I used to be excited to write about my running, now I force out a few paragraphs a couple of weeks after the fact. Maybe it means this blog has run its course? Hmm, something to consider. But for now, the little-awaited Houston Half-Marathon 2023 race report!
TLDR; I exceeded my expectations, finishing in 1:32:54. I also strained my hamstring again around mile 10, but was still able to finish with a bit of a kick. Despite the setback, I thoroughly enjoyed the race and the experience.
I signed up for the race way back in May of 2022. I spend a lot of time in Houston due to family, I had a place to stay, I had run the marathon ten-years prior so was familiar with the event, and it was a fast course. I had just finished on the podium in a 15K and was feeling strong and optimistic. I hadn’t run 13 miles in more than a decade, but why not sign up for a half-marathon?!
Alas, 2022 was a year of injury for me, and less than a month later I had strained my hamstring. I barely ran at all in June and July, a little in August, and by the Fall I was staring at the half-marathon a few months away with little training. At that point I enlisted the help of an online running coach. I had tried a coach once before in 2021, and it didn’t go so well, but it helped me to know what I wanted in a coach, namely, communication, flexibility, and communication.
Before he put together a plan, he asked me my goals, and I said I thought I was in 1:40 shape for the half-marathon. If training went well, maybe I could shoot for 1:35. But mostly I wanted to stay healthy. He thought that was perfectly achievable and he put together a 10-week plan.
The plan was fine. A lot of threshold running, some tempo, and a fair bit of “cruise pace” runs. Not as much easy running as I expected, but given my short time frame and low mileage, I think he wanted to maximize what little opportunity we had. I’m not sure, but I think I averaged around 25-30 miles per week. There were a couple of down weeks where I was injured (knee, calf, whatever), so when it came time to race, I was unsure of a realistic goal. When I did run, I was getting a lot fitter and faster, but the last few weeks I could only run every other day or so, and couldn’t do any long runs for fear of injury. But my threshold was steadily getting faster and I was running a lot of my miles in the 7:15 per mile range, and feeling strong (relatively). So I decided to race with the 3:10 marathon (7:15 pace) group, and hope I had the endurance and strength to not crater and not get injured.
The start was narrower and more crowded than I thought. I started about 20 feet back from the 3:10 pacer, and almost immediately they were 100 feet in front of me and moving away. I scrambled over curbs and through groups to re-attach. I was in the A group, but somehow still passed some walkers and B-groupers. I planned on marking miles manually on my watch, but I never saw the first mile marker. I had hoped to just sit in behind the pacer, but so did everyone else apparently, and I felt like I was spending a lot of energy trying to navigate the large pace group. A few times I was able to cruise, but mostly it was a lot of jockeying and jostling for position.
At any rate, the first few miles went by uneventfully. The pacer was doing an excellent job of running even splits, but not too fast, and we were 20 or 30 seconds ahead of pace, and I was feeling good. I tried to get water around mile six and failed miserably. Oh well.
Around mile eight, the marathon course (and the pacer) veered off and the half-marathon course thinned out considerably. The sun was peeking out and I felt sorry for the marathoners. But I was feeling strong so I slowly started creeping the pace down. I was passing a lot of people. I kept feeling strong, I kept increasing the pace. Some 30-year old dude tried to run with me, and I left him and his huffing and puffing behind.
Then, out of nowhere, around mile ten, my left hamstring went twang! $#!%! &@*^! I was cruising, feeling good, and now this! $#!%! &@*^! I slowed a bit, quickly took inventory, and changed my gait considerably. I figured I would run until I couldn’t physically run anymore. It hurt at about five on a 1-10 scale. I had the rest of my life to rest and heal, and three miles to race. Let’s go!
So I basically shuffled and skipped and got into this weird running rhythm. Looking at my paces, I actually got faster over the last 5K. My heart rate was soaring, getting close to maximum. The course was flat and even a little downhill. A wind whipped up in the final mile through the high-rises of downtown Houston. I was passing people. I was hurting.
The finish line in sight, I tried to sprint, and my hamstring was pulsating, but F-it, this was a race. I crossed the line and that was it. Unless you podium, or achieve some long-sought, highly valued goal, finishing is always so anticlimactic. Some woman was wobbling and her friend was puking. I walked where they told me to, and did what I was asked.
As a little non-running aside, I loved the whole event, but I attended alone. I was solitary amid 30,0000 people at the packet pick-up, expo, and pre- and post-race gatherings. I just kind of stood there, walked around, and looked at all the running groups, families, and smiling friends. I talked to no one, I planned with no one, I finished to no one. It was all rather sad.
But, hey, I was buzzing after the finish and totally surprised and pleased with my effort and results. Houston is a well-run event, the course is definitely fast, and I had a lot of fun.
- Name: Houston Half-Marathon
- Date: January 15, 2023
- Distance: 13.1 miles
- Location: Houston, TX
- Website: https://www.chevronhoustonmarathon.com/
- Time: 1:32:54
|A||Not get injured||No|