New Personal Best 21.1km – 1:18:51!!!
On September 18, I ran my best ever half-marathon time (21.1km), in Ottawa during the annual Army Run. At 1:18:51, I placed 11th out of 6423 people. Broken down even further, that’s a 3:45 per kilometer pace and put me at 11/3256 men and 6/613 in my age group 20-29 (which is the most competitive!). That shattered my last personal best (PB) I set in 2009 in Kingston, ON which was 1:20:48. Shaving off 2 minutes is a pretty big deal, especially at those speeds and especially after I found I got slower after my tour in Afghanistan (1:22:42 21.1k in May 2011).
I feel fortunate that race conditions were ideal (cool with only a slight breeze) and my quick arrival didn’t hamper my performance. I really wasn’t expecting a personal best as I flew in from Vancouver just 15 hours before the starting gun. Unfortunately, the timetable at UBC dentistry doesn’t allow for missed classes and as a result I was forced to leave Vancouver Saturday for the race Sunday, then fly immediately back.
Right from the starting gun (or artillery cannon in this case as a special part of the Army Run), I felt good. The key, as in any race, is to relax and run you’re own race during the first half. What I mean by this is not get caught up in fear of people passing you or the need to pass. The worst thing that you could do is get caught up in the “wave” and start much faster than you wanted to, then quickly burn out before even half the race is done. I played it conservative and let small groups slowly pull away, and eventually found myself pretty much alonefor most of the race. It almost played to my advantage as having a gap between me and my fellow runners meant that the cheers and shouts coming from the spectators (of which there were tons!) were directed solely at me and kept my energy up and motivated. Not only that, a couple times during the course there were switchbacks where I’d run beside the flow of runners behind me running the opposite direction. A number of times some of my friends, who were also running, noticed me and also cheered me on. How cool is that?
At the 10k mark I knew it was going to be a good race. I looked at my watch and it said 37:15. That time was already my best 10k race time ever. And, I’m talking about doing solely a 10k and not a 21.1k race! While excited at the prospect of setting a new PB, I was getting worried that perhaps I did the first half a little too fast. It was at this point that I found myself catching up and passing runners that passed me near the beginning. I chatted for about 10 sec with 2 guys who expressed their concerns about their own fast 10k and quickly moved ahead. I kind of expected them to try to stay with me but they slowly faded away.
Fueled by the cheers from the sidelines, I kept working my way forward. Slowly passing a couple more runners here and there. I was challenged by one guy who did about 3 bursts of speed to pass me, but 30 seconds later I’d always catch right up and pass again without difficulty. Everything was good and my legs felt great. At 15k, where I usually start to have to dig deep, again, I felt in control. At about 17 or 18 km, I passed I guy I knew, Charles, an amazing athlete and winner of the same race back in 2009. He was using it more as a training run but just to catch up to him was special nonetheless.
As I came up to the finish line, I could see the clock ticking at around 1:18. After seeing proof that, indeed, what my watch was telling me was correct, a big smile came across my face. I raised my arms in celebration as I crossed and congratulated my fellow runners who finished close ahead and behind me of a job well done. What a great race!