so I knew what place I was in. Then running past miles of farmland I saw horses galloping across an open field. I heard cows mooing as they chewed grass by the side of the road. Two old dogs sat by the road near an old farmhouse watching me run by. The next song up was Alabama by Neil Young and it occurred to me – OK so maybe it’s not so much like race day conditions. But definitely more fun than another 13 mile slog around the neighborhood.
My objective was to finish at my marathon goal pace of about 9 minutes and I came in at 8:56 despite the huge hills and stiff headwind, so I feel good about the results, even if it was a very different experience than the NYC Marathon will be.