BAA Half-Marathon: Round II and my “Casual Sunday Morning” Run

by angierunsboston

First, thanks to all of my heroes of the day! Over the long weekend, I ran the Boston Athletic Association’s annual half-marathon. This is the second time I’ve run this race, having run it for the first time last year; if you just add up my two years of half-marathons, it’s kind of like running a full marathon…right?

Yeah, I don’t think it works like that either.

Typically, on Sunday mornings, I run as a part of the “Harvard on the Move” group, where avid runners and beginning joggers get-together at 10 AM and figure out what kind of a pace and route they’d like to run – and if anyone else wants to run the same route with them. I consider this my “casual Sunday morning run” because it’s one of the most consistent parts of my life, and I know that – rain or shine – I’ll most likely be doing my usual 5-mile jog from Harvard to MIT and back on Sunday morning.

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My normal “casual Sunday run” involves a 10 AM with Harvard on the Move runners who are shown here stretching on the steps where we meet every week.

But today, with it being the BAA half-marathon and all, I had a bit of a different “casual Sunday morning run,” one that involved 13.1 miles, a run through the zoo at the twelfth mile, and a 5:55 AM wake-up. Compared to last year, however, everything about this year was pretty casual.

Last year, there was a freak anomaly of a temperature spike on the day of the half, and it ended up being around 84 degrees that day, which for an October day in Boston is bizarre to say the least. That was the first half-marathon I had ever run, and adding to my nervousness was all the warnings and heat advisories I was receiving from race officials. My own decisions didn’t make the race any easier for me. For example, I chose to break in new running shoes for the first time during the half-marathon that day. Not one of my brightest ideas, as my semi-permanent blisters on both feet can attest to. (Sometimes, I do things that are pretty stupid in hindsight). In any case, finishing my first half-marathon despite the sweltering heat and blistering feet truly made me feel like I could climb Everest that day. I kept a solid 9:30 pace the entire time and didn’t think much of the heat until much later, when I witnessed the hordes of people fainting and vomiting in the medical tent. Intense, right?

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Before the start of the 2011 BAA half-marathon race, we mentally prepared ourselves by getting into our “fierce mode” on what turned out to be a challenging 84 degree day.

This year, there was an almost 40 degree difference in temperature, with a thermometer reading (digital, and from my iPhone, of course) of 46 degrees when I woke up. I had broken in my shoes for about a week and a half before the half-marathon this time around, which in my book could be considered progress. And lastly, because I had been in physical therapy and taken 6 weeks off of running this summer, I was going to just casually jog the race beginning to end without having trained for it. I don’t listen to music when I run, so it was just me and my thoughts for the entire 13.1 miles. At every mile throughout the race, I told myself I had three miles to go. Why three miles? Three miles is one of the most perfect distances to run, in my opinion. It’s about the distance of a 5K race, which attracts the broadest spectrum of runners and is usually the most fun in terms of the free food and drinks afterwards. It’s about the distance of two loops around my favorite place to run (Hudson Spring Parks in my hometown of Hudson, Ohio). And it’s also about the distance of the perfect half an hour of cardio that I find myself making time for in a busy life.

It wasn’t until I made it to the stadium, signifying the last .1 miles of the race, did I let myself think I was almost finished with the race. I finished at my usual 5K pace  (aka, my “three miles to go” pace), which is around an 8:45 minute mile, and I got my medal and granola and Gatorade and returned back to campus for work, Oktoberfest, and a nice home-cooked meal with friends. Much more casual than last year, right?

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This year’s half-marathon was much more casual…

Despite the intensity of last year’s half-marathon and the relaxed nature of this year’s race, the fun spirit of thousands of runners coming together was always present. About one mile into the race, I heard a woman remark jokingly to her friend as they both ran behind a stampede of still-chilly runners, “well, there’s my community of runners!” Her tone was joking, no doubt, but her sentiment sincere, and that sentiment is one of the reasons why I decided to run the Boston Marathon in April. Here’s to hoping I can keep it up for 26.2 miles!

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