Editor’s (aka Matt’s) note: I asked Ruth to write a race report for the recent Syracuse Half Marathon because I felt that this race was the culmination of all her hard work recently, and perfectly reflected how she has been able to improve and smash her goals. Please take all her kind remarks about me with a grain of salt, as she is obviously still on a PR high. Now, on to her report!
I’ve been a runner for years, but never really put much thought in how to prepare – left, right, left, right,… the more mileage the better, right? Well, this approach only resulted in me hating running. I lost the joy and peacefulness of a long run and I would tie my shoes begrudgingly because I had to, I am a runner after all. ‘Runner’ is part of my identity, I couldn’t simply drop it.
People come into your life for a reason – Martha Doody is one of the those people. I needed to find my joy in running again when I met Martha – I had the opportunity to join a team for the Seneca 7 with 6 perfect (and I do mean perfect) strangers. Little did I know, one of those strangers would be Martha. Her positive attitude was infectious and I started to like to run again. She started talking about her coach – this dude that told her to slow down, stretch, run hills and do track work. I thought that was nuts, but eventually asked for his name. GAME CHANGER! I met Matt Roberts, another person who enters your life for a reason, and after a lot of stubbornness, excuses and push back on these crazy training ideas he had, I gave in and I started to see my times improve and I just felt better during around and after a run. In an early conversation, Matt asked me what kind of coach I needed. I told him about the best rugby coach I ever had who said “you suck, but you don’t suck as much as I thought you would.” That was a proud moment and a huge compliment. Matt’s approach has been similar – he knows when to push and what limits to push and when to be the kind, caring person we often need. I couldn’t write this race report without Martha and Matt entering my life at the right time.
So on to my Syracuse half-marathon race day report.
Negotiations with Matt began about a week before the race. He asked me to set three goals for the race and shared his goals for me. After a lot of back and forth, and I am certain some swearing on both ends, we finally settled on a goal of – “just finish the damn race”. And Matt’s perfectly timed motivational speech of “It’s gonna hurt anyhow you might as well get it over with faster. “
Next comes the much-needed fashion debate I use to distract myself from actually thinking about the race. Do I wear tights or shorts? Do I wear a tank or long sleeve? Gloves? AUGH!
On to race day – I had my ritualistic dinner (pasta with pesto and chicken sausage) and the same pre-run breakfast of fake peanut butter, a banana and coffee. Since my college rugby days, I have listened to Patsy Cline and either Rage Against the Machine or AC-DC before a game. I find that this ritual still works for running – Patsy calms me and reminds me of my dad, who first instilled a love of sport in me. The other music is really just to annoy whoever I am riding with☺
Once we arrived in Syracuse and found our princess parking spot, my friend and I head to the starting line. We realized a little too late that we were about six people deep into the 11 minute milers. Oh well, miles 1 & 2 were all about boosting the ego as I zigzagged deftly through folks who started where they should. A little after mile 3, I ran into a grad school buddy who I chatted with for a couple miles. We met on the same hill last year, so it has become a tradition. He is one of my favorite people, so it made these hills fly by. After we caught up on life changes since last year, we went our separate ways (I have 4 kids so that takes a while). This year I left him!
Around mile 5, I saw a familiar RKR jersey – Val! We shared a few encouraging words and I kept trudging up the hill. At mile 7, I ran into a running friend who seemed to be towing the struggle bus. We talked a couple minutes and she told me to go, that we are at the last hill (lies people tell you), and she would see me at the end.
The last 6 miles were a lot lonelier, but it was only six miles. I started focusing on my form, taking in the sights, and my favorite running hobby of making up stories about the other runners. I was still on the lookout for more familiar faces and RKR jerseys, instead I spotted a woman with a sparkly headband and told myself – ‘for the love of all things good and holy, you cannot be beat by someone in a sparkly headband’. This challenge lasted another mile or so, but I did pass the headband.
Mile 10 is my arch nemisis. I’ve died at this point on my last 2 half-marathons; my mindset Sunday was just don’t tank until mile 11. It helped that people kept cheering for Batman – “you’ve got this, Batman.” I had no idea why they were calling me Batman but I didn’t want to disappoint my fans so I kept going. It wasn’t until mile 12 that I looked back to see the one and only Batman on my heels. Oops!
The finish was rough. I felt like Batman needed to rescue me but finish I did. My three-tiered goal that Matt told me to set was 1) under 1:58 (that was my time last year), 2) between 1:58 and 1:55 and 3) 1:52. I ran 1:50:38!!! I am completely happy with this time – it has been a year of focusing on me and my health culminating in this race but looking forward to the next challenges!