Last Saturday I ran the half marathon course at the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon. This event began in 2008 as a combined half marathon and full marathon. Last year they introduced an additional race, the 5K, which I participated in. It’s called the Monumental because the course takes you around many of the monuments of downtown Indianapolis, including many war memorials.
I signed up for the half marathon at the Monumental back in the late spring, when I was reeling from my disappointing performances at the Carmel half marathon and at the 500 festival Mini (half) marathon. The Monumental is a relatively flat course, so I thought if I was going to give myself a chance to improve my performance, this would be the race.
As I developed my strategy for approaching the Monumental half, I decided to look at the details of my performance at the Hendricks Country half marathon, six weeks ago. In that race, I ran the first mile in almost exactly 9 minutes. Then I ran miles 2 through 8 at a pace ranging from 8:45 to 8:54. Then, on miles 9 through 12 I ran slightly slower, at paces ranging from 8:56 to 8:58. I finished off the race in mile 13 with my slowest split of 9:23. The Hendricks Country race was not a USA Track and Field certified course and my Garmin showed that I had run 13.00 miles when I crossed the finish line, shorter than the 13.15 miles and the 13.26 miles that my Garmin recorded on my two previous half marathons.
I decided that my strategy at Hendricks was a good one, which was try to run each mile at a 8:50 minute per mile pace. But this time, at the Monumental, having six additional weeks of training, I might be able to avoid slowing down towards the end of the race.
The weather cooperated. The morning of November 3rd was about 36 degrees and hardly any wind, only about 5 miles per hour. There was a chance of rain, though, coming on at around 10 o’clock. Since the race started at 8 o’clock, I figured I might be done with the race by the time the rain started.
I started off the race with a faster first mile, finishing it up in 8:49. I then completed mile 2 in 8:48 and mile 3 in 8:42. Keeping a close eye on the pace displays from my Garmin GPS, I decided that my 3rd mile was a little too fast. So, I slowed down to a 8:51 split on mile 4 and a 8:55 split on mile 5, which was distorted a little by my brief stop for a cup of water at one of the water stations. This would be my only stop for water during this race.
I finished up miles 6 and 7 with 8:46 and 8:50 splits. Then the full marathon course continued Northeast while the half marathon course turned west. I was feeling good at this point in the race. However, I knew from my experience in previous races that in a half marathon, one or two bad miles can destroy a whole race, in terms of reaching a personal goal. But I finished miles 8, 9 and 10 with splits of 8:47 each.
Then came the difficult part in the race. I was getting a little tired. But I wanted to finish this race at a faster pace than I started. I wanted a negative split. The problem was that on mile 11, we were headed south on Meridian, the road that divides the city of Indianapolis neatly between East and West, and there was a little bit of a uphill feel to the course at this point. It wasn’t a steep grade. But at this point in the race I was really hoping for a bit of downhill.
I finished mile 11 with an 8:49 split. Now I figured that I was at the point where my negative split strategy had to be executed. I had a little bit of energy left and completed mile 12 in 8:44, not fast, but faster than all of the previous splits except for mile 3. Beginning mile 13 I was confident that I could go a little faster and still not falter at the end. I finished mile 13 in 8:33, but at this point I wasn’t looking at my Garmin. The final split was at a 8:26 minute/mile pace. However, even though I was running faster than I had been at any time during the race, I was passed by several people. It was a little embarrassing. Still, I didn’t have the energy or the confidence to switch into a faster gear.
So, I crossed the finish line, collected my finisher’s medal, space blanket and finisher’s cap. I went to the results table and was given my “receipt, one that looks similar to those you get at grocery stores. It showed that I had finished in 1 hour, 55 minutes and 34 seconds, 5 seconds faster than my finish at the Hendricks Country half marathon. So, despite the Monumental being a longer course, because it was USA Track and Field certified as a half marathon, I still managed to finish the race in less time than at Hendricks.
A PR in terms of overall pace, 8:46 versus 8:55, according to my Garmin GPS, and in terms of the finish time.
Success! And I have almost six months to train for my next half marathon, the 500 festival on May 4th.