I can’t believe that the Publix Savannah Women’s Half Marathon was almost three weeks ago!

Publix Savannah Half Marathon

Both my mom and I enjoyed the inaugural race so much that we’ve decided to do it again next year and sign up for a few more half marathons between now and then. The entire race weekend was one of the best I’ve experienced. The expo was fun, the course was gorgeous, the race provided plenty of bathrooms and fuel for participants, and the finishing area included mimosas, music, and relaxation. Not to mention the gorgeous medals and the New Balance swag. I can’t recommend this race enough for women of all abilities.

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The purpose of today’s post isn’t to continue gushing about this race, as you all know by now that I loved it. Instead, I’m going to share race day my experience as well as a few valuable lessons learned along the way.

Going into the race, my coach, Jess, warned me that she wasn’t sure I was in PR shape. She recommended that we use the Publix Savannah Half Marathon as a diagnostic race to see where I stood. She recommended I follow a conservative, progressive pace plan, starting slow and improving my pace as my legs and body allow.

Deep down, I felt like I should be able to achieve more than that. Over the past five years, my half marathon time has gone from a 2:29 to a 2:00. Why shouldn’t I expect to achieve another PR after eight weeks of training?

I decided that against my coaches best wishes, I would seek out the 2:00 pace group and use the group’s energy to lead me across the finish line in under two hours. In my head, the plan was brilliant. I would surprise my coach by exceeding her expectations.

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Or, I’d prove that there is a very good reason I pay Jess to be my coach. Coaches often know best. They know when corners are being cut in order to make room for weekend ski trips. They know when the paces are slower than prescribed because legs are tired from three days of skiing. They know when a 10 mile long run suddenly becomes 9, because squeezing long runs in before work often means they are compromised.

The purpose of this half marathon, as it turned out, was to teach me two valuable lessons.

  • The longer I run, the harder it becomes to make significant progress. In order to reach those “big, hairy audacious goals” I will have to prioritize running.
  • Each race, regardless the distance, can still be enjoyable even if it doesn’t include a PR.

I was smiling, ear to ear, during each of the 18 miles I completed on March 28th. The miles with my mom were the most memorable, as this is a moment that I never imagined we’d share together.

The other 13.1 miles when a little something like this:

Mile 1-3: I am ecstatic to be running through downtown Savannah. The roads are peaceful, and the only sound is that of a few sole spectators and our pace groups footsteps, pounding the pavement. I wave to Bo and my dad as we pass the first mile marker, then wave to Caitlin as I see she and other 5k runners sprint past.

Mile 3-5: Our two pacers do a great job keeping the group’s energy up by asking each woman what our goal for the day is and what brought us to Savannah. Running with them is like running with a celebrity as so many spectators recognize them, waving and screaming.  It turns out both of these women lead many local running and training events through Fleet Feet Savannah.

Mile 6 – 7 – We cross the 10k mark at a sub nine minute pace and almost immediately my body begins yelling. My quads and legs become heavy, and I find myself dropping back from the group. I grab my Salted Caramel Gu, hoping that it will give my legs the energy they are craving.

Mile 8 – I spend this entire mile a few feet behind the pace group, doing my best to stay within earshot. I figure that I can give my legs and body this mile to recover before picking the pace up again. I curse myself, realizing that Jess’ initial assessment was correct. I was in half marathon shape, but not PR shape. My legs weren’t able to sustain the sub 9 pace. The miles through Daffin Park, one of our large Savannah parks, go on forever as we loop in and out of the park’s shaded path. I quickly change my mindset and focus on all the positive things. I’m in my hometown, running a half marathon, am blessed to have family members cheering and am going to walk with my mom as soon as I finish. This race and day are about so much more than my pace.

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Mile 9 – As I cross the mile marker and lose the pace group, I start to focus on choosing a new goal for the remaining miles. I decide that my sole goal is to continue moving. Historically, I stop to walk when the going gets tough. While a walk-run method works for many, it hasn’t worked for me historically. I turn my focus to the gorgeous Live Oak tree lined streets, bright row homes, and wonderful spectators. I give high fives to local school children as I run past.

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Mile 10 – It’s 70 degrees and I’m overdressed. I wish my bib wasn’t pinned to my long sleeve top. Just as I start to fumble with the pins, I hear cheering and someone screaming my name. I quickly give Bo and my dad sweaty hugs and throw them my long sleeve top. I ask them how mom is doing, and they tell me to hurry and finish. It turns out she is walking alone and needs company.

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Mile 11-13 – These are my favorite miles of the race, even though the course makes multiple turns as we run through Savannah’s squares and historic cobblestone streets. Focused on finishing strong, I put on my headphones and listen to music as I take in the sights.

Mile 13 – I hear the cheers of the finish line and enter the finisher’s shoot towards the picturesque Forsyth Fountain.  I cross the finish line in 2:04, very proud of myself for running a mentally strong race. 

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Do I wish that I could have run a PR race in my hometown? Sure. But, would I give up the amazing ski weekends to do that? Nope, not a chance. I’ll take the lessons learned instead.

The longer I run, the harder it becomes to make significant progress. In order to reach those “big, hairy audacious goals” I will have to prioritize running.

Each race, regardless the distance, can still be enjoyable even if it doesn’t include a PR.

Thank you to the Savannah Sports Council, Publix, New Balance and Fleet Feet Savannah for hosting an incredible race and allowing me to serve as an ambassador! While I was compensated for my travel to Savannah and race bib, the opinions are all my own.

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