Because my goal this year is to get FASTER + PR in the 5K, I decided to skip out on the GO! St. Louis Half Marathon this year and opted for the 7K distance. I’ll be honest though – after my race last month, I am definitely NOT a fan of any race over 3 miles! The St. Patrick’s Day race knocked the wind out of my sails pretty good, and I was really struggling with my training. So, I was super nervous to be racing another 7K.
Luckily, I made a great decision in hiring a running coach that I work with the 2 weeks leading up until race day. While I hadn’t planned to really do much training the 2 weeks leading up to the race, I could almost tell immediately that I had made a great decision and quickly noticed a difference in my training. Not only that, but it was SO nice to be able to strategize with someone leading up to race day about what was going to be the best for me to keep me fresh and ready to race on Sunday. Typically, I would not have strayed from my own training plan, out of fear that I would lose out on some beneficial training, but after chatting with her about race strategy leading up to race day, we decided an easy run was the best choice – and I immediately could tell the difference in my performance just from that one simple change.
My goal for the race was to run a sub-28:30, which was my goal for last month’s 7K that I missed by 10 seconds. I just wanted to feel like I had a good race. That I actually WAS capable of a high performance in something other than a 5K – and to do well against some other very competitive athletes. I was sure I could do it, but my nerves still were leaving me some doubt.
My mother-in-law picked me up at 5:15 on Sunday morning. I had a great, refreshing night’s sleep, but my tummy was not feeling great, which is pretty usual for me on race day. She had VIP parking and access on race day, but since she was running the half, she let me take her VIP access so I could grab my phone and jacket out of my bag after my race so I could get my long run in. I think I was most excited about getting access to VIP potties, especially after seeing the ridiculous lines for the non-VIP porta potties. But, it turns out, they didn’t stock the VIP porta potties with toilet paper! And like I said, my tummy was NOT right that morning due to nerves, so let’s just say I had to throw out some old clothes that day… (My mom thinks this story is hilarious – which I did too, no worries. If I was embarrassed, I definitely wouldn’t be sharing it!)
After that “fun” potty visit + checking my “unused” clothing, I headed down to the start line to start my warm-up. They changed that starting line this year to start at Laclede’s Landing, just north of the Arch + right on the riverfront. It’s one of my favorite places in the city, and where I had my bachelorette party 10 years ago. However, it didn’t make much room for getting a good warm-up in before the race. I ran out a little bit before having to turn around and run some circles in an empty parking lot next to the starting line. I wanted to make sure I was closer to the front of my corral (A – YAY!), so I was in there with a good 25-30 minutes to spare. I didn’t have much room to get my dynamic warm-up in, but I tried to make good use of the limited space I had to do some skips + stretching.
I was constantly checking around me to see who was running which race and what sort of competition I had. I checked the results from last year’s race ahead of time and felt pretty good when I saw that the top female last year had run a 33-minute 7K. SWEET! I could definitely win this thing! But, I quickly saw some people I knew would be competitive, so I tried to get my mind back on my time goal instead of winning. I wanted to race well and PR for the 7K, and not focus so much on my finishing place.
The first mile of the race was BY FAR the hardest mile, and it was pretty obvious by my split. Less than a quarter-mile into the race, there is a short but STEEP uphill. And with a large crowd of people with you at the start, it definitely made that hill even harder. My legs were burning when I got to the top and I was starting to lose some confidence. I had 2 girls in front of me that I knew I wanted to stay close to, so I tried to not think about my burning legs and focus on staying with them.
I was really struggling that first mile until I heard, “Go Concrete Runner!” from the spectators. I had to look back, but saw one of my local running buddies, Sarah, cheering from the sidelines. I don’t know why but that was exactly what I needed to get the energy I needed for the race. I started focusing on the girls in front of me and making progress toward them with every step.
By mile 2, I had passed one girl and made it a goal to keep her behind me and make it to the next girl in front of me by mile 3. I was continuing to make progress with each step and felt really strong. There were several long uphills, thanks to the several bridges we crossed, but I made sure that I was focused on getting up those bridges strong and not focusing on the hurt or slowing down. Slowly but surely, I was getting closer and closer to the next girl in front of me, and I decided that last mile, I would just stay a few steps behind her and make my move on the downhill last quarter mile to the finish. I knew I had plenty of kick left in me to stay close and pass her at the end.
At mile 3, I was sitting in 3rd place – the girl right in front of me, and another one in pink I knew I wouldn’t be able to catch. We had one last hill to climb and then I knew the rest would be completely downhill. At mile 4, we hit the top of the last bridge and I decided to wait until the bottom of the bridge to kick it in and pass the girl in front of me.
Except, the course was short! I got to the bottom of the bridge and saw our friend Bob yelling, “Kick it in, Kristen! The finish line is right there!” Sure enough, we turned a corner and the finish line was 50-meters away. I kicked it in as much as I could, but had to watch the girl 5-seconds in front of me run through the first place finish line tape.
But, wait… what happened to the girl in pink, you ask? I was doing the same thing. As I watched the girl in front of me run through the tape, I started thinking that maybe I had read her bib wrong, or that she decided to run the half instead of just finishing the 7K. Turns out, she was directed wrong and ended up going almost an extra mile before turning around and making it back to the start. Unfortunately, she wasn’t the only one this happened to, completely throwing off several people’s times. Not only that, but the actual course distance – the one that I ran – was almost 0.20 miles short! So, while I “PR’d”, it wasn’t a true PR because the distance wasn’t correct. (Of course, I looked up my pace for a true 7K and I would’ve SMASHED my goal from last month…)
Time = 27:00
Average Pace = 6:29/mile
2nd (3rd) Overall Female
1st in Age Group (30-34)
After finishing, I got to meet up with a few friends after the race, and then headed back out onto the course to get a long run in according to Coach Jasmin’s orders. It actually worked out perfectly because I was really missing be able to run the course and I had several of my runners + running buddies out on the course that I was hoping to catch up with. I was able to run with my mother-in-law for about a mile, before cutting through just before the Anheuser-Busch Brewery in hopes to catch up to my friend Stefanie who was running her first half. As the miles kept ticking by (why do they go by SO much faster in a non-competitive race than a training run or race?!), I wasn’t getting any closer to catching her and KNEW I needed to start heading to the finish line if I wanted to see ANY of my friends finish.
By the time I got to the finish line, I had racked up another 6.4 miles, not counting the mile or 2 I had walked as well. Plus, a 4.16 mile race and a 1 mile warm-up, I FELT like I had run a half marathon too! But, I was super happy to get to spend some time at the finish line, which was also new this year. It doesn’t get much better than finish right under the arch!