Sometimes you accidentally PR a half marathon.
And sometimes you trip and fall and skin your knees and hands at mile 11.5 of a half marathon, and run one of your slowest times in years.
Guess which one was the Georgetown Half Marathon?
Yeah, that was fun.
I did manage to come in third place, though!
Last weekend, I ran Bishop Events’ Georgetown Half Marathon. It was a week after I ran a 1:37:58 at the Halfity Half Marathon in Harrisburg, and I wasn’t planning on beating that time, i.e., running another PR. Which was fine — all races can’t be PRs. And then I saw the forecast — humid, with a high of 91 degrees. On May 23! Yuck! When summer comes to the DMV, it comes in with a vengeance. The older I get, the less I like to run in the heat, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me from coming out and giving my all at the race. It’s been so long since we’ve had a plethora of live races to choose from, and now that they are coming back, it’s taking serious restraint for me not to sign up for alllllll of them.
The race was on the C&O Towpath in D.C., where I have run many times before, including other races with Bishop Events. It benefited Operation Turbo, a local nonprofit that sends care packages to troops overseas. As far as half marathons go, the course is about as simple as you can get — 6.55 miles out, 6.55 miles back! Easy peasy. And it’s flat as a pancake, too. The surface is a little rocky and uneven, though. More on that later.
Things kicked off right at 8 am sharp, which was nice because I live about 45 minutes away so I didn’t have to get up THAT early….. But bad because it was already pretty hot and sticky by then. At least the course is mostly shaded, I told myself. Except that wasn’t entirely true. The first four miles were pretty shady, and then the trail opened up and the sun was beating down on me in full force. So, I guess the middle part of the race was in the blazing sun. Lovely! The race organizers did set up water stops every three miles, which was great. I drank a cup of water at each one (mind you, when I ran the Halfity Half the weekend before, with temperatures in the 50s, I didn’t take a sip of water — didn’t feel like I needed it) and also dumped a cup of water over my head.
My mile splits were in the low- to mid-7s until about mile 9. And then it all went to hell. (Felt like it, too.) I was overheating so badly — luckily, I had opted to run in a sports bra rather than a tank or T-shirt — and I was just over it. I started to take walk breaks — no shame. Another woman on the course, whom I’m pretty sure finished in second place, saw me struggling and tried to encourage me. “Come on girl! You look so strong! You have more than enough in you to finish the race!” she told me. “It’s just so hot,” I whined. “I ran a 1:37 last weekend!” (Because that was vital info to share? Like I needed to prove that I was fast or whatever? LOL.)
Then I ran with two men for a while, and they helped me keep a somewhat steady pace. I’m glad they were there, because they helped pick me up when I took a tumble late!
Like I said earlier, the trail is a bit uneven — nothing terrible, and if I hadn’t been so hot and gassed at that point, I probably would have been paying more attention and may not have tripped over some rocks in the middle of the path. But I was, and I did. Man, that hurt. I reflexively braced myself with my hands, so my palms got all torn up, and then my knees and my right thigh got all scraped up. My shorts were filthy, and blood was running down my left leg. I looked like I was in a tough mudder, not a half marathon. But even though it hurt, I didn’t do any major damage. No fractured knee or anything like that. So, with the help of my running buddies, I picked myself back up and trudged to the finish line. Running hurt, but honestly no more than it did before I fell! (I’ve been running this past week, and even though my left knee feels tender to the touch, it’s not causing me any pain when I run. Yay!)
By the time I got to the end of the race, I wasn’t even looking at my watch anymore. But when I crossed the finish line, I yelled out “thank God!” and stopped my watch and saw I finished in 1:44:36. My official time was actually 1:44:29, so I guess I stopped my watch a few seconds too late. Definitely one of my slowest times in quite a while, but still pretty solid considering the conditions and my fall. After I finished, Travis, owner of Bishop Events, handed me a plaque and congratulated me for coming in third female. The first place female finished in the high 1:20s, and the second place female, whom I think was the lady that encouraged me on the course, ran a 1:39 and change.
All in all, I am really proud of that race. Maybe as proud as I was of my PR the weekend before. It’s one thing to run an incredible race when all the conditions are perfect — flat course, cool weather, you feel good, etc. That was the case in the Halfity Half Marathon. But it takes a lot more grit to gut it out when the weather sucks and especially after a hard fall. I’m not going to lie — I felt like a total badass crossing the finish line all bloody.
Have you ever fallen in a race? If so, were you able to finish?