August 12, 2020

Race Recap: First Half 2020

A road half marathon? I haven’t run a road half since the RnR San Francisco (2:42:47) and BMO Half Marathon (2:29:18) in 2018, almost 2 years ago. I took a breather from the distance in 2019, since I wanted to focus on another race. When the First Half half marathon registration came around, I hesitated to sign up. I’ve had some bad luck with this race. I ran it once (2:18:46) and it was ok… but could be better. The following year, it was cancelled due to snow. The next year, I got injured. The year after that, I just chose to cheer (and nearly became an ice sculpture). After some thought (and the fear of FOMO) I thought that 2020 was the year to try it again. I bit the bullet and clicked on register.

Runner warming up before the First Half Half Marathon, Vancouver
Warming up before the race – photo by Carmen Marin

Oops I got sick (twice)

Race day was in early February which meant I needed to have a solid training block in January. I even had a quick trip to New York scheduled and brought my running stuff to keep up the mileage. Unfortunately, I had some health issues: food poisoning followed by a nasty cold. It took me out for 2 weeks. I only ran 20 km total when I should’ve been tallying about 60 km for the 2 weeks. The following week, I managed to lace up and even got a good 18 km run in… my only long run of this training cycle. It was a good indication that I could still do this distance on the road because I actually enjoyed myself. Coming up to race day, I decided to try something new and practiced yoga, instead of doing a shakeout run. It seemed to be a really smart decision.

Running gear laid out for First Half Half Marathon, Vancouver
Ready to race with my necessities: Nuun, Suunto, Aftershokz, Endurance Tap

Unstoppable

As usual, I was nervous on race morning. Nervous because I felt undertrained and worried about injuring myself before the real training starts up again. The negative thoughts were weighing me down. I had to shake myself off and just promised myself to play it by ear. I needed to make do with the training I had. Apparently, I had more gas in the tank than I thought.

#RealTalk I’ve been running for 5 years now and my endurance is just crap. So crappy that I’ve only run a half marathon without stopping once, back in 2015. I also still haven’t bested that half marathon. All I wanted to do on the First Half is to run a consistent pace without stopping, given what fitness I already had and the little training I mustered up.

Runners at the First Half Half Marathon, Vancouver
This is me going too fast at the start – photo by Carmen Marin

I started out fast (typical), but after 4 km I smartened up and slowed down to a pace I was more comfortable in. I enjoyed the beautiful view of Burrard Inlet and tried to distract myself by people watching. I had home field advantage, having run the seawall countless times so I knew what was coming. That allowed me to strategize in my head to run up to this point, then to this point, and so on. Before I knew it, I was 18 km in and on the home stretch.

Runner on the Vancouver seawall at the First Half Half Marathon
Finally running back from Lost Lagoon

“If you walk this hill…”

The race is such a tease. It’s perfectly flat until the end. The last couple kilometres of a race is NOT the place for 2 hills. They’re not that bad, in hindsight, but when you’ve been working hard for the last 2 hours, they become little mountains.

I saw Amy on the seawall! It’s always fun to see friends along the race course.

Before I hit those said hills, I ran into my friend Amy who was also running along the seawall. It’s so nice to see a familiar face and her words of encouragement gave me the strength to keep going. Thank you Amy! And thank you to the photographer who caught us on camera.

The home stretch – photo by Carmen Marin

When I approached the hills, I was determined to run them. I figured I was so close, I might as well go for it. I saw Cuski underneath the Granville Street Bridge. His support set a fire in my footsteps and I pushed it for the last kilometre of the race. I don’t know where that last bit of energy came from but it was nice to finish stronger than I anticipated. I ended up with a time of 2:18:20, beating the last time I did this race by 26 seconds. Pretty happy about that despite not having trained enough!

Final thoughts about the First Half

Like I mentioned earlier, it’s been years since I last participated in the First Half half marathon. This was my first First Half race under the direction of RUN VAN. They are in charge of other major races in Vancouver, including the BMO Vancouver Marathon. Knowing this, I knew the event would be well-thought out and organized like all their events. The medals are beautiful, I’m super proud to display it. What’s neat this year is that they had photographers scattered throughout the course and you can search for and buy individual photos for $2 a piece. This is already an amazing price but also, proceeds from photo sales benefit children with special needs via Variety the Children’s Charity. Well played, RUN VAN.

I consider the First Half the first major race of the year. It was a stacked elite field and the male course record was even broken! I’m so happy to have been able to race this, stay healthy, and proved to myself that a lot of my issues are mental rather than physical. I just need to believe in myself and run smart. I definitely recommend you putting this extremely scenic race on your “To Run” list, just be ok with having to train during the winter time 😛

Suunto Spartan Sport and First Half Half Marathon medal
Race bling and my awesome Suunto watch

Did you run the First Half? How did your race go? Tell me in the comments below.

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