This past weekend I tackled my first Prairie Fire Half Marathon. I was excited to take on the 13.1 challenge ever since they re-named the event and changed the course five years ago. I had taken on the race when it was formerly known as the Wichita Marathon and Marathon Relay - back when you either buddied up with a partner and each ran 13.1 miles or took on the full entirely. It was an awful course those days, starting at Derby and weaving through McConnell Air Force Base (where no public was allowed for about 4-6 miles) and then ending in Old Town. Jack and I both ran it as a relay a few times and as our first (his last) full marathon in 2007.
Let's just say it's MUCH better now that it's Prairie Fire Half and Full Marathon Series! It's grown tremendously, with just under 2,000 runners taking on the half marathon and more than 650 runners finishing the full marathon on Sunday. There's also a 5K and kids fun run mile, which may be fun for the kidlets to take on in the future.
Yesterday's conditions were perfect for running! It was cool - 48 degrees - at the start line, ideal for when you're running. I finally broke out the arm sleeves that hubs bought me a few years ago for Christmas, perfect for layering and stripping off as the sun and heat came out the second part of the course. And speaking of the course, MUCH better than the old-school days. We started and ended at the Wichita Boathouse, weaving in and out of Douglas and quaint areas of Wichita, as well as some neighborhoods and attractions near the Boathouse.
I always go in to race weekend with a few different goals. I've mentioned this before, but it helps remind me that my running and racing is not defined by a number on a clock. For this race, my three goals were: 1. PR (side note: I thought my PR this past New Year's Day half-marathon was 1:51, but indeed it was 1:52 - wish I would have double-checked that before race morning!); 2. The goal I was really aiming for and thought was most realistic due to how I was feeling and training - shoot between 1:53-1:56 finish time; 3. Finish strong and run happy regardless of the outcome!
I took off feeling strong after the crowd of runners finally broke around Mile 2. I didn't really start checking my watch until about Miles 3-4 and was averaging between 8:25-8:40 min/miles. The half-way point was strong, but even more delightful, I cruised averaging about 8:05-8:20 min/mile during Miles 7-9, when most of it was downhill or pretty flat. (side note: I was pretty giddy to keep on going at the half/full split, cheering on the full marathoners and knowing that I'd be done and home by the time a lot of them would be finishing!).
About one hour into running, I took advantage of every water station the rest of the way, stopping and walking through them to gulp down Gatorade and water. This game planned worked well and mirrored my training of putting some walking increments into my long runs after the first 60 minutes of running.
I managed to run pretty even keel throughout the race - a slight negative split, but so minimal I wouldn't even count it as official negative splits. At one point I thought I could pull out a 1:51 (shoot, I probably could have done a 1:52 had I known that was my PR while racing and sucked it up to finish!), but I finished strong with a 1:53:54. I was pleased with this, especially after a disappointing finish (and sloppy wet mess!) at the tough and hilly Hospital Hill in June.
Overall, a great time, great atmosphere, and always a treat to run into fellow running friends, mamas, and race coordinators - and fellow runners and friends I've made while race coordinating - along the way!
I'm taking it easy this week and slowly going to work in some more speed as I prep for a great local race, Love Life Run 10K, in about a month. I love supporting this local race, its ministry/cause, and the lovely fellow running mama friend who puts it on. I'm also looking ahead to 2015 and trying to figure out some running and race goals for the year. At one point I was thinking the full marathon might make a re-appearance next year for #4, but it was very very very short-lived. I don't know, I'm just not there yet and pretty content doing the half-marathons with 10Ks and 5Ks to push my speed work. We shall see in a few weeks!